Back to the roots

By Melody Hansen Switch to German for original article

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The new year is a fitting opportunity to look back on the last twelve months. For the Journal team, this means reflecting on more than 600 published articles and podcasts, as well as at least three times as many conducted interviews. Each team member has selected the contribution that has marked them the most in 2023.

When I was at secondary school, I must have been about 16 years old, someone asked me if I would like to do an internship at the newspaper. "Why not, " I thought to myself – after all, I always thought Karla Kolumna, the roving reporter from the Benjamin Blümchen audio stories, was very cool. So I jumped at the chance to become a roving reporter too and a short time later I was sitting in a real newsroom and getting to know real journalists. Somehow, it was all very different from what I had imagined, but I was convinced. They were pretty cool socks, these journalists – and they did pretty cool things all day long.

Admittedly, my first reports, if you can call them that, weren't the coolest: general assembly of the ping-pong club, annual celebration of the fire brigade, honouring athletes in a small village. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it. Because even if it was just a small local event, the people I interviewed were passionate about it. They were grateful that someone was interested in the things they dedicate a large part of their lives to and always told anecdotes in between the less exciting facts and figures that made up my articles at the end.

I stayed in local journalism for about ten years. The stories became bigger and more exciting, but the places where they took place remained small. Towards the end of this period, I only reported on Esch for almost two years. Everything that concerned the Minett metropolis also concerned me. I knew the people there and the people knew me. It was actually like long-term research, where you get to know everyone involved over a long period of time, building up mutual trust and enabling you to better assess the situation.

All this to say: I like local journalism. I've defended it for years when colleagues from the politics, business and international departments have taken themselves more seriously and bosses have given these departments more weight. So I thought about how local journalism could also be promoted at the Lëtzebuerger Journal under the motto "Get the bigger picture". The question became more urgent when the municipal elections came up. The team put their heads together to find an answer – and found it.

"Just like when I interviewed the president of the local fire brigade, people spoke with passion about what they do for their community and were happy to be able to talk about it."

The answer is De Gemengepodcast. The idea is: 100 communities, 100 episodes. In each episode, a journalist visits a municipality and talks to people who work, live and do politics there. What are their local concerns? What makes their community special? What are they doing to move their community forward? And just like when I interviewed the president of the local fire brigade, people spoke passionately about what they do for their community and were happy to be able to talk about it. The great thing about the podcast format is that you can actually listen to it, because emotions are conveyed very differently here than in texts.

I recorded two episodes of De Gemengepodcast in 2023, in Remich and Junglinster, and felt like Karla Kolumna again: travelling around a place all day to find out what the mood is like and what's on people's minds. In addition to my personal return to local journalism, it was also the teamwork on this project that particularly characterised me this year. Everyone took part, even though not every member of the team felt comfortable in front of a microphone. Together, we came up with a concept, planned the episodes, conducted interviews, photographed people, planned and realised the editing … Even choosing the theme music was a special moment. All of this within a few weeks, with a team of ten people who love their job. You can feel it every day, and I'm grateful for that.