Willem Breedveld, born in Nieuw Lekkerland, the Netherlands, in 1945. Commentator and Columnist for the Dutch Daily Newspaper Trouw and Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science at Leiden University. Winner of the Anne Vondelingprijs for political journalism in 1989 and former political advisor to the Prime Minister.(† 2010)
Journalist-in-Residence (1 September 2003 – 30 June 2004)
THE PUBLIC, MEDIA AND POLITICS: A DEVIL’S TRIANGLE
Everybody has an opinion on the media and journalists: how they do their work and especially how badly they do their work. As a journalist, I welcome this criticism as it challenges me and it shows that we have an impact on society. However, there is one aspect that does bother me and that is the implicit suggestion that the media are to blame for many shortcomings in society. I feel responsible up to a certain point but, in general, people expect too much from the media. The people themselves are often to blame for a lot of problems but in a democracy you can’t say this because in a democracy, the people are by definition always right. It is because of this tension that I felt the need to put this question in a broader context. During my stay at NIAS, I found the time and the inspiration to develop my work on the three-way relationship between politics, the public and the media that I call the Devil’s Triangle. The media and politics have something in common in that they both want to satisfy the public as this improves television-ratings, newspaper sales or votes but this also means that the media and politics are open to criticism for their actions in order to please. To find a way out of this dilemma, I used the idea of discursive debate, and the way the media can help to construct such a debate, so that they really can play an important role in the public debate, in a way that they can mirror classical ideas of democracy. At the end of the year, or the beginning of next year I hope to see the results of my inspiring stay here at NIAS in the form of a published book on this topic.