As a child, Judith Kochnereuter (27) could not put down the pen. As an intern at Brabants Dagblad, she now writes investigative stories, including about a Putin confidant in Breda and sexual harassment on second-hand clothing platform Vinted. She hopes to captivate the younger audience with her stories.
In elementary school she wrote notebooks full of fairy tales and was already dreaming of her own book. Writing faded as a teenager, but Kutschenreuter took up writing again while studying at International Lifestyle Studies. I reported at Fashion Week for a website for my study program and then I realized: I’m going to be a journalist.
After obtaining a master’s degree in media and journalism in Rotterdam, she began a two-year internship in investigative journalism at Brabants Dagblad. For the first few months she worked as a news reporter in the Den Bosch editorial office: “take to the streets, give interviews and press news stories”. She then ended up in Tilburg on the research editorial board of Brabants Dagblad, Eindhovens Dagblad and BN De Stem, part of DPG Media. With short news stories, I often started tickling: ‘You report something, you talk to some source, you write your story, and then quickly drop it. While there may be a lot to be gained. This is the researcher in me: I want to be able to dive deep into a topic.
Putin’s friend and Vented
Kutschenreuter has already proven with a few powerful products that she can bite into something and then not let go. For example, I came across a company in Breda that is overseen by the “angry surveillance” of Russian President Putin. Together with my experienced colleague Richard Clevers, we have been working on this story for about two months. At first, you try to get as much knowledge as possible, and then the perplexity begins. Kneading the mountain of information into a logical and complete story that is also interesting to the reader is perhaps the hardest part of investigative journalism.
It also investigated sexual harassment on second-hand clothing platform Vinted after being harassed on the app herself. It started innocently enough for me: Someone asked for a clearer picture of the leather skirt. Later on he started talking about wanting to see me in that skirt and wanted more pictures. For its production, I spoke to several girls and young women from Brabant, including bikini photos via shaming groups (channels where (nude) images and personal data are shared without permission) on Telegram.
The area is opposite the Randstad
Sexual harassment, transgender care, feminism, misogyny, totalitarianism. These are the topics that Kuchinreuter has researched and believes need more attention in the region. She replied, “I think that’s also one of the reasons why I was accepted here as a trainee.” I have already indicated in my motivation that these topical topics are of great interest to me. You also appeal to a younger audience. I wonder if the average newspaper reader of Brabants Dagblad uses Vinted, you laugh. “While this story is a very well read.” And she’s already thinking about how to tell stories through other forms. With a podcast, for example. This will also attract more younger target groups.
When asked if she hadn’t considered applying to another medium that focused specifically on this target group, she shook her head very firmly. ‘Not right. Brabants Dagblad was at the top of my list. For practical reasons: I know the area because I come from there, but also because I really wanted to learn about the world of newspapers. It could also have been done with a national newspaper, but the focus there seems to be mostly on the Randstad rally. While there is a lot going on in the region that needs attention. Beautiful things, but also ugly.
“Lots of saying, as a newbie”
When she looks back on her first year as a research editor, it feels even more fulfilling than that. So the Kutschenreuter looks to the future with confidence. I have learned a lot here in a short period of time. Our team has only been really complete since this year and I think we can put investigative journalism in Brabant even more on the map with this one.
And in terms of inclusiveness, how does your team actually score? Then I think we’re doing pretty well: three men – two of them 30 – and two women. Three of the five are experienced investigative journalists and two — Pim van der Hulst and myself — are trainees. As a Greenhorn I have a lot of say in what I want to do. It has to be of quality, of course, but I think production also automatically improves if you feel supported in the topics you choose as a journalist.
An aspiring trainee often feels a great desire to perform. Looking forward to the post can be very stressful. Of course I want to prove myself. Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself sometimes because I’m still learning,” she muses. “But I also feel a burning urge to perform during this interview,” Kochneureuter admits with a smile.
When asked about her dream job, she answered cautiously. “I’m far from done learning here, it really can go either way.” It’s quiet for a moment. But of course I can dream. The New York Times has always appealed to me. I admire the investigative journalists of that paper. This young journalist from Holland who has been working there for some time now, what is his name? She checks her cellphone: “One of his stories is still open: Christian Tripert.” This is the person who inspires me. But I don’t have a real example. Probably not a bad thing at all: this way I stick to my own style more and don’t get bored with all the big names in journalism.