10 – Introducing Jan Sampiemon (21 Jan 09)

    One of the things to which this website hopes to contribute is an active European public sphere. I hope that others with an interest in political, economic, and social affairs, who lament the shortcomings of European media in providing a pan-European citizen forum, will want to do the same, so that we may establish new networks for relevant conversation.
     Too few European voices with something to say reach other Europeans even one border away. A collectivity of those could do much to offset the odd and undesirable fact that most of the world and much of Europe consumes “news” in the choices and sauces and in portions determined by American-British editors. While some of these editors are without question excellent, they themselves can benefit from choices and interpretations arrived at by journalists and essayists from outside the territories in which that wonderful language, which most of us use when meeting foreign friends, is the tool of daily conversation.
     One of those writers is Jan Sampiemon whose insights in world events and European problems have long deserved an international audience. I met him first in 1972, when he hired me as correspondent for Japan and other parts of Asia for the then just established NRC Handelsblad (the merged product from two old and venerable newspapers published in Rotterdam and Amsterdam). Within a few years that new paper, under the enlightened editorship of Andre Spoor, became what in my eyes will always remain an extraordinary institution and model of journalism that other serious papers in The Netherlands, at least for a decade or so, were to follow.
     Jan Sampiemon embodied, in my estimation, the various ideals, methods and disposition needed to turn good journalism into great journalism. Aside from his reputation as a walking archive of almost everything that happened and was said publicly during the Cold War, he was an early warning system against abuses of power and misleading cant. I treasure his friendship.
     I am also glad that he has decided to sift through European publications, and will write a regular column for this site on what they say, or refrain from making clear. He will contribute to the historical dimension that readers ought to have about what is going on now. I wish him as devoted a readership that he had when still writing for “the paper”.