News media



is so important

Investigative journalism became an even more prominent part of DPG Media’s activities in the Netherlands and Belgium last year. We produced in-depth stories that often took weeks – sometimes even months – to complete, and which were highly praised. “With well-thought-out reporting, news outlets can really make a difference.”


clear head and free hands – that’s the idea behind the ADR-wide investigative unit, which was formed in 2020. As part of this unit, journalists from AD and our seven regional publications can immerse themselves in subjects for longer periods of time, without the distractions of the daily news cycle and the evening and weekend shifts they normally have to deal with.

On 1 March 2021, Joris Roes started his one-year tenure as head of this new team, which aims to deliver thought-provoking stories, podcasts and videos. And deliver they did, says Roes, with stories about the world behind ransomware, large-scale fraud in the horse-trading industry and a seven-part video series about fake designer clothing, to name just a few.

As far as Roes is concerned, the debate about whether news media should devote more attention to investigative journalism has long been settled. It’s more a question of how many reporters you are able – or willing – to commit to long-term projects. “We have very precise data about how our readers engage with the stories we publish. We know which stories attract the highest number of readers, and we can see exactly how long we’re able to hold the reader’s attention. All the data shows that in-depth stories are highly appreciated, and that it’s precisely those high-profile, thoroughly researched articles that draw in new subscribers.”

Joris Roes (50)

head of ADR’s investigative unit in 2021. He is also the deputy editor-in-chief of Brabants Dagblad.

The goal we’ve set for ourselves as a team is to break an impactful story at least twice a month.

But investigative reporters also have to stomach plenty of disappointments, Roes stresses. Because some of the work they do never turns into a finished story. “We’ve certainly had our share of failures, but that’s okay – stories are allowed to go nowhere. The trick is to decide when to pull the plug on an investigation.”

All in all, though, the team had a very successful year, with many lessons learned. “We had a great team of reporters who were given the opportunity to develop and distinguish themselves as investigative journalists for either six months or a year.” Because that’s how the investigative unit is set up: after a six- or twelve-month stint on the team, journalists return to their regular jobs, bringing back a wealth of experience that allows them to help their colleagues tackle complex stories.

The makers and their stories

Belgian involvement in Yezidi genocide

Bruno Struys & Brenda Stoter Boscolo

“There were times when

we thought it wouldn't

lead to anything”

Social fraud and child labour at PostNL Belgium

Joppe Nuyts

“Just like the exploited

drivers, i was working

14 or 15 hours a day”

On all platforms

In Belgium, News City has a permanent, four-person investigative team that operates independently of any specific medium, with a broad scope. Jonas Muylaert serves as head of the unit and also contributes stories of his own. His team produces work ‘for all platforms’ – depending on the subject, some scoops go to VTM, while others turn into newspaper articles.

Muylaert agrees that investing more time and energy in investigative journalism pays off. “Fast news doesn’t cut it anymore if you want to distinguish yourself as a news medium. The declining trust in mainstream media is also a factor in this – with well-thought-out reporting, news outlets can really make a difference.”

There’s no fixed set of criteria a subject or story needs to meet for Muylaert’s team to delve into it. “But we definitely want all our subjects to appeal to a broad audience, and it’s always important to show the human beings behind the stories we tell. Personally, my interest is piqued whenever I come across a big story that hasn’t received much attention from the major news outlets for a while.”

As an example, he mentions the reporting he did on 3M, a factory that caused serious pollution by releasing harmful chemical substances into the Western Scheldt, and which was shut down following coverage by VTM Nieuws and Het Laatste Nieuws. “If every single journalist jumps on that story, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd with a unique angle.”

Jonas Muylaert (37)

head of News City’s investigative unit since 2021. Prior to this, he served as the deputy editor-in-chief of VTM Nieuws and head of politics at De Morgen.

Full autonomy

That’s not to say that investigative reporting becomes easy once the news storm subsides. “For three weeks, I didn’t think this story would go anywhere,” Muylaert says. Whenever you get stuck like that, being part of a team and being able to vent to your colleagues can be really helpful.

It’s also essential to know that you have the confidence and support of your superiors. “We have full autonomy when it comes to choosing our subjects and deciding how we should spend our time. The goal we’ve set for ourselves as a team is to break an impactful story at least twice a month. This past year, we were more than able to accomplish that, but it’s not a goal that’s imposed on us externally – we impose it on ourselves.”

As the amount of attention being paid to investigative journalism increases, the way people think of it might also be changing. Long gone are the days of pipe-smoking old men spending six months on one story. “We have a young team,” Muylaert says, “and we also regularly produce ‘quick stories’. Sometimes it can take just a few days to get to the bottom of a subject.”

The makers and their stories

Exposing the fake designer clothing industry

Jorina Haspels

“As an investigative journalist,

there's less daily time pressure,

but the stress is actually greater”

The Dutch childcare benefits scandal

Jan Kleinnijenhuis

“If the government is adamant

that your story is nonsense,

There's probably something there.”