Generative Journalism Gets Uptake in Europe

Peter Pula facilitates a workshop on generative journalism with a mix of communications professionals, journalists and other interested parties. Amsterdam District East secretary Frank van Erkel opened the session.

Generative Journalism Gets Uptake in Europe

Peter Pula hosts workshop on approach with communications advisors, journalists from Belgium, the Netherlands

At the invitation of a City of Amsterdam team and Belgian news agency, Peter Pula of Axiom News met with a group in Europe in mid-May to share what the company has learned about what it’s come to call generative journalism.

We caught up with City of Amsterdam District East communications advisor Violet Rouwhorst and editor of an Amsterdam District East newspaper, Margot Boerema, to discuss their take on the sessions.

  Violet Rouwhorst

Q: Who was involved in the sessions last week? What was the focus of the sessions?

Violet: I was very happy to welcome Peter Pula of Axiom News Canada to my organization, the City of Amsterdam District East.

Griet Bouwen of Axiomnieuws Belgium and I organized a workshop on generative journalism, for our Dutch and Belgian colleagues. About 32 people were present, including communications advisors from the City of Amsterdam, communications advisors from the University of Amsterdam, independent journalists and copywriters from the Netherlands and Belgium.

The focus was to learn about generative journalism, what it is, as well as to get practical tools to be able to start doing generative interviews, as a communications professional or journalist.

Q: What struck you most about these conversations?

Violet: The power of generative questions. To talk about what really matters for yourself as an individual and for your organization or network as a whole is much easier when someone asks you the right questions. That person can even be yourself. It is mind-shifting.

Margot: What struck me most was the enthusiasm I experienced, and how easy it was to talk about personal issues that you normally wouldn't discuss with someone you just met for the first time.

  Margot Boerema

Q: What new things are percolating as a result that you can mention?

Violet: Most people who attended the workshop didn’t know each other before. The organizations they work for are also very different from each other. Because of the workshop, and the conversations we had during and afterwards, we discovered a lot of similarities and common goals. Now there are plans to start a learning network, beginning with a LinkedIn group where we can share our ideas and stories. And hopefully we will inspire each other in using generative tools to create and share stories that show a new perspective, that contribute to positive change.

Margot: I want to use this method of writing stories for articles in our local newspaper. We have a tendency to write in a very formal manner and I have always thought this should become more personal. I hope to use this type of questioning for interviews.

Q: How are you feeling being a part of this? 

Violet: For me this was very inspirational. I had already started doing generative interviews in my organization. Peter’s workshop gave me extra tools and inspiration to do that.

If because of this workshop I start to have colleagues in and outside my organization that are doing the same and we can share our stories with each other and find a stage, like our own websites and social media as well the websites of Axiom News in Canada and Belgium to take the stories even further, then that would be great.

  Participants in the generative journalism sessions in Amsterdam.

Margot: I feel good to be part of this. It is exciting to stand at the start of creating/implementing a new way of storytelling.

Q: Do you want to speak to any “a-has” you’ve had and/or things that are resonating more true for you?

Violet: When Griet and I were planning this event, I knew a few people that I was sure would want to come and learn about generative journalism. But I also invited people that maybe would be interested, but I didn’t know for sure. And almost everybody came; the group was so big I had to order extra chairs. For me that’s an affirmation of the power of the subject: people are looking for different ways to communicate with each other and their organizations, and they want to know more about storytelling and the best way to do that and really make connections.

Margot: (What’s resonating for me) is how simple it is to change your way of interviewing to get a more personal result.

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Michelle Strutzenberger

Generative Journalist


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