How Resource became a promo magazine

Once upon a time, Resource was home to critical and independent journalists, coming from afar to pinpoint exactly where Wageningen University was falling short. But where did they all go?

Illustration: Florian Kiers

It was 2008 and times were really different then. People were listening to Viva la Vida all day long and, instead of coming to campus, big-ass
corporations (such as Danone) were actually leaving it. Some people blamed the board and the rector Aalt Dijkhuizen for their failing policies. Aalt didn’t like the blame, he didn’t like critique, and he certainly didn’t like independent newspapers.

Back in the day, Resource was published by a publishing company called Cereales. They were not directly linked to WUR, meaning they could write whatever they wanted. And that was not always what the board of WUR wanted. There were, for example, the columns of Willem Koert who wrote satirical columns describing made-up conversations between members of the executive board. He wrote about how he thought WUR was a sinking ship. That was also not what the board wanted.

This got on the executive boards’ nerves, so the board came up with a scheme to rid themselves of this annoying independent media source.
The scheme was very simple: WUR would do a tendering procedure to determine who the next publisher of the Resource Magazine would be, and
they wouldn’t reveal on which standard they would judge the contenders. In such a way, their favourite publisher would win for sure. Their favourite
publisher ‘ Hemels’ and ‘Hemels’, already made promo magazines for Mercedes and KLM, so they sure knew how to promote a university!

Bye bye, independent magazine

But then there were protests. People signed petitions, people went to the streets for freedom of expression and of the media, and there was a lawsuit. The judge determined that the tendering procedure had been unlawful and that a new one would have to open.

But WUR didn’t feel like tendering procedures anymore. They decided that, from now on, they would publish the magazines under their own management. Independent publisher Cereales was ruined and WUR regained control over their media outlets.

And then? More protests? More outrage? More lawsuits? No. The battle was won. One year later, critical columnist Willem Koert got threatened with legal action for writing ‘untrue’ columns. The editorial statutes of Resource magazine were changed and the word independent was omitted, but their website still states that they are the “independent medium for students and staff”.

The statutes now state that Resource is “part of the communication strategy of Wageningen UR” and its employees understand that “journalism cannot be seen in isolation from the interests of the university as a whole”.

Legally, the statutes go as far as to oblige the editor-in-chief of Resource to speak to the Director of Corporate Communication if any content “may prove damaging for the business interests of Wageningen UR”. Resource’s slogan: “WUR from within”. Yeah, exactly, only from within.

So, if you ever wondered why Resource is such a positive, feel-good, promo-magazine, now you know that it hasn’t always been.

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