The Low Countries at Their Lowest

FrontPage Magazine 2 December 2011
By Bruce Bawer

NRC Handelsblad is arguably the most respected newspaper in the Netherlands. Hans Moll was an editor there for twenty years. He is now retired, and has a few things to say about what he experienced there.

In his new book, Verzwijgen als of het gedrunkt staat, of Hoe de nuance verdween: NRC Handelsblad over Israël, de Islam en het integratiedebat (How the Nuance Vanished: NRC Handelsblad on Israel, Islam, and the Integration Debate), Moll provides a very valuable document of our time: an insider look at the kind of day-to-day reportorial and editorial decision-making, in matters big and small, that leads a newspaper to convey a less than objective view of the world.

Moll’s accounts of his professional experiences do not necessarily apply only to his own former employer. Like many other "newspapers of record” across Europe and in the U.S., NRC Handelsblad leans to the left, and the stories Moll tells about his newspaper provide insight into the mentality of journalists and editors at elite dailies ranging from The New York Times to The Guardian to Le Monde.

Moll began as a freelance editor, and then a full-time editor, for NRC‘s book section. Back then, in the late 1980s, he was proud to work for NRC, which he considered the summit of Dutch journalism. The newspaper once called itself "a whetstone for the spirit " and prided itself on its objectivity and nuance. But no more. Its coverage, especially of Islam-related issues and of the Middle East conflict, has been increasingly one-sided. It is now distinctly pro-Hamas and anti-Israel. "If you’re seeking news about the misconduct of young Moroccan men,” laments Moll, "you must read something other than the newspaper NRC Handelsblad.” (...)