September 14, 2014

Faking a 42-day holiday to make a point

Filed under: Design by Branko Collin @ 1:36 pm


In 2013 graphic designer Zilla van den Born graduated from HKU University of the Arts Utrecht with a project in which she fooled family and friends into believing she was on a 42-day-long journey through Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

Fakebooking is so old hat that even British comedian Miranda Hart dedicated an episode, aptly called Holiday, to a fake vacation in Thailand.

But Van den Born went beyond the selfie with the giant poster of a palm tree-lined beach in the background. Writes Kickass Trips:

She followed an elaborate scheme of activities, all of it staged. The picture of her snorkelling in Thailand was taken in a swimming pool in Amsterdam and later photoshopped to make it look more tropical. She took photos in tropical aquariums at the Artis Zoo, went to a butterfly garden, bought exotic Asian souvenirs on the market and cooked Thai meals, in her own kitchen of course.

The book Van den Born created for her project is combined with a Layar app to recover the reality behind the manipulation. With her project Van den Born wanted to highlight the difference between our rational attitude to modern day photography (we know everything we see may have been manipulated) to our actual attitude: we still see photos as “the proof of an experience”.

Check her portfolio to see videos of her manipulations and the reactions of her friends and family to finding out it was all fake.

(Photo: Zilla van den Born)

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February 16, 2013

Nickname ‘mosquito’ for journalists more popular than ‘rat’

Filed under: Animals by Branko Collin @ 10:23 am

OK, so this is completely unscientific, but I decided to have a little fun.

If the Dutch want to use a derogatory term for a journalist, they have a couple of options. Persrat (press rat) is one of them, persmuskiet (press mosquito) is another.

According to Google, persrat appears on 10,600 web pages, while persmuskiet appears 12,700 times. There is not much between them and Google is hardly the place to do reliable linguistic research, but since we had already decided this wasn’t going to be scientific I declare ‘press mosquito’ the winner.

A derogatory term for the entire profession is journaille, borrowed from the German language in which the word is a portmanteau consisting of the word ‘journalistic’ and the French word ‘canaille’, meaning ‘rabble’.

Dutch comics godfather Marten Toonder used to have a rat in his fabled stable called Argus, who was of course a reporter (working for a publisher called E. Phant).

To me the word persrat feels different from persmuskiet. Rat seems to suggest a low character, whereas mosquito implies tenacity.

Are you wondering if there is perhaps a reason to this whim of mine? There is. I was getting a bit tired with the news cycle, with the whole idea that there is always news and it is always important. Trying to find a Dutch angle to the British horsemeat scandal (British supermarkets selling horsemeat as beef), reporters of the Parool newspaper had tracked down a restaurant owner who had kept quiet about having used horsemeat instead of beef for his famous steaks for 60 years—even in the Netherlands there is a bit of a stigma attached to eating horsemeat. “Why did you lie,” the reporters asked and that irked me. Sure, the restaurant owner had lied by omission, but every word a journalist ever prints is a lie of omission, because journalists decide what is important enough to print and what not.

And that is when I got a little bit irritated and started thinking in terms of ‘press rats’.

(Image by A.E. Goeldi, in the public domain)

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November 20, 2011

Cancer research charity Pink Ribbon donates zero percent to cancer research

Filed under: Health by Branko Collin @ 5:33 pm

Sometimes it is best to shut up. When news show Nieuwsuur reported that spent only 1.8 % of the donations it received on cancer, the charity threw a hissy fit. The findings of the show were far from the truth, they claimed, and the makers of the programme obviously prejudiced.

This led writer and breast cancer survivor Karin Spaink to do her own research. Last Saturday she dove into the annual reports of Pink Ribbon, and discovered that the numbers Nieuwsuur had dug up were indeed incorrect — the real numbers were worse!

According to Spaink, Pink Ribbon Netherlands has spent exactly 0.0 percent of the money it received through donations on cancer research. The foundation has collected approximately 18 million euro between 2007 and 2010. In that period it has built up a reserve of 7 million euro, and spent 3 million euro on the costs of running its organisation. About 6 million euro has gone to ‘psych-social care’, and 1.5 million euro to education.

Since the Nieuwsuur report, Pink Ribbon Netherlands has been trying to twist the meaning of the phrase ‘cancer research’ to fit its expenditures. Money that Pink Ribbon received from fellow cancer charities KWF and A Sister’s Hope and that was earmarked for research, is now suddenly supposed to count towards to its own goals.

Spaink has been critical of Pink Ribbon Netherlands before. In 2006 she lambasted the foundation for not publishing its annual reports, which it has since done. Earlier this week she criticized the whole pink ribbon phenomenon as a form of consumer indulgence.

Earlier this year activists the world over criticized the practice of ‘pinkwashing‘, where companies whose products and services increase the risk of cancer pretend to be supportive of cancer victims by donating money to Pink Ribbon.

(Photo by Clyde Robinson, some rights reserved)

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October 11, 2011

Reporter nicks 30 kg worth of Khadaffi’s stuff, isn’t sorry

Filed under: General,History by Branko Collin @ 7:00 am

Business news site z24 reports that Harald Doornbos, a Dutch reporter who works for press agency GPD amongst others, has taken 30 kilos worth of goods from former Libyan president Khadaffi’s home.

The alleged loot contains a map, family photos, posters and the passport of the cat of the dictator. Legal experts told the news site that even though it is doubtful that Khadaffi would or could take any legal action, the provisional government could claim ownership of the ex-leader’s possessions.

Doornbos announced this on October 5 on Twitter.

When confronted with the legality of his actions, Doornbos tweeted cryptically: “That is why I haven’t lived in the Netherlands for 18 years.” Later: “If I had not taken these things, they would have been burned half an hour later anyway, good bye history.” Even later: “Discussion closed. You can see stuff in a museum/gallery in the Netherlands soon. Suggestions [for a venue, presumably] still welcome.”

(Photo of a karikature of Gadaffi in Benghazi by Maher27777, who released it into the public domain)

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May 9, 2011

Dutch freedom of information process ‘slowest in the world’

Filed under: General,IT by Branko Collin @ 10:49 am

A report by the Dutch Association of Journalists (NVJ) claims the Dutch government is the slowest in the world in processing freedom of information requests. FOI consultant Rob Vleugels pointed out to Binnenlands Bestuur that Dutch ministries typically only employ four civil servants each for dealing with the requests. In comparison, the UK employs at least 80 people per ministry for this task. The British, unlike the Dutch, also train their people for doing FOI work.

Journalist Brenno de Winter thinks the problems with the execution of the FOI law centre around an incompetent government when it comes to IT.

Recently I had to wait 56 days for three photocopies. I had asked to receive the copies digitally, but they were incapable of doing so.

The citizens now foot the bill for bad automation. For years I have tried to uncover the extent of the problem, but the government is actively sabotaging me. They send me bills despite the courts telling them that such things is illegal, they take much more time to respond than they are allowed to, they claim national security issues, and they sometimes even just refuse to respond.

The Freedom of information act is called WOB in Dutch (Wet Openbaarheid Bestuur), and making a WOB request is called wobbing.

(Photo by Dennis Macwilliam, some rights reserved)

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March 25, 2011

Dutch journalist Joris Luyendijk gets into semantics

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 10:22 am

“The way Americans follow Holland in the news, that’s how Europeans follow the Middle East.”

Just before that, he mentions that us peeps in the Netherlands are all stoned and visit whores because that’s what the media shows you. We laugh at that, but that’s his point: so many people think it’s reality.

Joris Luyendijk: ‘The old model of journalism is broken’
How can journalism meet the challenges of the Internet age? Former reporter Joris Luyendijk is looking for new ways to tell stories.

Watch a 5 min interview with Joris Luyendijk from The Guardian. (warning, it starts up automatically)

My dream would be if he’d explain to Dutch journalists to stop using terms like ‘black and white schools’, where white equals Dutch and black equals anything not white, which is totally inaccurate and painful to write about. Can we also do away with ‘ambitious women’, implying we’re not by definition and lose ‘good fathers’ (ouch to my friends with children) and even ‘luxury sandwiches’? The more you stick an adjective in front of a word, the less the noun has meaning on its own. Sometimes it makes it better, but not in the press, as Luyendijk explains.

(Tip: Thanks Sueli!)

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January 31, 2011

Even gossip queens have a right to privacy

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 11:47 am

The Court of Appeal in Den Bosch has recently ruled that the public prosecutor must start a case against broadcaster BNN reporters Sophie Hilbrand and Filemon Wesselink for spying on TV presenter Albert Verlinde and his husband, Onno Hoes.

Ironically, Albert Verlinde is one of the presenters of TV gossip programme RTL Boulevard, and Onno Hoes is the Mayor of Maastricht—between them they must have committed more privacy violations than all the hidden cameras in girls’ locker rooms the world over combined.

Volkskrant reports that reporters Sophie Hilbrand and Philemon Wesselink installed audio recording equipment in an award they presented to Verlinde, the ‘Golden Ear”, with which they successfully recorded a discussion Verlinde and Hoes had in the car on their way home. The public prosecutor had already fined the reporters, so that they now get punished for the same offence twice. For the record, double jeopardy—or ne bis in idem as it is called here—is illegal in the Netherlands.

(Photo of Albert Verlinde by Thomas van de Weerd, some rights reserved)

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August 15, 2010

Zoo lures reporters with monkey see, monkey do story

Filed under: Animals by Branko Collin @ 4:43 pm

Ouwehands Dierenpark, a zoo in Rhenen near Wageningen, has successfully managed to lure reporters to its new orangutan enclosure with a story about behavioural conditioning.

The reporters’ banana took the shape of gymnast Epke Zonderland (silver medalist at the 2009 World Championships), who performed a couple of exercises on the parallel bars. The zoo had told the press it hoped Zonderland’s example would spur the orangutans on to use the climbing ropes in their new compound.

Reporters of amongst other BBC (video), Reuters and RTL Nieuws showed up last Friday to record footage of a lacklustre ape taking its first tentative steps on a tightrope. Seven trees in the enclosure contain a food lift that will carry fruit and other snacks upstairs as an incentive for the orangutans to walk their tightropes. In doing so the apes will alleviate both themselves and their human visitors of boredom, the zoo hopes.

(Photo by McSmit, some rights reserved)

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May 11, 2010

Journalist wins lawsuit over freedom of information request costs

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 11:00 am

Municipalities are not allowed to charge for complying with freedom of information requests, a court in The Hague found according to Trouw.

Reporter Brenno de Winter sought a judge’s legally binding opinion after several municipalities conspired early last year to sabotage his freedom of information requests by making him pay for them. The court reasoned that since freedom of information requests are for the good of everyone instead of the good of an individual, asking money for complying with them is illegal. However, government organisations can still charge money for the cost of photocopies.

Last week, De Winter started a lawsuit against the Minister of Transport, Camiel Eurlings, for keeping documents secret that could help explain the relative failure of the public transport chip card (the Dutch “Oyster card”).

See also: Supply the poor government with some much needed transparency

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October 4, 2009

Press releases are not spam

Filed under: Online by Branko Collin @ 1:23 pm

letterbox-roy_parkhousePR agencies and journalists alike have been screaming blue murder the past few days over the perceived consequences of the new anti-spam law. Laurens Verhagen of, the website known for never writing its own stories if it can help it, whines (Dutch) that “an unintended side-effect is that PR agencies are no longer allowed to send press releases.”

Other journalists cheer on the new law.’s Ernst-Jan Pfauth hails the death of the press release (Dutch): “Press release are old-fashioned, unnecessary and often misused.”

But as the here-often-quoted Internet law specialist Arnoud Engelfriet explains at De Nieuwe Reporter, the law has a provision for e-mail addresses that have been explicitly designed for receiving bulk mails. Also, the spam prohibition only pertains to advertising, informative e-mails are not part of the law.

That means that from now on only advertisements dressed up as press releases are out, but I cannot imagine that even Laurens Verhagen would bemoan such an intended consequence.

A tempest in a teapot.

(Photo of a letterbox by Roy Parkhouse, some rights reserved.)

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