When somebody or something touches Limburg, those of us at Mediahuis see it as our task to take up a social role, which we do using our newspaper, Het Belang van Limburg. Instead of being reactive to issues that arise at the community or even a personal level for our readers, we wanted to be proactive.
Starting in November of 2013, we began including a two-page section in our Monday publication called “Voor u opgelost,” which means “Solved for you.” In this section, we provide answers to two or three reader questions or problems.
We did not get any feedback from our readers before launching this initiative, but we had been receiving questions from our readers from time to time. So we took it upon ourselves to move forward with this new section in the newspaper.
This isn’t just an advice column. Instead, we present the reader’s problem from two sides, which a journalist then attempts to solve with a full-length article. Every question receives an answer from the staff journalist who writes this section, but he decides which to publish in the newspaper, depending on how story-worthy an issue becomes while he’s researching the problems.
Examples of questions we’ve received include everything from travel-related issues (“After a vacation in Egypt, I got a cell phone bill of nearly €4,000. This is more than my trip has cost. Isn’t this unfair?”) to common daily concerns (“I’m moving this week to a new home but haven’t seen any natural gas yet in my street. Can you help us?”).
The top three kinds of questions are related to guarantees, mobile phones, and cars. Issues related to insurance companies are the most difficult for the journalist to resolve, but he is often able to provide an amicable solution to readers nonetheless.
It is worth noting that we do not cover all types of problems in this section. For legal and social disputes, we refer our readers to social and judicial authorities in their respective areas. When a problem is solved, we also post it to our Facebook page, which has generated conversation based on reactions from our community members.
From the end of November, when we launched the “Voor u opgelost” section of Het Belang van Limburg, to the present day, we’ve received almost 600 questions. We’ve received overwhelmingly positive reactions from our readers who appreciate that we embrace our social role in the community.