Karolien Koolhof, editor/project manager at Algemeen Dagblad Rotterdam, is the winner of the 2018 INMA Berlin School of Creative Leadership Scholarship. Koolhof, the fourth winner of the scholarship in as many years, will receive a €20,000 scholarship in tuition support to attend the school’s prestigious global EMBA programme, starting March 2018. 

The INMA scholarship for the Berlin School of Creative Leadership’s Executive MBA programme was developed to invest in the future creative excellence in media and to galvanise the best and brightest innovators in the industry. The winning candidate was selected from a shortlist that was reviewed and evaluated by both Berlin School faculty and a dedicated team of industry experts from INMA.  

“INMA is pleased to once again partner with The Berlin School on this EMBA programme,” said Earl J. Wilkinson, CEO/Executive Director of INMA. “Our INMA recipients bring back new ideas, enthusiasm for the news media industry, and contribute to our profession in countless ways. Karolein’s quest for finding the next big idea in media, her curiosity around subscriptions and audience development, and love of learning make her a great candidate for the INMA scholarship.”

Karolien Koolhof, editor/project manager at Algemeen Dagblad Rotterdam, is the winner of the 2018 INMA Berlin School of Creative Leadership Scholarship.
Karolien Koolhof, editor/project manager at Algemeen Dagblad Rotterdam, is the winner of the 2018 INMA Berlin School of Creative Leadership Scholarship.

“Our partnership with INMA has once again been a wonderful opportunity to share our passion and support for the creative minds leading the way in media and beyond,” said Susann Schronen, CEO of the Berlin School of Creative Leadership. “We’ve been very pleased with the impressive response and wish many thanks to each applicant who have shared their thoughts on the evolution of media and communication. We congratulate Karolien on her refreshing and thought-provoking response, and wish her a successful learning experience and development on our global EMBA programme.” 

“I really couldn’t believe it when they told me I won. Was I really that lucky? It felt overwhelming,” Koolhof said. “I hope the MBA can give me the tools to grow both personally and professionally. I see it as an investment, which helps me to do something with the ambitions I have.”

Koolhof works at the forefront of innovation in journalism, finding new forms of storytelling and new mediums to communicate them in. In the following Q&A, she discusses some of the biggest challenges and opportunities the world of journalism will face in 2018. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

As a kid, I wanted to be a writer. My plan didn’t change much over the years since I ended up in journalism. I know my way around newspapers and Web sites, but I also worked for magazines and the communication department of a big bank in France. The central point has always been my eagerness to get to know the story behind things and people and to tell it to others.

As I gained experience in journalism, I discovered that it’s not only creativity that motivates me but also a good bit of ambition. That’s where I started coordinating others. At the moment, I’m managing a big online project for the municipal elections. We’re developing a tool to help people be informed about the different opinions of their local politicians. The idea is to offer something extra to the visitors of our Web sites. It’s a very exciting project to manage.

What is your approach to journalism?

We write about special people who do normal things and about normal people doing special things. People are a central element in our stories. Instead of writing about abstract matters, we choose to make stories more personal. If we write about bitcoin, we’ll find someone who has a story to tell about that. And if there’s a big international event, we’ll find the Dutch person who witnessed it.

What was the most important global story of 2017? 

That really depends on the way you look at it. When it comes to numbers, it was the terrorist attack in Barcelona. We quickly found a Dutch eyewitness, which made our story very relatable.

If you look beyond the numbers, I think the rise of bitcoin was an important one. For me it really feels like we’re living the internet bubble all over again. There’s a lot of buzz. But as a news outlet, we try to filter all the buzz into something that people understand. As a reader, you don’t necessarily have to own bitcoins, but you should at least understand what they are and where they came from.

Which communication trends do you predict will shape journalism in 2018?

I expect a lot from blockchain technology in the coming years. In the US a startup called Civil is launching this spring and their strategy is fully based on the blockchain. The way they do it, journalism becomes more transparent and it offers an easier way to charge for online journalism.

As for this year, I think a lot of media will go from an attention-based model to a model where the relationship with customers is key. They’ll do that by putting up paywalls, but experiments at The New York Times and The Financial Times have already proven that it’s quite hard to get people to pay for what they used to get for free from one day to another. I think blockchain could be the key to finally find a model that does work. It brings more transparency to the way the news is made and can be an effective weapon against fake news. It’s important to first win back the trust of the audience, before getting them to pay for what you make.

How do you think diversity will affect leadership in the near future?

For me, constant innovation is the new status quo. Only trial and error teaches us what is future proof. If you think of your company as a start-up instead of a traditional one, the rules of the game change. Instead of keeping on working the way you used to do, you need to constantly experiment and reflect on what you’re doing and how you’ll stay ahead of all the others. To constantly adapt to the changing world and make innovation part of your core business.

For that, you’ll need a more diverse team with people from all kinds of backgrounds. And such a diverse team needs a leader that likes constant change and who can inspire all those people to aim for the same goal. This way of doing business might also mean that we’ll see a whole different kind of person becoming a leader. Because the one that challenges the status quo isn’t necessarily the obvious choice for companies. But it might be the one who creates the future of the business, finding new audiences and businesses.