As an Amsterdam-born and based freelance journalist, Marieke Verhoeven has been working for various Dutch and international print and online publications since 2008, including De Volkskrant, ELLE, Freunde von Freunden, Intermediair, Management Scope, Rhapsody, Veronica Magazine and many more. Over the years, she’s also gained extensive experience in a managing position, coordinating editorial and commercial publications for De Persgroep and most recently as the managing editor for Vogue Man. Her current position is senior editor at Holland Herald, KLM’s in-flight magazine. Besides writing, editing and managing, Marieke also translates English to Dutch for clients such as Vice and Napster.
After finishing her Master’s program in Social and Cultural Science at the VU University in Amsterdam, Marieke started her career in PR & Communications, working for MTV Networks and media company Boomerang. In 2008, she got admitted into a PhD program in journalism at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. She finished the program with a internship at the national Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant and graduated with honor.
We had the opportunity to interview this rad babe and get to know her journey as an amazing writer and leather-jacket wearer.
What originally inspired you to pursue a career in journalism?
When I was young, I always dreamed of traveling the world, meeting interesting people and exploring different (sub)cultures. My uncle and older cousin are both journalists, but I never considered it an option for me, because I wasn’t a naturally gifted writer or storyteller. Now I know that being a good observer and listener are at least as important 🙂 I was always attracted to media, entertainment and music, so I was super excited when I got my dream job at MTV Networks’ press department, after finishing my Master program in Social Sciences at the VU University in Amsterdam. Here I discovered my writing skills, since my manager asked me to write press releases and newsletters from day one, something I found surprisingly fun and easy to do.
What inspired you to transition from PR & Communications at MTV Networks to writing for print and online publications?
I loved working for MTV, but I quickly noticed I always got a bit envious when talking to journalists, the people ‘on the other side of the game’. Seeing the freedom they had in choosing their stories and angles, and the adventurous and dynamic nature of their jobs really appealed to me. So after six months of volunteer work in Ecuador – something I also always wanted to do – and a temporary job as communication manager at another media company, I decided to apply for a post-Master program in journalism at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. They only allow 20 students a year to join their program and I got in! I finished the program with a 3-month internship at de Volkskrant, one of Holland’s biggest newspapers. I got my first story published within 3 weeks and when I spotted my report on page 3 saying ‘From our correspondent Marieke Verhoeven’ I was jumping with joy. That moment I knew I’d found my calling. I started working as a freelancer after finishing the program and before I knew it, I’d build up a pretty good group of clients, including ELLE, United Airlines’ First Class magazine Rhapsody and lifestyle platform Freunde von Freunden.
In the world of journalism today, “creating buzz” is such a necessary and sometimes artificial thing. As an editor, how do you choose the features that will run?
Luckily, I now work for two publications (KLM’s inflight magazine Holland Herald and Vogue Man) that give me a lot of freedom in choosing what I write about. Still, it’s impossible to enjoy complete freedom, because we always have to keep the interests of our publisher, client, advertisers and partners in mind. I guess the luxury of working for these two titles is that they both have a solid reputation and, in the case of Holland Herald, it’s a cost-free publication with an incredible reach of 2.35 million travelers a month. So I don’t need to ‘sell’ anything or create a buzz, I can focus on entertaining and inspiring our readers.
As a woman, do you feel you’ve had to work harder to prove that you were the perfect voice for Vogue Man? If so, what advice do you have for young women hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Unlike many women who have unfortunately felt undervalued or treated unfairly in their profession or career, I’ve personally never had this experience. I’ve always had a natural interest in menswear, so when I met the creative director of Vogue Netherlands at a dinner in 2016 and she told me Vogue was launching a men’s edition, my enthusiasm was sincere and we immediately clicked in our love of menswear. After our talk, I asked her if I could interview her for a fashion trade publication I was working for at the time as a freelancer, which was kind of a strategic move, because I wanted her to see me in action 🙂 Apparently she liked my interview skills, because right after the interview she sent me an email, asking if I would be interested in getting onboard on the Vogue Man project. So I guess the key to success is the combination of a genuine interest in a specific field, some solid background knowledge, a few smart strategic moves and a simple dose of luck 😉
You also have an incredible social presence. Do you agree that every editor today needs a social-media presence and brand to be successful?
Ha, well I think my social presence is pretty negligible compared to all the digital socialites out there! Still, it’s definitely something I thought – and still think – about a lot, what (not) to post, if I should make it more personal or not, etc. In the end, I decided to just be myself and try not to overthink it, but at the same time to always keep in mind that everyone can see my profile (also my boss, advertisers, readers). I think for editors in general it all depends on your medium and personality. If online and social are your channels, then definitely invest in your personal social media presence and branding. There are plenty of ‘okay writers’ out there who are making a pretty decent living purely of blogs and Instagram posts (no, I’m not hating on anyone :D) On the other hand, if you’re the editor of a big newspaper or an investigative journalist, you might profit more from keeping your personal life as private as possible.
Your resumé is beyond impressive, but what is the one accomplishment you are most proud of?
I’m totally not status driven, it’s never been my ambition to become the chief-editor of a big publication or write for a prestigious title. Surely, it’s amazing working for an iconic brand like Vogue and it opens a lot of doors, but I’m just as happy with the some of the stories I did for small and unknown publications. I guess in general I’m pretty proud of the fact that I’ve always followed my own path and was never afraid to jump on an opportunity when I saw one. I see so many talented people who are afraid to take the leap, because they’re scared of failing. Honestly, what is the worst thing that can happen? It’s a cliché, but every experience is a lesson, so just take the risk!
Can you share a memorable experience that you hold near and dear when working with a past client?
There are so many! What I’ve always been extremely grateful for, is the fact that I’ve solely worked for managers who believed in me and gave me a chance to prove myself. I couldn’t name one single experience, but interviewing successful people like movie composer Junkie XL in his home studio in LA, top chef Virgilio Martinez in Lima (Peru) and DJ Martin Garrix in Jakarta (Indonesia) are definitely on my list of recent highlights!
How would you describe your personal style and the influence it has in your writing and editing? I would suggest ‘rocker chic’ but that’s just my opinion 🙂
Dress-up was one of my favorite pastimes as a kid, so I’m happy to be working in an environment in which I can wear whatever I want and creativity is stimulated! I’m kind of schizophrenic when it comes to fashion, as I’m never sure if I’m a true tomboy or secretly also a glamour girl. I guess I’m a tomboy in sneakers and baggy fits 5 days a week and a glamour girl in heels on the weekends haha! So I guess that could best be described as ‘classy street’ or ‘street smart’? I love to combine vintage and secondhand stuff with designer pieces, and I’m a sucker for original band shirts (mostly of hip hop and R&B artists). But I only wear shirts of artists I actually listen to! I wouldn’t go as far as to say my style has influenced my work in any way, but I do always think of what to wear to certain occasions or when meeting new people. You don’t want your outfit to be a distraction, but in the right environment, a statement shirt or fabulous pair of shoes can be a great conversation starter 😉
What advice can you offer aspiring female journalists and entrepreneurs?
Never underestimate yourself, take initiative, ask a lot of questions, only listen to constructive criticism, know your worth (literally!) and be prepared to work your way up the ladder (the good way, of course ;-)). I see a lot of aspiring journalists (and other media talent) who expect to start at the top. But it’s more important to put in the hours and build up a resume first, before you can expect anything from a client or employer. It’s better to have a few longer articles published that show your skills in a less-known publication or website, then I small insignificant piece in a big publication. And lastly, don’t be afraid to contact companies, publications or brands you would like to work for. There’s usually someone available for a quick coffee, to tell you more about the company’s vision and focus. Seeing different media and meeting important people in the business can lead to interesting opportunities!
What’s your interpretation of a Raw Femme?
Someone who follows her own path, is authentic and never aims to please anyone but herself.