Backstage: How Life Changes Journalists and Journalists Change Lives

Andreea Groenendijk-Deveau

Andreea Groenendijk-Deveau

Andreea Groenendijk is one of the individuals that changed my life. Literally. My manager, mentor and friend, Andreea advised me during my 3-year career as a journalist. She also convinced me to apply for the scholarship in Norway, and to leave my job in the media industry, from the department she was managing. Doesn’t she sound like a very awesome boss?

This interview was in my drafts for ages. Recently I felt the urge to write again, so I decided to complete her story. Here it goes:

Andreea Groenendijk-Deveau is a journalist, writer, image consultant and activist. She is the Chief Content Officer and Editor-in-Chief of The Market Mogul (see their presentation video), a new media platform that aims to liberate perspectives and a qualitative free alternative to traditional media. See more details about her career path after the interview.

Why The Market Mogul?

Where do I start! There’s this T Mobile commercial – they get a crowd in Trafalgar Square and get them to sing karaoke. The singing is not great, but they’re all having fun participating in it. And then Pink shows up with a mic, and starts singing with them. Her strong voice gives them all direction. That’s how I feel about the power of perspectives. The news starts on the ground, in the different countries, regions or markets around the world. There are people witnessing history being written every single day. And them sharing their insight into the things that matter is incredibly important, especially in this time of growing anxiety in the face of events that are difficult to understand. And a lot of mainstream media is biased. I won’t even go into how fake news has turned reality into Frankenstein’s monster, and how the media’s silent complicity has led to the outcome of the Brexit vote or helped put Trump in office. To get back to your point, I am very keen and feel it is my duty to try and change some of this. The Market Mogul is about liberating perspectives from thought leaders around the world. We are here to make the world a better place. And Rav, the founder, is an idealist just like me when it comes to our role and what we can do for people around the world.

Why journalism?  When did you realise you had a passion for words?

By chance, I started working as a journalist when I was 16. My parents used the example of their friends’ son to point out what a teenager should be interested in. He worked at a radio station. So I walked into the same radio station, asked to see the CEO – for some reason they let me in immediately – and demanded a job. I didn’t really know anything about anything or have a plan. He said “OK, I can put you on the air. But what will the show be about?” And I said the first thing that popped into my mind: computers. He gave me a shot. I loved it, and never looked back.

As a teenager, I was writing poems and some people said I had a talent for words. But I couldn’t really grasp the concept of talent, as to me it came so naturally. At no point in my adolescence did I want to become a journalist. I think my idea of journalism was being a news anchor. I was set on medicine, following the medical careers of my parents, my aunt and my grandfather. For reasons I won’t go into right now, I went on to study economics, but soon realised I didn’t like it. I wish I could say I did months and months of soul searching and came up with journalism. But, actually, it was my mom who suggested it, since I had done the whole radio thing. Someone I had been very close to was doing journalism, and it looked exciting – meeting new people, talking to them, writing. Something I liked to do. At the time, 11 people were competing for a spot at the Bucharest State University to study journalism. I was babysitting as a summer job at the time of the exams. So I took the baby in my care with me. The queues were immense, thousands of people were trying to sign up. They all assumed the baby was mine and let me cut in line. Without any studying, I got in. By the fourth year, I was deputy editor-in-chief of the second biggest economic daily in Romania. So I guess, as they say, it was meant to be.

I have been a journalist for longer than I can remember. Even if at a certain point in life I were to find myself doing something else, I will always be a journalist first. My first job in the business media was with Ziarul Financiar, followed by Adevarul, the Business Standard and MONEY.ro (where you and I met), Bizlawyer and now The Market Mogul. My last three jobs were all in start-up projects when I joined the teams. With Adevarul, I was part of the team creating the new financial section, and I can say it is both incredibly hard and amazing to start something from scratch. Some people will love you. Some will hate you. But in journalism, it’s all about the public. If you feel that you’ve given yourself 100% to the end result, then it was all worth it. And your readers will know that.

What do you feel about the media these days? Does it still relate to all the theoretical stuff you were taught in school?

The problem – as with a lot of things that have become too tangible – is that journalism has been demystified. Journalists and their traditional publications have lost the respect they once enjoyed from the public. Online replaced print but, in its need for speed (no pun intended), it also created the perfect excuse for mistakes – “sorry for the typos, but we need to be first”; “we didn’t have time to find other sources, we had to report” etc. Maybe journalism is changing, and we all have to move with the tide. But then I remember what journalism stands for in the first place – information AND education. In recent years, in the pursuit of profit, the second part was abandoned. That’s very serious.

I am one of those people who wants to change the world – or die trying. All my successes and all of my many mistakes have brought me to the point where I feel the need and the obligation to try and right the wrongs I see. I don’t do this every day. But from time to time I do. It’s like election time – every vote counts. We all play our part in making the world a better place.

There will always be a conflict between advertising (aka making money) in the media and being politically correct. Agree or disagree? Why?

I definitely agree. As mentioned, the media has two major roles: one to inform and the other to educate. Information, in its basic form, is not hard to come by. This can be obtained by pretty much anyone. So what does the media add to this? Just the outlet? Then the danger is that any thug with money will want a piece of it – and we have all seen, in Romania, what happens when people with money decide they want to start a media group to defend their business or political interests. I think real journalists should (1) define what brought them to this profession and (2) remember the responsibilities bestowed upon them in their profession. Otherwise, they are just word twisters. Anyone can flap the dough, but very few make extraordinary pizza.

What else?

Apart from that I am a keen art collector, focusing on the Art Deco period – paintings, porcelain figurines, furniture and decorations. Also, as mentioned, I have a fashion blog which, of course, means I have a huge soft spot for good fashion.

Journalism, business journalism, lawyer PR, fashion, volunteering for children, book editor. Is there anything I forget?

Gay rights supporter. A very big part of my life has become trying to educate people on how wonderful diversity is. I know it sounds cliche. But if I’m going to be cynical about it, life would be rather boring with everything the same. We need all of it – smart, stupid, pretty, quirky, insane and all those horrible and politically incorrect things which I won’t say. Otherwise, I life would be so boring.

You insist on non-discrimination of gays and other minorities. Why would I care about the rights of minorities? Why do you care? How does this help you/me?

You know what I always say to people who discriminate? God forbid you end up being in the minority or the odd one out one day. I always felt people looked at me in a certain way because I am a Romanian. It always hurt, especially when they had no claim on the high ground. You know what kings used to say? “I am here through the will of God”. So, if I am to believe that, then it is God’s will that we are all born where we are. Whatever obstacles before us, we are built to overcome them. So we should all see discrimination as a challenge. I refuse to think people do it out of bad will. They just don’t know any better. Let’s all do our part in educating them.

Why PR for lawyers? Why did you change industries at that point in time?

In 2010 I felt I needed a change. I won’t get into the soul-searching process that I had to deal with, but the media was changing in ways I didn’t fully understand. I felt I needed to try something else for a while, so I quit. I had the equivalent of 2 euro in my pocket and monthly bills (a mortgage) of over 800 euro. I took a chance. But a few days after starting my own firm, I got a call from the head of a company asking me for advice on hiring a PR firm. So that was the start of it all. After that, it snowballed. I started aiming for PR work in the legal market because that was the area I covered mainly as a journalist (as an editor, I didn’t have time to do a lot of writing, so I focused on just one market) and I knew everybody. I ended up working with some of the biggest law firms in Romania and won PR of the year in 2012, awarded by avocatnet.ro, for “extensive efforts to make the legal market known to the public”. I suppose I must have been doing something good.

How did you get into volunteering?

I dedicate part of my time to the Child Helpline in Romania – Telefonul Copilului. I grew up very aware of children in need. My mother is a doctor who spent the biggest part of her career working for an orphanage with over 300 children. They were living together in one building, day in and out, until they were 18 years old or finished high school, at which point the state would literally put them on the street. With that in mind, she started a small NGO aimed at helping these children find jobs and homes after the age of 18, something she has been done for about 12 years. The Child Helpline was a natural step for me, and it was also cemented by my long and close friendship with the Executive Director of the NGO. We have been working together for over a long time (saying this… it’s so shocking how time passes). My work consists of helping her in her efforts to communicate with the media and the general public.

Cimitirul – The Cemetery. One of the best selling book in Romania. Tell me shortly its story and the story of the author.

The book talks about a man moving to the UK, after working as a TV producer in Romania. No one wants to hire him, so he ends up working illegally as a cemetery administrator. And that’s how the (somewhat morbid) fun begins. The book follows the story of his personal life and the people visiting the cemetery every week, some crazy funerals and the lives of other quirky characters. It is, in part, an autobiography of the author. Except for the cemetery part. That’s a figment of his (very big) imagination.

How did you become a book editor? What was so attractive with this book that convinced you to edit it? How is this different from editing news?

I was out with a friend when she introduced me to another Romanian living in London, Adrian Telespan. He is a funny character. The first thing he said to me was “I’ve written a fantastic, amazing book”. So I smiled and ironically asked him if everyone else agreed. He then said he liked me and wanted me to read his book. He asked for my email address and immediately forwarded me the manuscript. I warned him that I would give him my absolute honest opinion. That was within about 5 minutes of meeting me. At no point did I tell him anything about myself or my career. He didn’t know the first thing about me.

He added me to his Facebook and the next day, the Chinese water torture started. Drip drip drip.  “What page are you at? Are you NOT reading my book? What else do you have to do???”. So I HAD to read it.

After the first five pages I realised it was special. It was very good! So I printed it and started making handwritten comments on the draft. We met after a few days, once I had gone through half of the manuscript. He immediately agreed with several of my comments. For the rest of them, I beat him into submission. Then he negotiated with the publishing house and asked me to be the editor of this book. I don’t even want to start to tell you how much we fought over the manuscript, down to something as simple as a word. But the result speaks for itself!

You can broadly compare book editing to news editing. The basics are the same – understanding the story, and where the author aims to take the reader. But as one can imagine, editing a book is exponentially more complex – from understanding what the author means, to being able to foresee the path of each character and making sure they arrive at their destination. It’s an incredible journey. In Telespan’s case, the first journey. He was a natural, though!

Compare London with Bucharest. Why would you choose one or the other?

Fashion Andreea

Fashion Andreea

Such different places! I love the chaos of Bucharest. And I love the order of London. In Bucharest, I had everything figured out, from having my manicure appointments set out six months in advance to where to eat, drink, etc. In London, there is something new happening on every street corner. It’s a whole other world which I am avidly discovering every day. I lived in Bucharest for a long time. I felt that I wanted to get to know new ways of life, learn new things. I like to mix things up from time to time. Challenge myself. Change is not easy. But it keeps you young. Being set in my own ways – although pleasant and easy – scares me. I want to keep moving. I fully intend to be in great shape at 90. Can’t do that unless you keep moving.

Fashion: what is fashion? What is style? Do you judge people by their clothes? How?

Fashion is like a good joke. You should only tell the punch line once and be casual about it. If you stress about it, you become the joke yourself. If you gloat, you lose the cool factor. When it comes to what you wear, go ahead and wear a peacock on your head if you can pull it off. And you can only pull it off if you become it and it becomes you. Live it, breathe it, and be casual about it, however crazy the outfit is. If you do it to scandalise or to be ostentatious, then you’ve lost.

I don’t have a style icon which I follow. But I have two directions – less is more and assumed more, is more. That is why you will see me wearing an old beat up pair of boyfriend jeans with a white dress shirt and the most fantastic pair of crystal shoes. As I said, I like to mix things up. But then again, there is a reason why I have a whole room in the house as a walk-in closet. When I applied to The Market Mogul, I found myself asking what people wear for a job interview. Apparently a simple dress shirt and a simple skirt. I don’t think I own a simple dress shirt. The most simple one I have has French cuffs (cufflinks are one of my obsessions). Therefore, a job requiring a “simple” outfit is not the job for me!

 

Andreea’s debut novel as a book editor, Cimitirul (The Cemetery), is one of the best-selling books in Romania. At one point in time, Cimitirul was the best-sold book in Romania. I read it, and honestly, I couldn’t let go of it. The book is about the fictional life of a former colleague of ours from the TV branch (the author), who finds himself experiencing a collection of adventures through which he discovers gay life in London.

Andreea has also taught courses at some of the leading firms in Romania on media relations and interacting with the press. Andreea was awarded PR of the year by online publication avocatnet.ro for her activities in promoting the legal market.

Aside from her work in public relations, Andreea is considered a leading analyst of the legal market in Romania and the region, and she is often invited to be a writer for the most important publications covering the legal market.

As a firm believer in pro bono, Andreea dedicates her free time helping NGO Asociatia Telefonul Copilului in their efforts to communicate with the media and the public.

Andreea began her career in communications as a journalist with Ziarul Financiar. After two years, she went on to coordinate the business department of the daily newspaper Adevarul, one of the most respected publications in Romania.

In early 2007, she joined the team launching the daily Business Standard as Head of Professional Services. In her three years with the Business Standard, she held the roles of Coordinator of the Companies and Banks department and Deputy Chief Editor. At the same time, she coordinated the launch of MONEY.ro, which became one of the leading news websites in Romania.

Andreea’s portfolio as a journalist includes exclusive interviews with Jack Welch, the legendary CEO of General Electric, Rudy Giuliani, the “Mayor of America”, and other leading business people in Romania.

Comments

comments

Posted in Real-life Fairies and Knights Tagged with: , ,

Leave a Reply