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The Bulletin at 60: Former editor Deborah Forsyth sees the weekly magazine’s transition to a monthly as one of her more challenging professional tasks
When I joined, the sub-editors were under the editorial direction of Matthew Davis (production editor), Ben Tarring (deputy editor) and Brigid Grauman (editor-in-chief). The internet was still in its infancy and the editorial team’s form of fact-checking was a more creative affair than it is today. I once wrote in a piece on the late Belgian singer Arno that he sang “‘I’m Henry the Eighth, I am’” verbatim to me in English during the interview. Matthew was immediately suspicious and made me sing the song out-loud to the rest of the editorial team to check that I really knew the words. I did, I swear!
To help us get up to speed about Belgium, Ben would regale the office with snippets from the country’s history and try to explain to us how its labyrinthine political system worked. Occasionally, he would make us compete against each other to name all 19 communes of Brussels in the shortest time possible. Towards the end of my first 18 months at The Bulletin, Brigid gave me the opportunity to start writing features, which turned out to be a great way of getting to know more about Belgium first-hand.
I left in mid-2000, only to come back as a freelancer in 2006. Not long after I re-joined the team, Jeremy Duns, the then deputy editor, left for Sweden and I took on the role. During the following five years, I saw a lot of change. A new editor-in-chief, Derek Blyth, came on board and the Bulletin moved its office from Chaussée de Waterloo in Uccle to the headquarters of the Flemish media company, Corelio (now Mediahuis), in Groot-Bijgaarden. We also made the move from a weekly publication to a monthly one. When Derek left, I held the fort as editor for a year until a new editor-in-chief was appointed, Tamara Gausi, in early 2012.
Altogether, I spent about seven years at The Bulletin. The budget was always small, the team was small, the deadlines relentless, bank holidays were rarely observed – but never a dull moment was had. There was always a great camaraderie in the office and I met many lovely and fascinating people during my time there. In short, it was fun.
Team effort behind launch of monthly
Looking back, transforming The Bulletin from a weekly publication to a monthly one (pictured above) was my greatest professional challenge. We had to work on the new look and feel of the magazine while carrying on producing a weekly publication. It was very much a team effort – everyone had to pitch in with ideas – but the end result was very satisfying and gave me a real sense of accomplishment.
The English-speaking community in Belgium has grown and changed in the last decade. The magazine used to target largely the British, Irish and American communities in Brussels but today there are many more thousands of people living and working in Belgium who speak English as a second language and for whom le plat pays is their adopted country. There’s a whole new readership out there!
As The Bulletin embarks on its seventh decade, I wish it every success for the future. I recommend that it keeps moving with the times and produces good-quality reporting on Belgium, in all its weird and wonderful glory.
Deborah Forsyth is a freelance writer and editor for the European Commission’s DG Communication.