A fatal choice
April 10, 2011 3 Comments
The region had it all sorted out: a successful website with news and tips for expats and foreign students in Maastricht, the Netherlands. An international platform where they could share what really mattered to them. This site has now suddenly closed.
About 12,000 unique readers visited the informative website Crossroadsmag.eu every month. This is an impressive figure for a city of 118,000 inhabitants. It is clear that the attraction of the website goes far beyond the city limits. It is an international platform without any underlying motive, whose main goal is to promote social integration and quality of life. The driving force behind the website is editor and “Expat of the Year 2010” Sueli Brodin. Her coordinating role consisted mainly in coaching and stimulating aspirant journalists, who gradually developed into regional reporters. The process of writing enabled these expats to engage with their city and their region.
Obviously this could not be done without funding and now the site is quiet. The initiative originally came from the European Journalism Centre. An independent institute which sums up its mission in the motto: “Journalists working for Journalists”. The EJC is one of the international institutes that Maastricht should coddle. But no one really listened to director Wilfried Ruetten who has now decided to suspend his search for funding. A friendly goodbye message on the site thanks all writers and visitors for their interest and past contributions.
The community of expats and foreign students has responded in shock and dismay to the unexpected news. Catherine Copeland (Head of the Primary and Preschool at United World College Maastricht) reacts: “What a crying shame […] It was an important resource for our community of expats in Maastricht. I for one, and everyone I know here, will sincerely miss it […] With sadness and thanks for your past work”.
Indeed it seems absurd to see the regional government invest tons of money in an expat desk, University campaigns to attract foreign students, intensive region branding and a great amount of hurly burly about our cultural ambitions, yet fails to recognise one of the most important factors for success. For newcomers in Maastricht, the honest testimonials of fellow expats are much convincing than any colourful brochure. Is it so difficult for local authorities to justify the financing of an independent platform?
Crossroads has long proven its value. An analysis of its content only reflects positive energy. According to Brodin the website is visited by many foreigners who no longer live here but still feel connected to the region. “It comes as a shock to me that Crossroads is now closing down. Can’t there be something done to stop this from happening?” reacts Duma, who after her stay in Maastricht has now been living for ten years in Swaziland.
And that is indeed the main question: do we simply give up on 500 visitors per day? Or do we keep this region on the international map for good? Ruetten tells me that the problem can be solved with a few ten thousands of euros. Anyone with a clever idea will surely find a quick way to reach him at email@example.com.
By Jean-Paul Toonen, Maastricht
Article republished with permission.
Source: Jean-Paul Toonen’s blog Shipping Thoughts