Hugo de Ridder (1932-2018) – A journalist with a commitment

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Hugo de Ridder (1932-2018) - Een journalist met een engagement

Few people have meant so much to The Standard as Hugo the Knight. The newspaper was for him less a trade than the place where his christian democratic commitment to put it into practice.

In the modern Belgian journalism was Hugo the Knight is a bridge figure. His career marks the transition between the political columns associated newspapers, which until well into the twentieth century the …

In the modern Belgian journalism was Hugo the Knight is a bridge figure. His career marks the transition between the political columns associated newspapers, which until well into the twentieth century, the tone is indicated, and the autonomy seeking journalism that in the 1980s a new direction sought. In that sense, he is also a model for the evolution of The Standard features, the newspaper to which he spent most of his career connected remained.

The Knight began his professional life as an employee of the then CVP. In the christian democratic party, the so-called stocks are officially no longer, but, in practice, determined they have the internal power. His intense collaboration with politicians such as Leo Tindemans, Frank Swaelen and Paul Vanden Boeynants gave the Knight a place in the rather conservative middenstandsvleugel of the party. There he found a bed for the christian democratic commitment that he all his life long carried.

His tenure in 1966 of the work in the party to the journalism took place quietly, as a matter of course. Pieces to write for the newspaper he regarded as no more than christendemocratisch engagement with other resources. Not from partiality or bias, but from what he saw as a sense of responsibility. He was a product of the Flemish meritocracy – at the university can study for his generation, not in the least evident – and found that he played a social mission.

The Knights experience with the political practice had given him a sharp insight. For example, what the importance was, as he for many years did, to the daily on the same train from Antwerp to Brussels to commute with friends and kindred spirits: time for discussion and the exchange of insights. And he also knew the small sides of politics. Such as when his party chairman Vanden Boeynants commanded him to have the heating on a party congress is a bit higher, so that, when the difficult subjects for discussion were, a part of the room would be slowed down. The insight that he experiences left him, has always helped his investigative journalism, also in the books which he after his departure from The Standard wrote. They taught him that politics and policy is a work of mankind, which will take place in the very concrete reality of whether or not chance meetings and appointments, dislikes and sympathies, ambitions, and frustrations.

Of the political commitment of which he wrote, made the Knight never a secret, on the contrary. In his view did nothing of the journalistic seriousness with which he analyses, reports, interviews and comments wrote. He found himself not in the least zuilgebonden and would until the end of his life, with power to contradict that his generation of journalists at The Standard, only the journalistic servants of the christian pillar. They were not the party or the pillar, but a political concept and a social ideal. That was something else. And if, from there, looked at the pillar, the church, or a party are fermented, they got to hear – or rather, to read.

Behind it was a solemn view hidden about what a journalist and a newspaper, heard to be and to do. The mission and commitment were central to this. It brought him into collision with the newspaper. A new generation of journalists had learned that the newspaper is a medium that in his choice of a much wider scope is supposed to have only the Wetstraatpolitiek. Also and maybe especially a quality newspaper hear not only about politics, but about the full width of the daily life, where politics was present then the Knight sometimes accepted. He believed, however, that this triviality to a lot of attention – and also, not always wrongly, that they are more critical journalism needed to be addressed.

Who was at the end of the Knights ‘ career at the newspaper, especially, was changed, was the reader. That is ontzuild, becoming better educated, more critical, more on its autonomy is held. That reader no longer looks for without more guidance in the point of view of the newspaper that the Knight was so dear, but gives both a sense of purpose and inspiration from a wider and more pluralistic range of values and opinions.

Hugo the Knight found that he had no place in The Standard when he made the radically changing newspaper in 1990 left. He is however, always continue to read and cherish. Editors received regular messages from him, always critical, but just as well, if he reasons saw, with congratulations and approval. Sure is: he meant it, always.