Everyone is shocked at the sudden passing of Eric Beauchemin on November 6th 2021. He was just 57 and was entering a new chapter in his journalistic career.
I visited him at the end of October to discuss the next steps in his project www.radionetherlandsarchives.org. He led the initiative to preserve the excellent work of many producers in the English language department of Radio Netherlands. Driven by the conviction that this valuable work had value that should be celebrated and not hidden, he voluntarily curated 1200 programmes on the website. I know he donated over 1400 hours of his time to make it happen. We were discussing how to tap into his unique talent for languages (fluent in 6) and award-winning editing skills.
Because he shared the conviction that Radio Netherlands also made brilliant documentary productions in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Indonesian and Dutch for the Caribbean, a lot still needs to be done to make this accessible to a broader public. It is a valuable resource, giving unique access to social, political and cultural stories from Europe and worldwide.
Eric was always championing the causes of others, giving a needed voice to the voiceless. He did a lot of background research to put his stories in context. For example, he made unique portraits of how Rwanda and Burundi recovered after the genocide. I’m glad that you will find over 170 examples of the wonderful range of programmes he made on this website. And he worked with others to craft many programmes that won international recognition.
I know he was inspired by the legendary Pete Myers, who was adamant that he developed his own documentary-style rather than just following in Pete’s footsteps. I know he achieved this and a lot more. Eric witnessed some of the worst atrocities of humanity. But he also shared stories of hope and recovery. In Africa, some 2 million women have VVF or vesicovaginal fistula, a condition caused by prolonged labour. Eric visited Dr Kees Waaldijk, a Dutch doctor working in northern Nigeria. Even though these women are shunned even more than leprosy patients, Waaldijk has surgically repaired thousands of these women. These were important stories you didn’t hear anywhere else.
Eric will always be with us in spirit. I learned a lot from him, and for that, I am very grateful to have known him. I know others will agree with me. We must do more to follow his path of independent, critical,investigative journalism. Because everything else is simply propaganda. RIP Eric. You helped make a better world!
Jonathan Marks, former Programme Director, Radio Netherlands 1992-2003.
The team of the website RadioNetherlandsArchives.org lost an important member and a great motivator behind this site on November 6. In 2018, Eric managed to bring together colleagues from the former English branch of Radio Nederland Wereldomroep. There had to be a site in which the legacy of this English department was honored, especially the documentaries.
Because I was (and am) involved in storing the audio and video archive of RNW at Beeld & Geluid (the Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision) and also seems to have a bit of knowledge of websites, I was asked by him to develop and draw the technical part.
In recent years, he has created most of the 1225 items in the site, edited the texts and converted the audio. He then ensured that programs that could be linked to a current event were placed at the top of the homepage and brought to the attention on Facebook. At Beeld & Geluid this year 2021, he received support for this by an internship project by a student there who developed a technique to bring old documentaries to the attention of content creators of other Dutch broadcasters.
The showcase that we delivered there had to be a first step in including the archives of the other language departments in the system of Beeld & Geluid. But incorporating 110,000 items created and described in different ways in 65 years into another system takes time, a lot of time. He accepted that, but he kept on pressuring us, because beautiful programs have also been made in other departments.
I met Eric together with my colleague Pepijn at the Interactive Department of the Wereldomroep around 2000. The English-language website had a section ‘Human Rights’ that, according to the statistics, did very well. Internet editor Katherine Farnon persuaded creators of the English department to also put their contributions on the web and took care of the design.
Eric was the first to go a step further and illustrate his own stories with his own photos. In 1999, program director Marks purchased small digital cameras that were easy to take with you on a journalistic trip. When the journalist returned from their trip, we would do the ingest of the photos and discuss with the maker the naming of the photos.
In Eric’s case, these were sometimes violent images (prefabricated graves in Zimbabwe for the large number of AIDS deaths) and equally violent stories. A trip to Sierra Leone had scared him quite a bit when they were stopped and from the bushes clicking sounds of guns could be heard.
Eric also sometimes came back without a camera, but because he changed the memory cards a lot, he only lost a limited number of photos. The cards were also regularly damaged because he had hidden them in his wallet or in other places in his luggage. Thanks to this tactic, many stories about Africa and the Middle East from that period are well illustrated.
At this website there are more than 170 items by his hand. Search for his name and look at the diversity of the subjects, but then also pay attention to his deeply human approach and his involvement despite his professional distancing.
Eric, we will miss you. We will continue with your idea to have as much material from RNW as possible available to interested parties. Thank you for your commitment, thank you for keeping the pressure on. Thank you for your wonderful stories.