© Marc Hoscheid
On Thursday morning, Roland Arens, editor-in-chief at the "Lëtzebuerger Wort" newspaper, spoke to RTL in honour of the paper's 175th anniversary.
As Luxembourg's most widely read daily newspaper celebrates its 175th anniversary this week, editor-in-chief Roland Arens sought to underline his commitment to providing "good journalism", in keeping with the paper's origins.
In the first edition of the "Lëtzebuerger Wort", dated 23 March 1848, the very first article was a declaration by the government: the King and Grand Duke William II had just decreed the freedom of the press. Is the press still free today? As a result of Luxembourg's small market, the government offers financial support to many media outlets; however, this does not mean the government has the final say on what is published. Arens called this "obvious", but highlighted that journalists and the media should always question themselves, and make corrections where required.
The media also has an obligation to deal with new challenges, as shown by the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent discourse. Arens quoted American journalist Carl Bernstein, who once said good reporting was finding "the best attainable version of the truth".
Is the Wort free, despite its traditional close proximity to the CSV party? In 2017, Arens' predecessor Jean-Lou Siweck was forced to step down after the newspaper's board of directors at the Saint-Paul group, and board chief Luc Frieden complained the paper had been too critical of the party, as well as levelling criticism at the diocese and the country's financial centre. Now, Arens explained the paper still following Siweck's editorial line, as written in 2015, which seeks to distance the paper's stance from political parties. He also stressed that the Wort's new shareholders, Mediahuis, place a high value on what they call "independent journalism", following the takeover from Saint-Paul in 2020.
Mediahuis' takeover led to significant restructuring at the Wort, reshaping the paper after a number of layoffs. Following a number of social plans over the past few decades, the job losses under the new shareholder hit hard. Arens described the experience as unpleasant, and said he regretted the loss of many colleagues and "journalistic substance". However, he welcomed the introduction of new hires, particularly the younger cohort who have a "digital transformation mentality". Arens did point out that the newer, younger journalists are paid less than their predecessors, remarking "it was very clear we had to save money". Today, in comparison, the business is doing well, Arens concluded.