24 hours to create a newspaper for Brussels


It started in a garage and ended on an industrial estate outside Brussels. After publishing in Belgium for almost 50 years, The Bulletin magazine has closed down.


I read the news today oh boy


Monique Ackroyd founded The Bulletin in 1962. It began as a modest newsletter that she put together in her basement garage. But she was ambitious about her aims. She wanted to serve the growing international community based in Brussels. "Now you have a voice," she told readers.


Initially aimed at Americans and Canadians living in Brussels, the magazine grew in size and importance as Brussels evolved into the cosmopolitan capital of Europe. By the late 1990s, it had a staff of 35 people and an estimated readership of 50,000. The magazine once ran an advertising campaign featuring posters with the slogan “Everyone reads The Bulletin.” It was not far from the truth.


But the early 21st century has proved a tough environment for magazines and newspapers. The Bulletin, like many publications, was hit by declining sales and diminishing advertising revenue. In 2007, the family-run company that owned the magazine was sold to the Corelio group, the publisher of De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad.


One year later, the editorial offices were moved from Brussels to Groot-Bijgaarden industrial estate, just outside Brussels. It was, you could argue, like moving the New Yorker offices to New Jersey, or moving Time Out London to Slough industrial estate.


After the move, The Bulletin continued to lose readers and advertisers. Finally, in late June 2012, Corelio decided it was time to turn off the life support system. “The number of copies sold fell below 4,000, which was no longer sustainable," Corelio said in a press release. The Bulletin as a result has now disappeared from the newsstands. All that remains is the website


Maybe the website is going to be enough for most people. But my question is this - will this website campaign to raise awareness of poverty and homelessness in Brussels, as The Bulletin magazine once did? Will it encourage its readers to sit down in Grand'Place to stop cars parking there?


A crowd of people turned away


For half a century, The Bulletin fulfilled an important role in the political and cultural life of Belgium. It wrote clearly and objectively on every aspect of Belgian life, from the latest government crisis (of which there have been many) to the coolest fashion trends in Antwerp.  Many people described it simply as “the Brussels Bible.”


It attracted some outstanding writers, like the political correspondent Dick Leonard, the news writer John Miller and the humourist Emma Beddington. It cultivated a team of deeply-informed European correspondents including Rory Watson, Emily Sydow and Shada Islam.


But it was perhaps most appreciated for its in-depth coverage of Brussels and Belgium. In his Rambler column, The American journalist Cleveland Moffett kept readers informed about the smallest details of urban history and architecture.      


For journalists, The Bulletin was often the only publication where they could place in-depth stories about Belgium. The Bulletin would always welcome new writers with a story to tell, as long as it had a Belgian angle.


It provided readers a place where they could complain about Belgium but also a space where they could become participating citizens in Belgian society.


The Bulletin also played a positive role in shaping the identity of Brussels, most clearly in 1971 when the magazine organised a picnic in the Grote Markt in Brussels to protest at the square to be used as a car park. As a result of the protest, one of Europe’s most beautiful public squares was cleared of parked cars.


Earlier this year, the Belgian philosopher Philippe van Parijs organised a picnic on Anspachlaan in an attempt to create a car-free area around the stock exchange. He claimed that The Bulletin’s 1971 protest had inspired the action.


Sadly, The Bulletin is no longer going to be around to organise picnics on Grand Place or to celebrate Belgian life in all its richness. It looks as if this is the end of a story that began 50 years ago in a Brussels garage.


And though the news was rather sad


"They can't do this to The Bulletin," someone told me when I told her the news. Of course they can, I replied. They own the brand.


But maybe she is right. After all, they don't own the idea. So the story doesn't have to end here if people don't want it to end. People have a choice in this matter, whether as readers or writers or advertisers.


The Bulletin can carry on under a new name. People can take the idea of The Bulletin and reinvent it for the 21st century. They can create a new weekly newspaper to inform and inspire the international community in Brussels. It would be online and on the streets.


It would require a certain critical mass of people to make it work - writers, readers, sales people and advertisers. It would require a space in town where people could come together to create a weekly newspaper. And it would call for a generous commitment of time and money.


It's not certain it could be done. But it might, at least, be worth talking about the idea, instead of just giving up.


So that's the plan. If enough people are interested, we will meet together in a Brussels café in early September to talk about the possibility of a Brussels newspaper project. You can take part using Skype if you're not in based Brussels.


Get in touch with me or forward this article if you want to be part of a story that began in a Brussels garage in 1962.



Derek Blyth

former Editor-in-Chief of The Bulletin 

comment posted 2 July 2012


One week on: what you said






The concept:


a local newspaper for the international community of Brussels and Belgium


The format:

16 pages Berliner


The price:

annual subscription rate 


Where can I get it?

in your letterbox; in your local cafe if you're lucky


When will it start?

April 2013




mysecretbrussels the best of food, music, culture and life