Martine Tanghe, the mother of all news anchors
On 23 November 1955, in the East-Flemish town of Bellem, Belgian journalist Martine Tanghe was born.
She grew up in Kortrijk, where she went to boarding school and followed the Latin-Greek programme. She later studied Germanic philology at KU Leuven. In 1977, a 22-year-old Martine Tanghe passed the journalists’ exam of what was then known as the BRT – the Belgian Radio and Television broadcast. The exam was infamous for being extremely difficult. Other people who succeeded that year included Leo Stoops, Jef Lambrecht, Geert van Istendael and Paul Jambers. All of them have become unmissable in the Belgian media landscape.
She made her debut at the BRT on 1 February 1978. Looking back on that time, she would later describe herself as “young and inexperienced in a strange world,” coming straight out of school. She described her first appearance as an anchor as being thrown into the lions’ den. Either you didn’t have what it took, or you did.
Tanghe had what it took, and thus began a legacy spanning 42 years, until her final appearance as an anchor on 30 November 2020. While the younger generations would know her only as an anchor-woman, she has also had to act as a field reporter in her early days, as there were no fulltime anchors yet in the 1970s and ‘80s.
Martine Tanghe was known as an ambassador for the Dutch language, which she has consistently displayed a mastery of. She read out the Groot Dictee der Nederlandse Taal – a prestigious yearly spelling competition between Flanders and the Netherlands – for years on end. Her push for the proper and clear use of Dutch earned her the Grote Prijs Jan Wauters in 2020. This is a prize for Dutch-speaking public figures in media who show mastery of their language and a great creativity in using it.
She was also awarded the honorific of Commander in the Order of the Crown on 20 July 2023. She was never to receive her medal, however. That special occasion was set for November. Martine passed away three days after the news, on Sunday 23 July 2023, aged only 67 years old.
Her untimely passing brings us to another side to Martine Tanghe’s story. Since 1995, she was an ambassador for Kom op tegen Kanker, a cancer-fighting NGO. Like the organisation, Tanghe herself has fought against cancer. She survived a first bout against breast cancer in 2011, but the cancer came back years later; that’s something she kept under wraps. The news of her passing was a surprise to most and was devastating to all.
Upon her pension, she was hailed as the “mother of all news anchors”, her face and voice synonymous with the Belgian news landscape.
Martine Tanghe had a catchphrase that she repeated at the end of her broadcasts. Given her iconic status and role in the collective memory, it is only right we address it back to her: “Bedankt dat u bij ons was.” (Thank you for being with us.)