May 4, 2015
On 3rd May, during World Press Freedom Day, BOZAR, I-Minds, ULB & VUB and many supporters including EurActiv organized a major event: Difference Day. It was successful and is likely to be repeated in 2016.
Notably, a ‘Europe’ panel took place (see programme). I was one of the speakers, alongside VDI Nachrichten & Die Welt correspondent (& API Council member) Thomas Friedrich, Valentina Pop from WSJ, Mathew Kaminsky of Politico, and as moderator: Rob Heirbaut, Europe correspondent at VRT.
My net take? (see EurActiv article for a more independent view):
- consensus that more and better reporting about the EU & Europe would be welcome
- many different ways of doing it, importance of languages in any case
- some questions about business models and ways to ensure editorial independence. My answer regarding EurActiv is mainly its transparency about clients, and its clear editorial guidelines
A number of journalists, stakeholders, academics etc ask for EurActiv’s views on the media landscape. Below, you find the notes I had prepared for this panel (which were used in part), and then the questions put in advance by the moderator.
You can find more under the keyword #Media4EU, and my own recent statement ‘EurActiv fit for competition and media partners’ (in English, and in French, links!)
- I’m the Founder of this media with teams in 12 capitals, publishing in 12 languages. Look for more facts at an Infographic on our website, and at a recent video for our competitive positioning.
- EurActiv is pleased to be media partner of the event, and notably associated to this session. Congratulations for this first in a long series! We also partner every autumn with another event at BOZAR, ‘Les journées de Bruxelles’ of the French l’Obs, together with the Belgian Le Soir and Standard. All these initiatives help bridge between Belgian and the Brussels bubble.
- as French citizen and media professional, I wish to mention the Charlie tragedy. It now sounds ages ago, but let’s remember that press freedom is not obvious, not even in Western Europe.
- this being said, it is good to link such important principle as press freedom to strategic challenges and to the raison d’être of the media. In our case today, it’s to report about Europe, in an independent way, and it’s about more than that.
My viewpoint: No, we don’t need a Europe section in each newspaper. We need something better and more cost-efficient: more Europe as part of normal coverage by national media.
Let me handle some questions upfront, then address 6 recommendations. Others on this panel, notably the expert Thomas Friedrich address the pros and cons of the Brussels press corps, the usual lack of attention in the capitals etc.
To answer another one of the questions put by the moderator: yes, the euro-crisis helps to put the EU on the agenda. This also puts the EU on the map of non-European media, which are welcome, both established brands and new comers. But so did the energy crises, the Ukraine crisis, the elections between Spitzenkandidaten, and the current refuges crisis. This is a slow development, not a revolution.
Now, do we need Europe sections? Some media created one, distinguishing from the international coverage, to be more European. Others merged it with domestic politics, also to be more European.
For me, Europe in the sense of EU policy coverage does not belong in one section. Coverage about other countries, equally important, can be another matter. The EU also does not belong to one European public space: a dream I share, but a dream. Rather, EU topics belong to each national public spaces, in the national languages, and many media sections, eg energy, enlargement, health, studies etc. And this, not centrally and top down in one language, but via cooperation between media.
How to do that? I have 6 specific points on how to innovate, notably with languages and media cooperation.
- We all agree on lack of resources for EU coverage. Independence and sustainability: this was addressed at our #Media4EU event at the European Parliament in January. We derived several recommendations; the main one is to accompany innovation, avoiding both working subsidies and over-regulation. Hence we launched the Innovation4Media idea, together with the Future Media Lab and many stakeholders and media (I am glad Jean-Paul Marthoz, for EthicalJournalism, is joining our stakeholder group)
- Languages: topic indirectly addressed at recent Riga Summit on Multilingual DSM:
5 media speaking, Deutsche Welle, The Economist, Guardian, BBC, EurActiv. See upcoming article, just before DSM launch. My points there: languages, cooperation with other media
- Mental proximity, including languages and decentralisation
Quote from Nelson Mandela: ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his native language, it goes to its heart.’Who is this room is a native speaker of English?
This makes my point! Thanks. But it’s about more than languages, about localization and original national angles.
- The role of so-called ‘European’ media, in different shapes, or the lack thereof. The dominant media on Europe is neither some London-based newspapers, nor EurActiv, nor some Brussels-focused media, nor any newcomer.
Previous centralised or costly mostly attempts have typically failed, I counted 20 in a blog post last September (link!). Included the Financial Times, The Economist and, unfortunately, WSJ with Handelsblatt.
- The dominant media is the national media. Meaning not one, but many different voices. In Europe, the soft power, we are all small, we are all minorities. Top politicians don’t read newspapers, they read press reviews, starting with their national press and TV. TVs are themselves influenced by written media, including agencies and online specialised ones.
- Partnering with national media. EurActiv tries to practice what it preaches. We are quoted very often, influencing softly a lot more (notably TV). In addition, more recently: we partner with 9 national media, exchanging articles. Notably The Guardian, La Tribune, Dear Tagespiegel. More to come…
EurActiv is born European, not foreign or anglo-saxon, although it uses English much. We play a bridge role with the national public spaces.
Now a few interactive ‘show of hands’ questions:
- Who thinks Brussels is the most important capital in Europe?
- Who thinks it is Berlin? Wer spricht deutsch in diesem Raum?
- Who believes Berlin thinks in English?
The others, maybe you should read EurActiv! Coming also from our Berlin office, publishing in German then translated, and now also from the main Berlin quality newspaper, Der Tagespiegel.
HEIRBAUT Rob guidance to the panel:
Do you know newspapers that have a Europe section? Newspapers that don’t have a Europe section: where do they put EU-stories: in the international or domestic section? Explanations?
- Would it be better to have a Europe section in every newspaper (tv /radio/ website/..), or not?
- Are EU-correspondents to blame? Too “institutional” , “difficult”, “boring” stories about politicians that nobody outside Brussels knows ?
- Why blame national media: they serve their own national audience, not a European audience, and readers/viewers/listeners are not interested in what happens outside their country/region; and it’s very expensive to send journalists to Brussels to cover EU-affairs. (only viable for media as Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Politico, EUobserver, Euractiv, with readers throughout Europe/the world? – in English)
- Euro-crisis: has been (and still is) front page news throughout Europe: has this changed the way EU news is covered? How do you see this evolving in the future?
- Is the lack of “European press/media” a problem for European democracy? Can a European press help to create a European demos/identity? or is the lack of “European” press a mere consequence of the absence of a European demos? (parallel with Belgium is striking: no “Belgian” media, only Flemish and French)