A small step for the EU institutions… - or a small step for bloggers? (sorry for this piece of plagiarism)
Anyway, it was a world premiere: The first time ever that bloggers were accredited (as bloggers!) to an official EU institution! OK, it was just a pilot project but nevertheless a very interesting endeavour – now a lot depends on whether the EU institutions continue the process and whether there are actually enough bloggers that would be interested. At the moment I am quite optimistic for the former but not for the latter.
If you have not followed the story: The idea of getting a press accreditation for bloggers at EU institutions has been discussed for quite a while in the blogosphere and within the institutions. The #EUpilot however would not have happened without the Hungarian Council Presidency. As part of their “Blogger outreach” (also a novelty in the institutional machinery in Brussels!) they organised several background briefings with Bloggingportal.eu editors and other bloggers (unfortunately I missed all of them so far…) Anyway blogger press accreditation would have not been possible without these meetings and the determined officials of the Hungarian Council presidency. Thanks a lot for this – and let’s hope other presidencies and other institutions (!) learn from this pilot project! (It is actually a weird twist that the most secretive EU institution was involved in the pilot project – and not the most obvious one: the European Parliament!)
What happened in the Council you might ask? Well, this week there were two bloggers that covered the EU Competitiveness Council (and parts of the Foreign Affairs Council). But you should really read the original stuff including the preparatory blogging and the live tweeting:
#EUpilot on twitter
So, thanks a lot @ronpatz and @europasionaria for a great blogging and tweeting coverage! Let’s hope that some journalists read the stuff and re-consider their strategies on how to cover council meetings – and how to make it more interactive and interesting. It is really not rocket science
But why is this pilot project so important?
My two basic (and possibly naive) cents: Treating bloggers like journalists is important because of two reasons. First of all, bloggers are citizens and basically every citizen can become a blogger without much effort. (ok, you need to open a blog and start writing…) The point is that not only journalists but also non-journalists have access to formerly restricted institutional environments. You don’t need to work for a newspaper or have a press pass to have access. Second, it can be a (small and symbolic) step for institutions to open up to normal citizens. Not because it is that exciting to cover press conferences and do some doorstep interviews – no because it can help demystifying institutional practices and it can become useful in challenging myths. It might even improve press coverage and can increase public scrutiny (at least theoretically). Obviously if we think about transparency in EU institutions this is hardly enough – a lot of other stuff remains to be done!
Now, what is the the way forward?
First of all, I think, we need to spread the word a bit. For the EU institutions it was quite an achievement. At the same time it is good to know that with a bit of determination a handful of officials can make things happen. So please spread the word.
The aim is to get a permanent, institutionalised and easy procedure that would allow bloggers to have the same rights as accredited journalists within the EU institutions.
But we also need to get more bloggers on board. Not only ‘eurobloggers’ but also subject specialists. Most EU policies are sector specific, so coverage is often difficult for generalists – and generalists do not necessarily contribute to a better media coverage. We hope there will be similar opportunities so if you are a blogger and you want to get involved in future events and campaigns do follow bloggingportal and/or contact us!
The problem is obviously Brussels. Most bloggers that might consider participating in such a process do not live in Brussels. Travelling to some EU meeting is out of the question – it is a budget and a time issue. Most bloggers do have proper jobs. So even if the EU opens up for bloggers I suspect that not many will take advantage of this. Somehow a blogging link between the EU level and the national and subject spheres needs to be established. Any ideas are most appreciated – although there are enough ideas but not enough people that get involved.