The unofficial rulebook for lazy EU journalism. 20 invaluable tips for your career in EU journalism.
1. Not sure how the EU works or what institutions are involved? –> Just write “Brussels”.
2. Germany is generally seen as important in EU politics and journalists know how to frame it: If Germany is active in a certain policy domain just write something about “German dominance” and if you work for British newspaper add some subtle references to the war. If Germany is passive in a given policy area just write that Germany abandons the EU and it clearly adopted a unilateral strategy, if you work for a British newspaper you could add something about the war.
3. Found a short reference in a paper which talks about your country? –> Is is an evil plan to undermine democracy
4. General rule: No need to distinguish between different European institutions and organisations. Who cares whether it is the Council of Europe, the European Council, the Council of the EU, the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union or the European Court of Human Rights . –> Just write something about eurocrats and unelected foreign European judges interfering with your beloved country. [thanks Andrew!]
5. You are in Brussels and there are several events happening at the same time? –> Well, this is a clear sign that the EU does not address the important issues! (Important issue = event you attend)
6. Unsure what is happening in the EU? –> Don’t bother ringing someone in Brussels. Just make something up about bananas or recycle a story you read half a year ago. If you are ambitious call the press department of one of the parties in your capital or use a recent party pamphlet.
7. Did you come across a controversial statement or an opinion of an MEP or any national MP? –> Start your article with “EU plans to…” or “Country X wants to…” Any MEP or committee must be prefaced by “senior,” “influential” or “key” as long as he/she/it says something confrontational. [thanks Tim Jones]
8. Facts are overrated. Don’t bother checking the original EU policy documents. There is no need to understand differences between white or green papers, a report or a regulation or a directive. It is much easier to write about ‘crazy ideas of EU bureaucrats’. If you have an idea for a good EU story don’t let facts ruin it. Plus, nobody will check if a EU story is true. Everyone knows that the EU is boring and evil. Moreover, the single aim of the EU is to produce unnessary regulation (generally known as ‘red tape”).
9. Use “EU bureaucrats” or “Brussels bureaucrats” as often as possible. A more experienced lazy journalist would simply refer to ‘Eurocrats‘. (Thanks Gawain) Useful adjectives in this context include “unelected”, “unaccountable”, “corrupt”, “highly-paid”, “highly-pensioned”, “lazy”. This list is not exhaustive and can be adapted to your journalistic needs. You may also use “EU official” or “EU representative” especially if you follow rule 4.
10. Don’t mention that ministers might have a veto over EU policy –> Just write about how the EU destroys national sovereignty.
11. You think that the EU is a bit too complex and everything takes a bit too long? –> Well just focus on zero sum games especially during summits. One country wins, one country looses. That is life. That’s the EU. Simples.
12. A good headline is key. So always go for the pun or the the odd ‘eurocrats’, ‘empire’ reference. And the fight is always between europhiles and eurosceptics. Keep that in mind.
13. Symbols are more important than substance. Stories about what people had for breakfast or dinner, something about flags or anthems are great examples. Always mix personal stories about EU leaders with national stereotypes and prejudices. You will be surprised: it always works.
14. EU funding is always a great story. There is corruption, waste and funny projects. However, do not mention that projects need co-financing. Also do not try to look at the positive examples, it would just spoil the story. Anyway, EU money is by definition a bad thing. So, don’t try to explain why EU funding exists in the first place.
15. The EU budget as well as the budget negotiations provide many interesting options for lazy journalists. You could write that the EU books have not been signed off for years – without mentioning the auditing rules. Or you could write something about how much money your country pays to be in the EU – without mentioning that it may get something back. Don’t make the mistake to link to any official cost-benefit calculation. Because if they exist they are must be wrong, if they don’t exist it is generally a conspiracy. Rather use a statement from another newspaper or dodgy think tank. Just don’t ask any questions. Never think about what the EU could do with the money, just assume that “Brussels wastes all the money it gets”. Budget negotiations are zero sum games, so rule 11 applies. There is no such thing as the “European interest”.
16. The single market means competition which might include foreign companies winning tenders in your country. If that happens just focus on the foreign element of that company. Make some claims about corruption. Write about how many jobs will be lost. No need to mention that new jobs will be created. If you are an ambitious lazy journalist write about how EU competition laws are made to destroy your local economy.
17. Don’t bother learning a foreign language. It is not useful in EU journalism. You can always rely on international news agencies.
18. Subscribe to all ‘think tanks’ and ‘business associations’ which are highly regarded among your collegues. From time to time, just ‘write’ (copy/paste) short articles. Don’t include links to your sources.
19. Context is overrated. Headlines are more important. Just go for the best quotes – no context needed. If you have a great quote from last week, you can still use it. No need to check whether current events have moved on.
20. A beginners mistake is to engage with the opposite side or with critics of your work. So, just don’t do it.
The second part of the ‘short guide to lazy EU journalism’ will be published in the coming weeks on this blog and might focus on the recent “Eurocrisis”. Use the comments below to share your tips how to become a lazy EU journalist or how to cover the eurocrisis as lazy journalist. This would give me the opportunity to plagiarise your ideas in the next blog post.
Update 20/11/2011 – 25/11/2011: Well, it seems that ‘#lazyEUjournalism’ is indeed a pan-European issue. Consequently the ‘short guide’ was translated into several European languages! Thanks to all bloggers and translators!
DE: Ein kurzer Leitfaden zu faulem EU-Journalismus – Vielen Dank, opalkatze!
FR: Comment faire du journalisme européen paresseux, en 20 points – Merci beaucoup, Fabrize!
IT: Short guide to lazy EU journalism ovvero come fare del giornalismo europeo di pessima qualita – Grazie, Francesca!
HR: Kratki vodič za komotno novinarstvo o EU - Hvala, Srdjan!
IS: Stutti leiðarvísirinn fyrir lata Evrópublaðamanninn – Takk, Hilmar!
Inspired by this post there are several adaptations which discuss in how far the guide applies to different national public spheres: