Tag: journalism (page 1 of 3)

#ep2014 journalism: How to report the European Parliament elections

First things first: The European Parliament elections are not – and I repeat – NOT like national elections. So what does that mean for journalists? Well, first of all familiarise yourself with the EU decision making process – no, really I mean it, just click here for the infographic! Too superficial? This report abut the European Parliament’s procedures may also be helpful.

In a nutshell:  The EP  is not like a national parliament, it is not about clear majorities and there will be no new government. The EP always works with the aim of  finding a cross party consensus – so the most interesting work is done in committees. Yes, there are a couple of “Spitzenkandidaten” who hope to become EC President later this year. The problem is that we don’t yet know how this will play out. It is pretty much an experiment. But you should use this process as a journalistic opportunity – these candidates are supposed to present ideas for the next Commission and it would not be a surprise if some of them were to end up in one of the top jobs after the election. As a journalist you can use this process to find out what will be on the agenda in the coming years. You see, the role of journalists is to dig deeper. Don’t just criticise the (admittedly flawed) selection process – also give them a hard time defending their policy ideas (if they have any!)

Anyway, here are a few tips how to report issues in the run-up to the European Parliament elections 2014 (this could also be useful for local/regional journalists):

  • A new kind of “policy journalism”. Ask EC candidates (“Spitzenkandidaten”) for concrete policy ideas, then check with parties and (prospective) MEPs what they think about it. This would actually reflect the EU policy making process. (I am sure your readers will appreciate this new format as it shows that your outlet knows what you are talking about!)
  • Impact? The question about “impact on country X” should be treated carefully. It is not a national election (I might have mentioned it before…) so we actually talk about impact across Europe. But again, it is all about individual policies – so if you really need to write a piece about “your country” think about a concrete directive or EU policy – and do some proper policy journalism. Please note that neither the Parliament or the Commission can change the treaties – focus on concrete ideas and check whether the EU has the competence to actually do something about your issue.
  • Change of existing EU law? Look for controversial directives and ask whether EC candidates or prospective MEPs would like to change them in the next term. [yes it is possible for the EP to propose things along those lines: 2010 framework agreement & a Commission that is open to the idea]
  • Read the party manifestos. Yes, good old party manifestos or campaign posters/leaflets/slogans are a great source of stories. Especially the question whether policy proposals are a matter for the European Parliament. Sometimes manifestos don’t seem to be fact-checked by a lawyer and contain ideas that can only be implemented with a new EU treaty. Another easy mistake are proposals that can only be implemented on the national level – without any EU involvement.
  • What to ask prospective MEPs. Ask them which committee they want to sit in, whether they see themselves as a rapporteur for certain issues etc. Try and find out what they want to achieve in the European Parliament. It is about issues: environment, digital rights, transport, agriculture, fisheries – you might want to read about the role of the EU in those policy fields. Another idea: check their personal links to companies and how they dealt with lobbyists (industry and NGOs)  in previous jobs. Ask them what sort of directives they would welcome and what issues they want to see on the agenda.
  • The most important question. Does this issue fall under EU competence? What would be the role of the European Parliament in the process?
  • No EU jargon. Don’t be satisfied with phrases such as ‘completing the single market’, ‘a more competitive Europe’, ‘jobs are important’,  ‘a stable Euro’ or ‘completing the digital single market’, ask what it means in concrete policy terms. Does the EU really have instruments to address unemployment (or is it a national competence?) What sort of directives would boost competitiveness? Name one concrete regulation that is considered “red tape”. What is the role of the EP in the governance of the euro (or is this a matter for other institutions)?
  • How the European Parliament really works. The EP is different from national parliaments. There are usually big majorities at the end but the process is the interesting bit. So as a journalist you should familiarise yourself with the nature of political groups in the Parliament and how a committee works. This will help you to understand how the job of an MEP looks like – and what questions you should ask them in the run-up to the election.
  • Scrutinizing MEPs  Votewatch is one of those great resources every journalist should worship. Here you can find amazing data about the voting behaviour of certain MEPs. So before you arrange an interview with an MEP have a look at the individual voting records.
  • Lobbyists. The European Parliament is the target of quite a few lobbyists. Dig a bit deeper and you will find great stories about the influence of big business or NGOs. Also keep an eye on the “revolving door” and what sort of part-time jobs MEPs pursue!
  • What to ask the Eurosceptics. Try and find out what they want to achieve -  focus on the policy level and avoid cliches about ‘red tape’ and the Brussels ‘superstate” Another question could be: why do you want to be an MEP? Since you want to leave the EU wouldn’t it make more sense to run for your national parliament? Confront them with their manifesto and ask whether they can really achieve it by being in the EP. Are they interested in policy work – or in youtube hits or TV appearances?
  • Issues. Issues. Issues. Talk about issues -  really this is what EU politics is all about. The European Parliament could kill TTIP – did you know this? In fact it can kill any trade agreement if there is political will. (Remember ACTA?) Or think of REACH or the service directive? In both cases the EP hugely changed the original proposal.
  • Agenda Setting. Since the adoption of the 2010 inter institutional framework agreement the EP can submit legislative proposals to the Commission – if the Commission does not want to take it up it needs to explain in great length the reasons for its decision. Did you know this? Why have I never read anything in the press about the success rate or the problems connected to it?
  • Questions for all Spitzenkandidaten. Tell me three concrete legislative proposals your Commission would propose in the next term? (don’t be satisfied with speech bubbles such as ‘competitiveness’ or ‘sustainable’ or ‘stable euro’) Why do we talk about the future of the EU in such vague terms anyway? Voters have a right to know what exactly is in the pipeline…

Reporting Europe Prize 2014

Reporting Europe Prize!

A promising start for @FactCheckEU

A warm welcome to FactCheckEU – the first crowdsourced fact-checking website for EU topics. It launched a few weeks ago and – so far – it is looking rather promising. It probably has the potential to become one of the most useful EU related websites. Go check it out and – more importantly – help them!

It is crowdsourced so everyone can contribute. And we also should remember that the quality of factchecking websites pretty much depends on the community and its ethics. Obviously both things need time to develop (so critising aspects of the website today would indeed be a bit premature) So, let’s hope FactCheckEU succeed in attracting enough contributors who are also able to do some high quality fact-checking. It is much needed – especially ahead of this year’s European Parliament elections.

Paul Dacre received EU farm subsidies

That’s a nice story: Paul Dacre, the infamous editor of the Daily Mail, received  generous EU subsidies for his estate in Scotland. (hat tip: Zelo Street)

For those of you who don’t know Paul Dacre: Some have described him as ‘the man who hates liberal Britain‘ and called his newspaper, the Daily Mail,  the ‘the newspaper that rules Britain’. One of his side projects is to run/invent anti-EU stories. Over the years a large number of euromyths and fabricated anti-EU stories originated in the Daily Mail. Unfortunately the Daily Mail is the most read newspaper in the UK and played an important role in creating the toxic, uninformed eurosceptic discourse in the UK. Especially the campaign-style journalism of the Daily Mail which is based on myths, half-truths and the absence of facts is an example what’s wrong in British journalism. (also interesting in this context: Alastair Campbell’s submission to the Leveson enquiry)

Reporting Europe Prize 2013

The Reporting Europe Prize is back and nominations are open! Please nominate the best pieces of EU reporting/journalism via the official website: UACES is looking for an outstanding blogpost, a great newspaper article, or a particularly good radio or TV piece.  New forms of journalism are also highly valued. It is the only independent journalism prize that is exclusively dedicated to journalism about the European Union.






FAQs (that are not covered on the official website):

Why only in English?

It is simply an issue of resources. UACES is financially and organizationally not in a position to do pan-European selection process. If you are a sponsor or an organisation that would like to change this get in touch and we see what can be done.

Why is the award ceremony in London?

UACES is based in London. Although it is a European association its roots are in British academia which explains the UK focus of its work.

Does UACES have a political agenda regarding the EU?

No – it is academic membership association providing services to academics that work in the field of European Studies.

Disclaimer: Yours truly is a member of the UACES committee and  will serve on the jury this year.

Understanding British EU journalism

This sums it up.

(thanks to Mary Honeyball for publishing the letter!)

Short guide to lazy EU journalism

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!

RO: Cum să scrii despre UE când ai o maximă lene …   - Mulțumesc, Roxana!

ES: Kosmopolito denuncia el periodismo basura europe |europa451.es

NL: Korte handleiding voor luie EU-journalisten | Presseurop

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:

NO: EU for late journalister | europabloggen

CZ: Příručka pro líné EU novináře | respekt.cz 

PL: Jak pisać o UE | Kadmos

Crisis!! Euro!! – We are all doomed. But why?

A very simplistic theory*:

1. Most people do not understand economics, monetary politics or EU politics – including journalists.

2. A lot of investors and market participants  don’t understand politics – let alone EU decision-making. (hint: it is a long process…)

3. The media system has a tendency to simplify and sensationalize – both: economics and EU politics. Plus there is a 24h news cycle which increases the need for new and exclusive stories. And social media does also not contribute to a more thoughtful debate. In fact the more sensationalist a story is the more relevant it becomes for twitter etc. And nobody seems to care whether it is an outdated story or not!

4. Journalists read English-speaking newspapers because it is the language of the ‘markets’.

5. Many UK journalists have a problem understanding the EU. Some of them do not want to understand it. But most of them work in  ‘market -relevant’ media outlets.

6. Markets operate in English: Investors tend to read English papers and analysis. They don’t understand EU politics and read stuff from people who don’t understand it either.

7. The evil cycle begins: Something happens – uninformed journalist report about it, be it EU or Euro or both  – the media system sensationalizes  it – analysts and ‘markets’ read it and act upon it – crisis deepens – politicians have no chance to influence the cycle because whatever they say – they tend to meet uninformed and ignorant journalists who willfully sensationalize the story in order to please the 24h news cycle…

* Please note: Text includes sarcasm, exaggerations, untrue statements and general insults.  However, over consumption can cause severe depression and the desire to emigrate. Just to clarify: there are many good journalists out there.

Bloggingportal proudly presents: Council live blogging. The #EUpilot.

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:

Preparatory blogging: I, II (and a  German translation!)

Live blogging day 1

Live blogging day 2

#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.

Die sieben Branchenmythen des Journalismus

Wolfgang Blau (Zeit Online) kurz und prägnant über die Brachenmythen des Journalismus. (via carta)

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