Thursday 18 March 2010

Do Brussels reporters live in a fantasy land? - updated

Leigh Philips of the EUobserver has continued the story on the declining number of correspondents in Brussels, revealing a significant loss of reality of the API journalists.
"[T]he reporters considered calling on the institutions to make press releases available only to accredited Brussels journalists. Some in the room objected to the restrictions on access to information this would entail and the association ultimately voted to just request a wider use of the 'embargo' system, in which information is delivered to a journalist with enough time to prepare a story ahead of a document's full public release."
Journalist demanding information that are meant for the public exclusively or ahead of time is just ridiculous.

In the 21st century that has just started to make information a universal right, if journalists get embargo information from the institutions, I as a blogger will demand unlimited access to EU institution databases.

The reason: As we can see in the statement above, journalists can build a story out of press releases. We bloggers can build stories from raw material that we dig up from the web and databases (like this one regarding data security on EU government sites).

And different to what is written in the EUobserver article, the whole debate on declining numbers of journalists has not been started by Jean Quatremer on 13 March but in the EU blogosphere by Lacomeuropeene, two days before Quatremer's article. And this article was triggered by the Twitter remark of Paris-based [sic!] journalist LB2S on 11 March. At the same time, this was already in the online version of Le Monde.

UPDATE (21:20): Kosmopolit shows that the whole thing started even earlier with an article by European Voice in the morning of 11 March that astroehlein tweeted in the afternoon, retweeted by Kosmopolit only slightly later. END UPDATE

Two and a half hours after LB2S' tweet, lacomeuropeene had already written his article, the first euroblog post on the matter, which I responded to the same evening.

Still the same evening, lacomeuropeene even asked a related question to Quatremer who answered the next day, one day before he wrote his own article. Thus Quatremer was involved in online discussions close to the topic without crediting from where he was inspired - which brings me back to this debate I had with him.

Again two days later, on 15 March, Economist journalist Charlemagne reacted to Quatremer, four days after the topic appeared on Twitter and in the online version of Le Monde and without relating to anyone else but Quatremer. So the two top blogging EU journalists needed two and four days to join the debate without actually referring to it...

If this is the speed at which the Brussels press is acting, I prefer to get direct and biased information from the institutions which I can then counterbalance with critical background information from the web instead of waiting for the journos to wake up and report only half of the story.

PS.: There is also a nice reaction from Anita of the the Public Affairs 2.0 blog by Fleishman-Hillard.

PPS.: And just to say that the whole hysteria seems to be overrated seeing that the figures regarding the number of correspondents quoted in the EUobserver article are higher than the ones we have started with last week.


Ralf Grahn said...


The main point is that the public has a right to receive and to process information.

Privileges for closed shops and "court favourites" go against this principle of equal access.

Taco said...

It's wrong to assume that we can do without critical journalists in Brussels just because news is nowadays disseminated in countless ways and quicker. We need them to hold accountable our political leaders. Something bloggers do more and more as well.

The point that the API didn't seem to raise is that the old business model of news is dead and needs to be replaced.

Instead of rethinking their business they want to create a monopoly on EU news which is absurd.

I'm sure creative and entrepreneurial journalists will be laughing last! Those who refuse to adapt will disappear.

Julien Frisch said...

Just to be clear: I am totally in favour of critical and professional journalism.

But when I talked to journalists when I was in Brussels last time, they didn't seem so enthusiastic about interest in what they, especially in their home offices.

If this is the right environment for "critical journalism" is questionable, and demanding privileges that go against the principle of transparency they are supposed to foster does not make this better...

Mathew Lowry said...

In case you didn't see my tweet, here is an excellent Mashable article about 'old' and 'new' journalism, including and the 'link-phobic mindset of old-media journalists'.

Julien Frisch said...

Hi Matthew,

thanks for the article!