So I’m a Journalist

I have to apologize to the readers of this blog for being silent for a month. Partly it has to do with the incredible stream of events we’ve had regarding the Arab World and the eurozone crisis. The potential topics can pile up until you’re afraid to begin anywhere.

Partly it has to with being hired by EurActiv as a trainee journalist one month ago. Anonymous proof here or here. Needless to say I’m pretty happy to be joining one of the two or three major dedicated EU news organizations in Brussels as to live by writing is a very old dream of mine.

Armed with a press laissez-passez as against my old parliamentary badge, I can now get into the Commission, the Council and various press briefings and conferences. A bit like unlocking the new areas of a video game. My attempts to cover the last Council summit were thwarted by the fact the badge has “stagiaire” written on it in small print, but I shan’t be thwarted again.

I’ve only been there a month but already I’ve learned a great deal. First has been discovering the strange and charming complicity between journalists and their sources, whether its the source leaking documents just before a policy announcement or providing frank – almost cathartic – comments off the record information.

The most interesting meetings with EU officials and foreign diplomats are invariably the off the record (no quotes) or “background” ones (quote, but only as “senior officials” or somesuch). I don’t entirely get the point of off the record press gatherings. Presumably they’re trying to affect the news but amazingly the source can sometimes be just as diplomatic and cryptic when he’s unquoteable as in public pronouncements!

The second has been becoming fully aware of the vastness that is “EU policy”. Really most of it is the bureaucrats, politicians and lobbyists producing an endless supply text detailing a combination of noise, posing and more-or-less ineffectual cheerleading. Power and “really existing things” can be hard to detect even in national politics. It is doubly so in the EU as it essentially has no budget for anything other than agriculture or regional funds, and where responsibility for most issues is confused and/or shared by national/regional/local authorities or even the private sector. One can add the difficulty that the EU typically must pretend that it is responsible, that it is an actor (most grotesquely with foreign policy).

There are however real things happening – typically most visible during the drama of the Council summits but also slow but steady development – and I hope to develop that skill which lets one cut through the not-usually-willful unclarity.

It also means I’m hoping to find a refocus to this blog as there’s not the slightest hope of being an expert on everything going on. I may post more job-related petites histoires or simply anything of interest in the news (at the risk of it being over-analyzed and over-commented as with many recent events!). Most likely I’ll find some sort of synergy between the job and the blog. Perhaps I’ll specialize in something, Euro-American relations, for example. We shall see!

PS: I wrote in the links section listing various sources that EurActiv is “[t]he single best online resource for understanding the EU, available in 10 national editions.” I hasten to say I wrote this before I working or even thinking I might work for it. Now it looks a little slavish. Serendipity works in mysterious ways..

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