Does “European journalism” exist? (guest post)

This post was authored by Michaël Malherbe, a communications consultant, professor and blogger on EU communications. I have translated and slightly edited this post from the original French. I’ve added it here as I thought it presents a very good overview of the EU media landscape – notably its fracturing into specialized EU media (mostly limited to Eurocrats), national media (widely read, but no pan-European “discussion”) and the Anglo-American press (in effect the common media of European elites).

The latter point I don’t think is entirely neutral: It says something about national and continental aspirations that Europe’s leaders “discover themselves” and pursue the “continental conversation” through the pages of publications that are either foreign (US) or from the EU’s quintessential euroskeptic member (UK). I think of Arthur Miller’s famous definition: “A good newspaper is a nation talking to itself.” 

This is a strange question, even for the one who posed it, Eddy Fougier, in “European journalism, a necessary good”, as there exists:

  • A European Journalism Center
  • Associations uniting European journalists, such as the Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
  • European journalism training courses
  • And even a prize for European journalism – the Louise Weiss Prize – given every year since 2005 by the French section of the AEJ

And yet…

European journalism exists!

Proof: There are journalists who, either up close or from afar, follow and write about European current affairs.

The most important and the best known are the Brussels correspondents of “quality” media. One can cite Libération’s Jean Quatremer for France or the BBC’s Gavin Hewitt for the UK. Then there are those in charge of following European affairs within the national editorial teams and/or those in the media who have shows or columns dedicated to the EU.

European journalism does not exist!

Proof: There are no pan-European mass media, nor a Europeanization of journalistic practices.

Yes, there are some trans-European media, but none for the general public:

  • Media with a European vocation but the bulk whose work is not necessarily to cover European affairs, such as the television stations Euronews, Arte and Eurosport.
  • Official European media such as the EU’s televised information service Europe by Satellite (EbS) or the channel of the European Parliament, Europarl TV.
  • Media whose distinguishing feature is to mainly cover European affairs, such as specialized press agencies.

But, despite several attempts, to this day there does not exist a pan-European media with a mass audience. Why?

  • Difficulties on the demand side (the hypothetical “European audience” and “European point of view”): The absence of a common language or common cultural references across the EU, while news is covered according to the concerns and interests of the public.
  • Consequences on the demand side: Very weak revenue, notably of advertising, because there does not really exist a pan-European advertising market and because it is very difficult to measure European audiences.
  • Difficulties on the “media offer” side (the hypothetical “European journalistic culture”): Limited Europeanization of journalistic practices, because of the pressure of the national journalistic systems, including for newspaper correspondents in Brussels.
  • Consequences on the “media offer” side: The complexity of journalists from different countries working within a same editorial team, for cultural reasons, but also quite simply because of the absence of  a “European journalist” legal status.

European journalism (partially) exists!

Proof: The existence of specialized EU media.

The specialized press on EU issues is however far from well-known by the general public.

Overview of press agencies and print publications specialized in the EU:

EU press agencies and print publications (click to enlarge)

Overview of websites specializing in EU news:

Overview of “participatory” (mostly student-run) news sites on Europe:

European journalism doesn’t really exist!

Proof: The Anglo-American press’s influence on “European decision-makers”

Ultimately, the press with  influence on “European leaders” is the international and economic Anglo-American press with the International Herald Tribune, The Economist, The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal Europe.

Characteristics of this elite-oriented press overwhelmingly composed of the English-speaking press:

  • Coverage mainly of the European Union’s institutions
  • Based in Brussels and concentrating attention on Brussels’ European Quarter
  • Published above all in the English language
  • Aimed primarily at “European decision-makers”

Ultimately, we are going towards an increasingly glaring dichotomy between:

  • On the one side, an ultra-specialized press on the EU, unapproachable, partly due to its cost, and because of the difficulty it poses to non-specialized readers, and is therefore mainly read by “Eurocrats”.
  • On the other, a nation-centric popular press, which is interesting itself less and less in European issues and leaves the general public largely in the dark on the EU.

Thus, according to Olivier Baisnée “the EU has a public and even a ‘public opinion’ (…) typical of the 18th Century, that of an ‘enlightened’ circle of authors”.

This entry was posted in En français, guest post. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Does “European journalism” exist? (guest post)

  1. Pingback: Which Ivy League University offers the best courses for journalism and for creative writing?

  2. Pingback: Sublime » Blog Archive » Interview with Craig Willy (Letters from Europe) | Sublime Oblivion

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