FIRST PANEL – “The EU in the British Media”
David Rennie – Political Editor and Bagehot Columnist, The Economist, Bagehot’s Notebook
Paul Staines – Blogger, Guido Fawkes
Mats Persson – Director, Open Europe
J Clive Matthews – Blogger, Nosemonkey’s EUtopia
SECOND PANEL – “The EU in the British Blogosphere”
Bruno Waterfield – Brussels Correspondent, The Daily Telegraph, Europe not EU
Gawain Towler – UKIP / Europe of Freedom and Democracy Press Officer and Blogger, England Expects
Sunny Hundal – Blogger, Liberal Conspiracy, Pickled Politics
Jon Worth – Blogger, Jon Worth’s Euroblog
The first panel (now on YouTube; first part here), was interesting, though it was a pity that David Rennie couldn't stay that long, as he was very critical of the British press generally, and had a few interesting angles, that would have been worthwhile exploring further. On the central question, the themes would be very familiar to anyone who's been writing or reading euroblogs for any length of time: the lack of interesting news to report in the first place. In the UK this is compounded by bad reporting in the press, spreading information that's patently untrue (such as on nursing, and on selling eggs by the dozen). Different issues were raised: the EU needs more personalities, there should be a simpler way of communicating with the EU (the separate departments [DGs] mean slow communication and reaction to the press), and (perhaps) better standards in the press (this last one I'm implying from the discussion of the media's treatment of EU subjects).
Personalities are probably the way forward, but it's hard to see anything that could be done about it in the short term. The new media strategy of the Commission, for instance, is supposed to focus on Barroso - yet Barroso is less visible and present in the media than Van Rompuy or Lady Ashton. And this is during the greatest economic crisis and challenge to the Euro, when ideas of fiscal union are in the air. The attention remains on the Member States, specifically France and Germany - which is no bad thing, as the Member States are extremely important. However, it does led to a lazy toting up of approximate national interests to calculate who "won" and who "lost", instead of facing the key questions of what should be done about the Eurozone (and what the alternatives are). Though the Europarties have done some policy work, little attention is paid to them, and they haven't been tested, simply because nobody believes they can do anything, despite the activism of the EP this year. It probably won't be until there are campaigns during EP elections based on the Commission President they'd elect, will it matter what policies or personalities there are, and what the wider debates might be.
Perhaps the Euroblogosphere, and national blogospheres could help uncover some of the choices for the next election (and debate what should be done now!), but this goes back to the idea in the middle of last year that there should be more interaction between Eurobloggers and national bloggers - hopefully this event (and future ones) will help on building up links.
So I'll try and do more to boost links - and as a reminder, I welcome comments in other languages on this blog.
The second panel (also on YouTube - the first part is here) was a brilliant debate on blogging generally, and on the EU. One of the main themes that developed, was that blogging and mainstream media journalism are increasingly converging, with journalists occupying more dominant positions in the blogosphere(s), and acting more like bloggers. The role of bloggers was also explored, and there was disappointment from some (Bruno) that bloggers didn't seem to be reaching their full potential in reporting on and exploring issues like the financial crisis and Irish bail out. For others (like Jon Worth) blogging was about adding your voice to a debate when you have something to contribute, and it wasn't up to bloggers to write about areas that are being covered well enough in the mainstream media. I've a lot of sympathy for this view - the main reason I didn't blog much about the Irish bail out was my lack of an economic background (I hope to read up more on economics and to blog more about it soon). Still, blogging is a great educational experience, and I hope it encourages more people to inform themselves and to form an opinion on matters so they can add to the debate. The future of the media and blogging after the Wikileaks Cablegate was also briefly discussed.
I was presently surprised to get a great plug from Telegraph journalist Bruno Waterfield (Part 5, 1:05-1:50):
“One of the reasons why Conor’s blog is worth reading is because he situates... his blogging in wider constitutional debates about sovereignty/shared sovereignty... It’s not usually polemical – it doesn’t have to be – but it’s interesting to read the EU through a much more reflective, much more considered prism about what should politics mean in the 21st Century.”
So cheers, Bruno!
[Thanks to the Commission Representation in the UK for allowing use of Europe House for the event, and to Mia and Joe for chairing the panels].