10 Things You Need To Know About The EU Press Corps

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Thanks to the 50-60 people who came to the launch of ‘Mapping European Foreign Correspondence‘ at the Brussels Press Club today. The book, which is edited by Professor George Terzis and published by Routledge, is the first Europe-wide study of foreign correspondents and their reporting. Many who attended the launch asked if I could send data from the chapter about the Brussels press corps, which I co-authored with Prof. Terzis. Rather than post my presentation, I have picked out 10 essential facts you need to know about the journalists who report on the EU. Unless otherwise specified, the data is from the ‘Directory of Journalists Accredited to the European Institutions’ issued by the European Commission in May 2012. If there are are any errors, don’t hesitate to tell us.

  1. The Brussels press corps is not the largest in the world – as many in the EU capital like to boast. London, with over 1700 correspondents, dwarfs Brussels. Washington D.C is substantially bigger and Paris roughly the same size.
  2. Another myth is that of the “incredible shrinking EU press corps” as one Economist article trumpeted in 2010. In fact, the number of accredited journalists in Brussels has grown almost continuously – from 259 in 1976, to 480 in 1987, to 783 in 1995 and 929 in 2004. In the last decade numbers have been more or less stable. In May 2012, the date the last directory of journalists was published and from which the figures below are taken, there were 931 reporters. This rose to 1022 in September 2013 and fell to 934 in October 2014. In addition to these 934 journalists, there were 145 accredited technicians, 124 cameramen, 40 producers and 34 photographers.
  3. Almost half of accredited EU journalists – 46% – work alone. Only 27% of reporters work in an office with more than 10 people.
  4. The biggest bureaus in Brussels are public TV stations, news agencies and niche media aimed at the Brussels bubble. The five largest are German broadcaster ARD (24), Chinese wire Xinhua (23), EU news service Europolitics (20), Thomson Reuters (17) and the BBC (15). A full list of bureaus with five or more journalists can be found here.
  5.  In May 2012, 40% of Brussels journalists worked for print media, 29% for TV and radio, 26% for agencies and 5% for digital-only media
  6. Germany supplies the largest contingent of EU accredited journalists (113), followed by the UK (109) and Belgium (77). There has been a drop in the number of Italian and Dutch journalists covering the EU from Brussels since 2004, which has been compensated for by a spectacular rise in Chinese reporters (from 17 in 2004 to 43 in 2012).
  7. Two-thirds of accredited journalists in Brussels are men and one third women.
  8. The number of freelancers has jumped in the last decade – from just 5 in 2002 to 64 in 2012.
  9. The most widely read media amongst MEPs and Parliament staff is the BBC and Financial Times, according to a poll by ComRes ZN in 2012. The BBC was also the most widely read by MEPs’ assistants, Commission staff, Permanent Representations and EU agencies. The FT headed the poll amongst think tanks, Brussels-based journalists and businesses. The Economist was joint top with Parliament staff and think thanks and number one with academics.
  10. The Brussels journalist with the most Twitter followers is Liberation’s Jean Quatremer with 69,963 loyal fans. FT bureau chief Peter Spiegel has 40,495 and BBC Europe Editor Gavin Hewitt 36,015.

About Gareth Harding

Gareth is the Managing Director of Clear Europe and head of the Missouri School of Journalism's Brussels Programme. He is a former journalist, speechwriter and political advisor.


Mikael Carpelan - February 24, 2015 Reply

Instead of comparing numbers of correspondents in big cities, more relevant would be to compare stories, output quantity. That would shave off “hausfrau” correspondents (like myself) who do own a press card but do not produce much. By that method, Brussels would presumably rank higher. But, maybe that is a mission impossible.

Kurt - February 24, 2015 Reply

Good point Mikael. Also noteworthy is that this whole press corps manages to output basically: nothing of real interest. There’s never a leak nor never a scandal to report, in Brussels, with all those institutions there, really?

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