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Brussels Media – The Breakdown

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A couple of months ago I wrote a blog piece puncturing the myth of the shrinking EU press corps. Far from dwindling, I showed how the number of correspondents in Brussels has risen constantly over the last four decades – and continues to grow despite the crisis. According to the latest official figures, there were 1022 journalists accredited to the European Commission in September 2013. However, Lorenzo Consoli, the former president of the Foreign Press Association in Brussels, recently informed me this figure had jumped to 1095 by the end of 2013.

Evolution Press Corps Size Read More

Virtual Reality: First Thoughts on Online Training

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Clear Europe has just wrapped up an online training course on ‘Reporting the EU’ for young Czech journalists and students. The three-month programme was funded by the European Commission’s representation in Prague and co-organised with Transitions, a Prague-based non-profit aimed at strengthening the media in central and eastern Europe.

Despite many years of experience teaching journalism classes, this was my first foray into online training and I was nervous about its limitations – which makes the mainly positive feedback we received from participants all the more pleasing. One wrote: “That was a unique and greatly useful experience, and also very inspiring personally for me…what I received from the programme is simply priceless.” Another said she gained “valuable insight about writing and being a journalist.” Read More

The Myth of the Shrinking EU Press Corps

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Remember all those scary stories about dwindling press numbers in Brussels a few years ago? Well, turns out they were wrong. Far from falling, the number of journalists accredited to the EU has actually risen over the past decade – from 929 in June 2004 to 1022 in September 2013, according to unpublished European Commission figures.

The error seems to have arisen when several journalists reported that the number of accredited correspondents had fallen to 752 in March 2010, prompting a spate of lurid headlines. “The media is deserting Brussels,” shouted the normally reliable ‘Coulisses de Bruxelles’ blog. “The incredible shrinking EU press corps,” screamed The Economist’s Charlemagne column, noting that the EU press pack was in “free fall.” And in an article entitled “As the EU does more, fewer tell about it,” The New York Times claimed the number of accredited reporters in Brussels had dropped by more than one-third since 2005. Read More

Next Course: Influencing the Brussels Press

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The Brussels press corps is the biggest in the world, right? Wrong. Washington D.C. and London are far larger.

Surely this shows that journalist numbers in Brussels are in constant decline, right? Again wrong. Data shows numbers have been fairly constant over the past decade.

There is a lot of misinformation about the Brussels press corps, which can lead to misunderstandings about how to deal with the 1,000 or so influential correspondents based in the EU capital. In our next open course on February 20 we will analyse previously unpublished data to look at how the press corps has changed over the last 20 years, the challenges reporters face covering the EU and how this affects the way you do business with Brussels-based journalists.

Our aim is to make you more comfortable dealing with EU reporters. So we will practice how to pitch stories and give you insider tips on the most influential outlets in the Brussels media bubble and how to approach them.

For a more detailed description of the day’s program click here.

The cost of the day course will be €285. Cava is included, VAT is not! If you are interested in taking part, please contact us.

 

Skill Up in 2014

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We are busy planning our programme of open courses for the first half of next year. We aim to have at least one, day-long paid class a month. We promise to keep prices as low as possible because we are aware many participants pay to skill up from their own pocket, rather than the company account.

In addition, we plan to offer a two-hour evening masterclass every month. These will be free, cava included!

So far we have held three courses:

Which classes would you like to see next? Please leave your suggestions below – or email us if you would like to arrange a customised coaching. You can find a full list of the courses we offer here.

Festive greetings from the Clear Europe team.

 

 

Lights, Camera, Laughter

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I was interviewing a bunch of world leaders at the European Development Days in Brussels last week.

Arriving late for an interview with Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller – pictured below – I apologised by blaming a European Commissioner for keeping me waiting.

“You sound like Shaggy,” said a chilled-looking Simpson-Miller.

Feeling immediately more at ease I replied: “Wow, that’s the first time a prime minister has quoted Scooby-Doo to me.”

“I wasn’t referring to the cartoon character,” said Simpson-Miller. “I meant the singer.” At which point, the PM launched into her own rendition of the Jamaican-American’s smash hit “It Wasn’t Me,” prompting fits of laughter all round.

A few lessons here for anyone nervous about doing interviews:

  • Humour helps break the ice
  • Make the interviewer relaxed and you will be more relaxed as an interviewee

(Top photo of Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou courtesy of Michael Chia)

How to Write Clearly

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Every language reflects the character of the people who speak it. Those from the Francophonie revel in elegant vagueness; Germans are determined that the sentence will be comprehensive, no matter how long or awkward. For their part, those who write English well admire and prioritise two things. The first is economy of expression. That is not the same thing as just writing short sentences. Like this. Rather, it is the ability to communicate the most in the simplest way. The second is courtesy: it is the job of the writer to do the difficult work of creating excellent analysis. The reader should not have to struggle to understand or re-read sentences. All should be self-evident.

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Next Course: Blogging Basics

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Almost everyone feels they should blog, but many don’t know why and few really know how.

In our next open course on December 11, well-known blogger and social media trainer Jon Worth will explain how to write successfully online and promote it via social media. During the day-long class, you will learn the main techniques of effective online writing and linking – and using photos and video to illustrate content on the web. Then Jon will walk you through how to get your blogs seen on major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

The training will be hands-on, not theoretical, with participants learning how to write online articles effectively using a secure WordPress blog created just for the course. Later, those articles will be automatically deluged with comments and learners will choose what to approve (or not) and how to reply (or not).

For a more detailed description of the course and the day’s programme, click here.

The cost of the day course will be €285. Cava is included, VAT is not! If you are interested in taking part, please contact us.

 

‘In Brussels No One Can Hear You Scream’

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If you are interested in politics, journalism and communications then you are probably a big fan of Borgen – the Danish TV show about a female politician and the reporters, officials and spin-doctors circling around her.

As I was struggling with the opening paragraph of a book chapter I’m writing on reporting the European Union, I remembered a scene from an earlier episode of Borgen – entitled ‘In Brussels No One Can Hear You Scream’ – that speaks volumes about how the EU is viewed by large chunks of the press and public.

Journalist Katrine Fonsmark believes she can reveal who Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg is going to nominate as the next Danish commissioner to the EU. It is a scoop, so at the daily editorial meeting of her populist newspaper Ekspres, she proposes to run with it to fellow reporter Hanne Holm and Editor-in-chief Michael Laugesen.

This is a transcript of what follows:

Laugesen: No one wants to read about the EU. It’s too complicated and unsexy.

Holm: Complicated? Oh come on, the prime minister is appointing a commissioner.

Laugesen: The Danes know nothing about it.

Fonsmark: So let’s enlighten them. The Commission helps legislate in the EU. Let’s write about it.

Laugesen: People only want to hear about salaries and corruption in the EU.

Anyone who has tried to report the EU for a newspaper outside Brussels will recognise Laugesen’s reaction. But is it necessarily true – let alone right? Does the public only want to hear about ‘salaries and corruption’ in the EU? Is Europe simply too ‘complicated and unsexy’ for readers and viewers?

With just over six months until the next European Parliament elections and the prospect of a referendum on EU membership looming in Britain, these questions matter. So we’d like to know whether you think reporting the EU is ‘mission impossible’ or a challenge journalists and editors simply cannot ignore?

 

 

Next Course: How to Communicate

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Our next open course on Wednesday November 6 aims to teach you the basic building blocs of communicating clearly, succinctly and successfully. Over three hours -from 3 to 6 pm- we will look at:

  • What is your communications goal?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What are you central messages? And how do you get people to notice and remember them?
  • What tools will you use to convey your message?

The training will be led by Isabelle Leonard, an expert in crisis communications. It is free of charge, although we will be shooting some video of the course for our website.

If you are interested in taking part in the training, please contact us.