I was at the Reporting Europe Awards last night (as was my Twitter pal @Nosemonkey though I didn’t know and so missed the opportunity to meet him in the flesh). Two of the six finalists were people I knew from the Brussels press room and in fact one of them was the eventual overall winner, James Kanter of the International Herald Tribune. His article was about the unintended winners of the carbon emissions trading scheme (I would have liked to link to it on the IHT/NYT site but couldn’t find it there).
Nice as it was to see a friend recognised for his professional competence, the evening was interesting in many other ways.
Firstly, half of the entrants were from non-UK media outlets (IHT, Radio Free Europe and Irish Times). So while UACES is the biggest European studies association in the EU and UK universities have a great reputation in that field, that expertise is not mirrored in the media. This backs up what I experienced when I judged entries to an European journalism prize – the quality pieces just weren’t there.
Secondly, in his acceptance speech, James made an impassioned plea for journalists to be given the space to follow-up stories like this. This tallies very much with comments from people like Roy Greenslade and Charlie Beckett, never mind the whole flat earth news thing. Our experience is the same – it’s increasingly difficult to winkle journalists out from their desks, and we’ll get calls from people writing stories on an EU decision with a deadline of an hour or so and concept of how the decision-making process works. Journalists deserve to be given the resources and time to do their job properly.
Thirdly, it confirmed the point I make all the time when I talk to people about my work. I don’t expect people always to write nice things about the EU. Journalists are there to question, criticise, put both sides of the story. That’s their job, and when it’s well done, like all the finalists in this case, it’s a great thing and can actually make a huge difference. But I do and should expect a fair hearing. Writing up a Taxpayers Alliance report and then not including our reaction is not fair. Not asking us for a reaction in the first place is even less fair. And never mind not fair to su, it’s not fair to the people reading the piece.
So, a really interesting evening. I just hope it is a step towards a more thoughtful and incisive approach to reporting European issues in the UK press.