EU project looks into world of Brussels-based journalists


The EU’s communication activities and the work of EU correspondents both in Brussels and around Europe were the focus of the EU-funded AIM (Adequate Information Management) project, which is just drawing to a close.

The Brussels press corps is one of the largest in the world, bringing together over 1,000 journalists from over 60 countries. Through interviews with a sample of Brussels-based journalists, the project partners sought to understand how they viewed the EU’s communications efforts and how they arrange their work.

One of the key points to come out of the project is the diversity of journalistic cultures which come together in Brussels. However, there is a certain level of homogenisation of the different cultures, which newcomers have to adapt to. Furthermore, not all journalists are created equal, with some journalists having more clout than others. Speaking at the final AIM conference in Brussels, project participant Paolo Mancini of the University of Perugia explained that journalists from the old Member States tend to dominate those from the newer Member States, although some of the larger new Member States such as Poland were now starting to pull their weight more. This follows another trend identified, namely that large countries tend to dominate small ones. Journalists from bigger countries have more power because sources are more interested in talking to them,’ he said, noting that the biggest publications, which are more European than national in their nature, wield considerable power. ‘For example the Financial Times is able to affect the process of news gathering for other journalists.’ Journalists from smaller countries also often have to cover more issues, making things harder for them. Journalists also experience a certain level of contradiction in their daily lives, noted Professor Mancini. ‘They live abroad and cover international institutions and work with a lot of foreigners, but they respond to a national, i.e. local, audience of people who are in a very local culture,’ he explained.

One of the biggest challenges facing journalists is the vast amount of information coming out of the institutions, and the jargon used. Learning to understand the jargon and how to decide which pieces of information are relevant and important is a hard task for journalists arriving in Brussels.

Based on its findings, the project partners have come up with a range of recommendations as to how the EU could improve its communication activities. These include the idea that the European Commission should take national media agendas into consideration, and provide more communications training to its spokespeople and media experts.

A previous study of the AIM project looked at how media coverage of EU affairs varied in
the 10 countries involved in the project.

For more information, please visit : AIM Project