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Europe is…

Let’s consider these two statements:

  • “Europe is what the European Institutions do.” Europe, commonly referred to in the media as “Brussels” is located somewhere else, certainly beyond the borders of your country. 

  • “Europe is what Europeans do and think.” Europeans come in a variety of sizes, ideas, skin colours and cultures, from the North, South, East and West.

Do you identify with any of them?

When setting up The European Perspective we have come across other information outlets of European inspiration. Some of them focus on institutional Europe, while others focus on people’s Europe. Covering what Europeans do and think is also The European Perspective’s aim. But, what is it that makes us different from other worthy European sources of information?

A random citizen (who happens to be my dad) delivers a speech (to me) at the European Parliament in 2012 - The edge of the citizen-institution Europe
A random citizen (who happens to be my dad) delivers a speech (to me) at the European Parliament in 2012 – The edge of the citizen-institution Europe

Three aspects to analyse our competition

  1. Whether or not they offer institutional information.

  2. If they follow the news cycle or offer evergreen content.

  3. If they are values-based or neutral when covering their topics.

Let’s meet our competition and how they fare on these aspects.

Starting with three European podcasts

The Europeans

Non-institutional, half on the news – half evergreen, rather values-based.

We could define Dominic and Katy, the show conductors, as just two random Europeans talking with their friends all over Europe. Dominic lives in Amsterdam and Katy in Paris, and they’re huge Eurovision fans.

Dominic Kraemer and Katy Lee, hosts of The Europeans podcast
Dominic Kraemer and Katy Lee, hosts of The Europeans podcast

But in reality they’re not so random. Katy is a journalist and Dominic an opera singer: they know what it is to be on stage and deliver a high quality audio product. The Europeans podcast has been in the air since 2017, the team is growing, and their scope too. We talked with one of the producers of the show, Wojciech Oleksiak (the other producer is Katz Laszlo) about their audience, which is around 40-50 thousand listeners per month.

We’re going to single out the episode “The great investment greenwashing”, as it provides a clear sample of what they do:

  • They interview the Italian journalist based in Spain Daniele Grasso, on the topic of investments in (supposedly) green funds in Europe

  • They cover the Finnish elections and Sanna Marin’s defeat

  • They analyse Italy’s recent ban on chatGPT.

  • And they talk about a recipe of courgette flowers with garlic butter.

All this in less than 40 minutes. Check out here all their episodes!

The Europeans podcast is a big influence for The European Perspective because of their approach, tone, and selection of topics. It’s run as a non-profit organization and they receive contributions from the listeners, together with some partnerships for specific actions.

Europe Calling

Fully institutional, mostly on the news, non-neutral.

This is an official podcast of the European Commission to promote its work, therefore the topics are as institutional as it gets. In a recent episode they covered the Digital Services Act, interviewing Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager.

The podcast is produced by the Communication services of the European Commission. They aim at a once-per-month issue focused on the most relevant information of the moment, although the last one took half a year to see the light.

Backed up by the institution and promoting its interests, it should be considered as non-neutral. Each piece lasts less than 30 minutes and you can find them on this site.

POLITICO’s EU Confidential

Fully institutional, fully on the news, neutral.

POLITICO is probably the biggest player when it comes to European reporting. We will focus on their podcast, as a sample of their larger work.

It runs weekly with information of short shelf life: what European leaders say, the daily manoeuvering at the highest spheres. In 30 minutes, you get your weekly dose of EU institutions. Should you want more, you can head for their daily newsletter called “Brussels playbook” with every little detail of the Eurobubble life (such as “today, this person who worked for a lobby has become an EU official”).

Politico is the clearest exponent of “Europe is what the institutions do”. What they report might not have a direct impact on the life of Europeans, but it is probably appreciated by the Brussels bubble.

The podcast is hosted by Irish journalist Suzanne Lynch, a veteran correspondent in Brussels and Washington for the Irish Times.

Following up with some newsletters

Voxeurop

Mostly non-institutional, half on the news, relatively neutral.

Voxeurop is serious journalism. The core team is made of journalists of Italian-French-German-Dutch origin. They have a network of trusted European media partners from which they source part of their content.

They are supported by a large team of translators, to reach as wide an audience as possible. The more relevant pieces come out translated in 4 European languages, and their website runs in 10.

They are a media company, relying on financial support from readers, grants, media partnerships, and translation and editorial services . In 2017 they became the first European media cooperative.

Two topics they have covered recently:

We contacted two of the co-founders: Paul Salvanes, and Gian-Paolo Accardo. Their scope is the wider Europe, not only the EU. And they don’t focus on the EU bubble, as they acknowledge that others do it better. But they do report on what impacts the citizens’ lives. They start from what we have called a “values-based stance” (climate change, migration, cooperation, inclusion) and their goal is not to be neutral, but objective.

The Conversation – European newsletter

Mostly non-institutional, more on the news than what you would expect from an academic perspective, and as neutral as science gets.

We have seen what “two random guys” (The Europeans), “the journalists” (Voxeurop, Politico) and “the institutions” (Europe Calling) have to say about Europe. Let’s switch now to “the academics”, because you must be employed by an academic institution to write for The Conversation (and in turn, academic institutions support The Conversation financially).

The Conversation’s edge is precisely their neutrality. Something remarkable is that they don’t shy away from the news cycle, and offer perspectives on Brexit, lab-grown meat, migration policies, and sustainable investments. They find a balance in their content between what the academics want to say (always within their own field of expertise) and what the news cycle is about.

Three editors select content weekly: Laura Hood in the UK, Natalie Sauer in France, and Claudia Lorenzo in Spain. These are two examples of recent content:

Although there are local versions for the UK, France and Spain, The Conversation Europe is a new edition which started recently, in September 2022, with the goal of covering all researchers without a local edition, and topics which are of continental interest.

We spoke with Claudia Lorenzo, who is based in the beautiful region of Asturias in Northern Spain. She stresses that their goal is to contextualise the news. That’s why they jump at the news cycle. And all its content is intended to be reused, as it’s licensed as Creative Commons.

What’s up EU

Full on in the news, full on institutional, full on neutral.

In other words, if you want to know the latest information about the European Institutions from the most unbiased possible source, this is it.

Every week they give a detailed account of what the European leaders have said or done, and what are the implications in world politics. They have covered recently the relation between EU and China, the specifics of the latest Brexit agreements, the latest directives coming from the European Parliament (such as the Critical Raw Materials Act), how the EU is planning to counter the USA Inflation Reduction Act, and the take of the Commission on renewable hydrogen.

This newsletter, delivered both in English and French, is the best way to understand what “Europe=European Institutions” is doing in less than 10 minutes. It’s brief, didactical, and much more colourful than official press releases.

It has been running for 2 years. Its three editors are based in Paris, Brussels and London and they know each other from their master’s studies at the French university Sciences Po. They are supported by up to 10 occasional collaborators, most of them with an academic background in law.

What’s up EU – Your go-to newsletter to keep on top of EU affairs. By Thomas Harbor

EU Observer

News, mostly institutional, values-based.

EU Observer was probably the first outlet covering EU topics. They have been going at it for 24 years, with a current team of 6 journalists. They position themselves against the usual press coverage, which remains national: “We don’t belong to any of the countries, we belong to you.

Every day the EU Observer newsletter brings 4 to 6 topics. Their goal is to bridge the gap between the public and the European decision-makers, adding analysis and context to the topics, and they also touch some non-institutional topics.

In EU Observer it’s common to see opinion pieces on hot topics, and follow-ups from the people affected using the “right of reply”.

They are a non-profit organisation, and their revenue model is based on subscriptions, with some articles available for free. This gives them the liberty of choosing which topics to cover, including those under-reported because they’re commercially uninteresting.

We spoke with their Editor-in-Chief, Alejandro Tauber, an Ecuadorian-German-American experienced freelance journalist based in Amsterdam. Having taken over the role less than 1 year ago, his goal is to switch from reactive content to agenda-setting one.

Europe’s ZEITGEIST

Mostly news, mostly institutional, values-based.

Nicolas Lembeck, in Berlin, and Tom Odebrecht, in Brussels, are the editors of this newsletter. Professionally they work in European topics. In their newsletter they follow European affairs and analyse the response of the EU politicians and institutions under the framework of the European values. Which ones? Those in the Treaty of Lisbon, which are always worth repeating: “respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.

They always compare the European values to what’s happening in other regions of the world. Some analysis in their latest issues includes the current geopolitical situation of the EU, and what role to play versus China and the US, and also the state of play of the Bosnia and Herzegovina’s negotiations to join the EU.

Europe’s ZEITGEIST-Our weekly take on current political affairs. Through the lens of values. By Nicolas Lembeck

Euractiv Newsletters

News, mostly institutional, neutral.

Euractiv is another big name in this list, having been around for 24 years.

They offer newsletters in English, French, Greek, Dutch, with a wide variety of topics. Their flagship is probably “The Capitals”, a daily summary of the buzz in each of the European main cities.

Euractive places a lot of importance on languages, using up to 13 different ones in their coverage. They reach an important amount of content thanks to their partnerships with many national media outlets and they have a network of correspondents in many European countries, not only EU. This allows them to complement the “Brussels perspective” with the national points of view.

Euractiv is a media company, obtaining funds mostly from their private activities (85%) and some from public projects (15%).

TheMayor.EU

News, institutional at the local level, non-neutral

While Euractiv focuses on The Capitals, TheMayor.EU looks at the municipalities of the 27 countries of the European Union and promotes their news.

It’s focused on the good practices of the local level, so you won’t hear a lot of criticism here, but instead more inspirational stories whether some city is implementing more cycle lanes, or recycling better, or integrating better their population.

It’s run by a Bulgarian non-profit (EuroAdvance) and it’s offered free of charge, getting income from advertisement and sponsored content.

And wrapping up in Mastodon

The European Network

Leaning towards news, half institutional and half not, mostly neutral

For those that are experiencing a new social media life in Mastodon, there’s an account that follows and highlights content from the European continent. It is that of an Irish company called The European Network.

In the recent past they have run podcasts too (for instance, The Future of Europe in 2021), and they regularly produce their own content. It’s a small communications team, sitting in three different countries, that chooses English as their exchange language.

In Mastodon they curate content from other sources which is related with European topics. You can follow them at @TheEuropeanNetwork@mstdn.social

Plotting these data

If we plot the information above in a couple of graphs, we can see how the outlets stack against each other.

“Institutional news or not”

In the first one we plot the axis “evergreen/news” against the “institutional/non-institutional”. On the top left we can see the outlets which are following closely the “institutional news”. On the bottom right, those which are less interested in the news cycle, and also less interested in the institutional work.

Let’s take What’s up EU. The shelf-life of its content is minimal, because what von der Leyen said today is not news next week. And they specialise in the top EU institutions.

Voxeurop produces content which is valid for longer periods of time, such as the investigations on the kiwi producers. They explore more the human approach, it’s a problem of people.

Neutrality or not

The second graph plots the neutrality or not axis, against the institutional or not.

On the left lie the several institutional outlets, that now show their differences. What’s up EU covers the same topics as Europe Calling, but one is the official source, while the other is the journalists’ take. Politico, EU Observer, and Euractiv are around the same area, all of them as controllers of the institutions.

In the lower half we see those who are biased (and they know it). TheMayor.EU will not provide criticism of the municipalities. The Europeans have a way of looking at life and they don’t deny it. Voxeurop similarly but to a lower extent.

The European Public Sphere

To prepare this article we met with representatives of 6 of the outlets mentioned in the article (The Europeans, The Conversation, What’s up EU, Voxeurop, EU Observer, Europe Zeitgeist). The following section feeds from those conversations.

The platforms listed in this article are exploring some terrain in which the traditional national media is not interested. What is more, national media often misunderstands and misrepresents European topics, institutional or not. There is a lack of basic understanding of how the European institutions work, and a consequent failure in the traditional media to explain it.

News are delivered from a national perspective, and when a European affair gets in the way, journalists fail to quote a European source, or a politician from another nationality. Instead, they report on what national politicians interpret of what European politicians actually said. And this leaves the European Union at the mercy of how national politicians want to portray it.

Add to this the lack of a pan-european advertising market. The audience of the most successful European outlet would be irrelevant at a national level, so advertisers are not interested.

But the European public might be! European information platforms want to foster a sense of European identity, to provide people with better information, so that they can be proactive citizens. We asked the European outlets about their audience and the largest figures we got were: “40.000 weekly listeners”, “15.000 newsletter subscribers”, “1 million monthly unique website visits”.

Is this just okay, or way too little, considering the European population of 741 million people, 448 of which in the European Union?

The European Perspective

After having analysed the competition, where does The European Perspective want to stand?

Geographically, we have our own definition of Europe. We see it larger than the current EU, and we regularly include Turkey and the Balkans. But we’re emotional and we don’t pay a lot of attention to the UK, in revenge for Brexit. We’re also politically motivated and we include Ukraine but we exclude Russia.

Language-wise, we speak English. We assume things will be slowly changing and English will gain ground as lingua franca.

The European Perspective’s goal is to lean strongly towards “non-institutional”. We want to cover what is related to European people.

We also favour “evergreen content”, as the topics we have written about should have a shelf life of several years. We don’t want to run against the news. We want to have time to digest a topic and deliver something that stands the pass of time.

And because it’s difficult to choose which topics to cover without showing your biases, we’re probably a values-based outlet. An example would be the piece on nuclear power: it’s based on the work of several individual Europeans, its analysis will probably be valid for a long time, and, in spite of the factfulness of the text, it’s still a compilation of anti-nuclear arguments.

Looking at the diagrams, our closer neighbours are The Europeans, Voxeurop, and a bit further The Conversation.

All things considered, there might be an opportunity for The European Perspective in the European public sphere.

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Logo The European Perspective

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Comments

2 responses to “Join the competition of The European Perspective”

  1. Lorcan Lyons avatar
    Lorcan Lyons

    Thanks, I did not know most of those. I stopped reading Politico and Euractiv because of their fossil fuel and nuclear sponsors. Perhaps they should be publicly supported instead, I don’t know

    1. Rafa Font avatar
      Rafa Font

      Good to hear! Hope you like them 🙂
      I did not investigate into that kind of sponsorship. I do favour individual support via Patreon or similar, that probably underpins the outlet’s freedom.

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