The role of on-line media

An extremely interesting piece by Paul Mason of Newsnight was brought to my attention yesterday, looking at the future of the tabloids as on-line media gain ground. I believe that in this job I need to be looking at the media in its entirety and not just the traditional press, whether broadsheet or tabloid. People get their news and views from many different sources nowadays and it’s important that we are aware of what is being said, and being available for those that want to ask questions or cover our issues. The glory of the new on-line media is that you get two-way communication, so you can quickly see what audiences/viewers/listeners think.

This all ties in with what I heard at the National Association of Broadcasters when I was in Vegas – lots of head-scratching going on there about how new technologies would affect the traditional news media. We at the Commission could be accused of hardly having got to grips with the advent of television, so I’m keen we don’t make the same mistake with the on-line world.

I had a call a few days ago from an English-language newspaper in Spain, who wanted to know how many people we had here and what we do. There are currently 4 of us working in the media team (a fifth is away on maternity leave and there is no cover). The overwhelming part of our work is answering questions from journalists on whatever it is they want to know about. These range from political desks at national newspapers to specialist trade press, or local newspapers, or on-line media. We are often asked to defend the Commission’s position on an issue on radio or television. We also feed information back to Brussels about what is in the press here and liaise with them to have the correct information so we can answer the questions we get. Of course we maintain the website with a flow of up-to-date information on the big stories relating to the Commission. We organise briefings for the press on issues that they are particularly interested in, such as the recent proposal to allow people to get healthcare in another EU country. We handle the press angle of events in the UK organised or supported by the Commission – such as the recent refugee camp in Trafalgar Square. And when Commissioners come, we are required to deal with their press programme. So more than enough to keep four of us busy!

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