Monthly Archives: April 2009

Rehumanize yourself

There’re always people who say that all this sitting behind computer screens to communicate is reducing our ability or willingness to intereact “in real life”. I’ve never agreed with that, and am being proved right this week and next.

Today I met and had a really interesting chat with Jon Worth, who writes a blog on European issues. Quite apart from it being really nice to have that face-to-face contact, he was a great source of EU-related stuff on the net that I didn’t now about. He has pointed me towards several useful sites:

eurotopics aggregates main stories from across Europe into a daily digest. It therefore makes coverage accessible that you wouldn’t otherwise get because of the language barrier. Not always of direct EU interest, but it’s always good to know what else is going on out there, and how different countries react to the same issues.

Votematch is a project of Unlock Democracy, which in the 2004 EP and 2008 London Mayoral elections developed a sort of quiz to help orient voters. Their 2009 version for the EP elections should be launched soon.

There are also a few blogs/sites on CAP issues, such as http://farmsubsidy.org and http://caphealthcheck.eu/. I really like the transparency league table, showing how much information governments are making available on CAP beneficiaries. The people behind farmsubsidy.org also do www.followthemoney.eu, looking at the budget.

My second encounter between cyberspace and real life will be with Nosemonkey at the Europe Day concert in Smith Square next week. Can’t write about that because I haven’t met him yet!

Jon mentioned that through his work on the bloggingportal.eu and other European-oriented activities, he’s made loads of new friends. Encouraging, non?

Update: hadn’t seen Rose22’s post when I wrote this. She seems to think getting to know each other is a bad thing, but surely in life we always gravitate to people who have the same interests as us, even if we don’t always agree? I’d say that the blogosphere is a great vehicle for finding those people. My first blog wasn’t anything to do with work, but about my main hobby, knitting, and through it, I connected with people around the world.

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Deeper Underground

There’s been a lot on the airwaves today about the announcement of more support to carbon capture and storage. It’s an issue I follow with interest, from my Science and Research days. I was quite surprised to hear one of the opponents today saying that there’s only one demonstration plant at the moment, in Germany, as I remember doing a press release in 2006 about a plant in Denmark, which was supported by European research programmes. We also set up the Zero Emission Fossil Fuel Power Plant Technology Platform, which has to develop a strategic vision for carbon capture and identify the research needed to make the vision reality.  But I think all the time I was working on research, my favourite carbon capture discussion (as well as the momst amazing visit I got to take part in) was when we went to Svalbard. The place was astonishing, not least for a budding geologist – look at the picture below for a textbook depiction of a glacier valley, plus there’s one I’ve added just because it was taken at around midnight!

Anyway, the interesting part is that they are really thinking about using carbon capture there. The original industry that drove the islands was coal-mining, so the repositories are there. Another element that hasn’t made the coverage today is that hydrogen is a by-product of the process of carbon capture. So the idea of the guy we spoke to there was that the process of capturing the carbon would produce enough hydrogen to power the vehicles that are used in Longyearbyen, Ny Alesund and the few other settlements. It obviously wasn’t just pie in the sky because I found details of this workshop about the issue on the net.

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Say What You Mean

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.

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Direct from G20

It was a mindnumbingly early start this morning – I don’t often get up at 5.45! I made it to the hotel on time, and then was whisked to the ExCel in the official convoy. The morning was crazy, as we got our bearings and did some recceing for the afternoon’s press activities. The Commission President did two interviews before the summit started which was a really good idea, as he was one of the few. Mandelson was working the media section like the old hand he is, and between  him and Geldof the whole place was all a-flutter for most of the morning. By ten o’clock it felt like it should have been hours later. It calmed down once we’d sorted everything like how many microphones to have in the press conference room (oh the glamour!) and so since then it’s been occasional briefings, wandering round the media centre talking to people and catching up with e-mails etc from the office. I’ve been at Councils before, but not  the big European Councils or a summit like and it has been really interesting to see the dynamic of an event like this. I worked at a G8 summit years ago when I was at college, but as that entailed sitting in a nice hotel in Knightsbridge and eating chocolate, I don’t think it’s a comparable experience!

We’re all waiting for it to finish and then it’ll be a whirl of press conferences and interviews, before heading off out in the convoy again. A day spent in a bubble – I don’t even know what the weather is like outside!

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