Category Archives: Media

Doing the Boo

I was at the London Wetlands Centre this morning for the launch of a new animated series called My Friend Boo, which is designed to be both informative and entertaining, in the best tradition of children’s TV. As it was part-financed by the European Commission’s LIFE+ financing programme (though we had no influence over content and creative direction), we were invited to say a few words, alongside the project partners, which include WWF and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. The best bit was when a class of 7 and 8 years old came in to watch the three programmes that deal with Water (it being World Water Day and all…) The programmes clearly struck a chord with the children, who were all humming along with the theme tune by episode 2, and there was almost a riot when the project leader said they’d all get their own copy to take home!

I also got a few minutes for a bit of bird-watching over the Wetlands and in just the few moments I was there I saw cormorants, a lapwing and what I think was a Red-crested pochard, never mind many ducks, geese and moorhens. On a day like today, it was difficult not to totally fall for the place! And even better, I have discovered this fabulous widget on the RSPB site to help you identify birds you see – perfect for a novice twitcher like me. They even have a mobile version.

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Wonderful World

We had a briefing today in the office with members of the Foreign Press Association which brings together the non-UK media based in London. It goes quite well with today’s Charlemagne blog-post about journalists in Brussels (see also today’s links). The reason we organised the briefing was a feeling, borne out by discussions with the FPA, that more and more foreign (read mainly extra-EU) correspondents are covering EU issues from London and withdrawing full-time correspondents from Brussels, and they need someone to explain a bit how thigns work and who to talk to. We had several Japanese outlets, Canadian, Nigerian, Chinese, Indian, but also Greek and French It’s interesting for us here, because it means that we need to consider the international and non-UK angle of stories much more than colleagues in other EU capitals. It also means that Commissioners’ media teams should see a visit to London as an opportunity to reach out beyond the UK media scene. It’s not going to be easy, but I hope that we will be able to provide a service to that group as well as the traditional UK media that we work with.

Added 16.19 on 16 March: Just to be 100% clear. I worked as a Spokesperson in Brussels for years and know how important the press corps there is to getting quality coverage of the EU into the media here. I am certainly not advocating people moving their correspondents from Brussels. Having said that, such decisions once taken, for whatever reason, will have a consequence for my work here and I am happy to do what I can to make the connections with those in Brussels and elsewhere in the EU set-up that can help people working out of London understand the issues in their entirety.

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Wake up boo

Just signed up for, and created my first, Audioboo. Not a piece of fine intellectual work, obviously, but just giving it a go. Not quite sure how it will work, though maybe sometimes having the possibility to leave a voice message for the world (as opposed to the text message to the world that is twitter) will be useful. We’ll see… Can you integrate it with WordPress? I suppose if I were visiting something interesting and was out and about, it might be good to record my thoughts, rather than waiting till I was back at my desk to write about it (and not getting round to doing so). An example of that would be last Sunday’s Manel gig which was immense fun (and brought Barcelona to Shoreditch, if only for the night) but had been washed away by the joys of commuting before I got to my desk on Monday!

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Day in a life

It’s always slightly exasperating when people ask you what you do, you tell them and they say “yes, but what do you actually DO”. Well, for future reference…

I got up at 6.30 this morning, as I wanted to register at 8.15 for the conference that a Commissioner was speaking at today, to get it out of the way. I was on the train by 7.30 (if there’s one thing I miss about Brussels, it’s the short commute!) and then got a call from the Commissioner’s staff that they needed a car. So I headed to the hotel instead and sorted that out. We got to the conference venue, and once everything was sorted there, I headed back to the office. Time for a quick flick through the day’s press review (usually done on the train, but no time today), took part in the daily briefing from Brussels, then finalised the organisation of the team now that we’ve lost one of our staff.

I headed back over to the conference venue at 10.40 or so to find the camera team that would be interviewing the Commissioner at 11. It’s easy for people to find me when I’m wearing the leopardskin coat…! We realised that it was going to be far too noisy in the street so we headed back to the office to do it there. I had reckoned without the building works next door which can be heard everywhere in our office, so we scoured the building for the quietest room that we could bear to be filmed. While one of the team tried to stop the jackhammers for the 10 minutes we needed, I waited outside the conference for the Commissioner – of course it ran over time. One of the most difficult things is always getting the person to do the interview out of the full conference hall where everyone wants to say hello, congratulate him on his contribution, give him their card, ask him to speak at their event… then past the journalists that are waiting for a “quick comment” and off to the interview. The AV interview went pretty well and then it was into an hour with a national newspaper. My role in the interview is different to how it was when I was a spokesperson as I’m not as familiar with the content, so it’s just a question of making sure it finishes on time. Once out of the interview, got the Commissioner and staff back to where they needed to be and made sure the journalist had everything needed. Then I had to work out how to get the luggage into the car that will be taking them to the airport, which is going to entail me carrying it over to the venue in about 30 minutes. Time for a quick bite to eat, then back to my desk to deal with the e-mails that have come in during the morning, prepare for several meetings and try to pin down arrangements for next week, when another Commissioner is in town…and we get to start all over again!

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Thinking about you

It’s time for round 3 of the think about it blogging competition, which this time is on development issues, something close to my heart, giving my years living in developing countries and working in that area at one point in my Commission career. Anyway, I think the competition is quite interesting, as it seems to be at the core of the burgeoning Euroblogosphere, which, while pretty small, is (arguably) mch more identifiable than any sort of European press. So, give it a go!

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Getting some glamour in our lives

Well I never! Glamour magazine, from the Condé Nast stable and aimed at the fashion-concious young woman has a piece this month on “The EU in 60 seconds”.  Quotes the European Movement, UKIP and Maurice Fraser of the LSE, which seems to cover all the bases. Great stuff!

The EP approved the Barroso II Commission today, so we get started tomorrow. Glad the inter-regnum is over and we can get on with getting on with things!

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Home or away?

I was in Brussels yesterday and the day before, with a group of visitors. They were all people who teach journalism in UK universities, most of them former journalists, and who were interested in finding out more about how the EU really works. The idea of the visit came out of approaches I had had from several of them, either asking for people from our office to come to talk to their students, or else looking for information about the EU and the accuracy of some media reporting.

On the first day they had some presentations on the institutional set-up of the EU – who does what, how decisions are made and so on because, by their own admission, they didn’t feel very well-informed. There was a look at political priorities for the future, and how the Commission organises its information and communication. We visited the audio-visual facilities made available to journalists accredited to the Commission’s press room, had a virtual tour round other services for journalists and spoke to various people about working in Brussels: a journalist, a Commission spokesman and a UK government spokesman.

Like most visits of this type, almost the best result was the networking among the group. There were 7 universities represented. Some brought  several people, one just one. Some had met before, some were meeting for the first time. But it was clear that new ideas emerged for their teaching and research. Certainly several indicated to me that the visit had really given them food for thought about the coverage of EU issues in the UK. Perhaps the main message that emerged was that the EU shouldn’t be treated as a foreign news story, but as the nuts and bolts of what happens at home (a view shared, I am told, by Nigel Farage!).

For my part, watching the presentation of what we do to the outside, with all my insider knowledge, it occurred to me that what we do is, for the most part, very dull. Very important, very useful, very relevant, and very necessary. But nonetheless very dull (conciliation process anyone? Comitology decision?). Maybe we should start making more a virtue of that…?

I also met some fellow-bloggers today, which was not only a pleasure, but quite useful. Watch this space…

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