I just listened to the short Fleishman Hillard podcast (via this blog post) with one of the Financial Times’ Brussels correspondents, Stanley Pignal, on how he as a journalist perceives social media communication.
He’s showing quite a hesitant view to the added value of social media, both regarding input and output of his journalistic work. I kind of agree or at least see his point, but have some points to add.
When interpreting Stanley’s hesitations, one has to take into account that he is speaking from the position of a journalist in a privileged position. Stanley is working for one of the – if not THE – most influential newspapers in Brussels, thus he’s very likely exposed to a lot of very good and very early and not yet public information.
If you can pick and choose to read and write about things few others have seen before that you get directly from insiders, reading shared news or comments on blogs or on Twitter probably doesn’t seem so exiting. However, for anybody not in such a position the situation is different. I myself wouldn’t even notice certain issues if I didn’t follow Twitter and blogs.
But Stanley is also raising an important question that – as a co-editor of Bloggingportal.eu – I’d like to quickly take up. Stanley, taking note of the limited Brussels blogging scene, ask why there are so few (good) blogs in Brussels.
In a way he is giving the answer himself at the end of the podcast:
In the Brussels bubble, everybody who could write a good blog has something at stake, so either people limit themselves to not write about stuff where they’d have something to say (e.g. not to fall out of message of their organisation or to be accused of hiding interests) or they only do it in the context of organisational communication where you feel that it is often quite strategic and not as genuine as good citizen blogging we know from the national scenes.
In other words: There are no citizens in the Brussels bubble as there are citizens in capitals like Warsaw, Budapest, Vienna or London, citizens who just have an interest in politics or certain policies and who become a pain in the ass of politicians or lazy media professionals because they can take a look in to the system without being part of it and say anything without having to think about consequences for their professional lives.
In “normal” capitals, citizens can watch and write about politics happening in these towns without having any direct involvement in the issues or power games you watch. But all those who are in Brussels and care about the EU are here because of the EU, because they work within the institutions or at the doors of these organisations.
The consequence of these thoughts: If there will ever be good (classical) citizen blogging about EU affairs in the future, it may be people who have worked around the EU in the past and settle down in Brussels to live and work outside the bubble.
Those people could just stick their nose into the muddy field of EU politics form time to time to write about stories from the standpoint of a knowledgeable outsider. They could do classical hit and run tactics of bloggers, looking for good targets and leaving small but visible marks, making informed fun about things that are taken so serious here in Brussels but that’d deserve a good laughter, or to simply highlight important things going on that nobody else wants to write about.
That said, I still think that there is some valuable blogging about EU affairs coming from inside and outside the bubble. We at Bloggingportal.eu do our best to find such content and to highlight it. But I agree that most of it lacks the punch of good national blogs, providing both novel information and good commentary. So maybe we’ll have to wait for the first retired generation of social media savvy EU officials until we’ll see really good EU blogging.