Today sees the launch of a major new venture in reporting the European Union: US-based Politico has opened a large Brussels office.
American readers will be more familiar with Politico than those elsewhere, but essentially the new bureau aims to provide coverage of the EU without getting lost in the national contexts that most European media operate in.
I mention this partly as a public-service announcement, for those looking for more detailed reporting on the EU, which has previously been rather patchy. The last best source was The European Voice – originally set up by The Economist, before going it alone – which Politico bought out and has now rolled into its new venture. On a first glance, there is a lot of material available to stimulate debate and discussion.
However, I also mention it, because it provides a good opportunity to help students develop their critical reading skills. Politico does fill a gap, but it remains the gorilla in the room, with a staffing base far in excess of other outfits. Some concern has been raised in the previous months about whether such a dominant position risks abuse of that position, but it in terms of killing or promoting certain stories or in terms of framing debate.
It’s obviously too early to tell, but as an exercise in asking students to reflect on how the media shape our understanding, we might ask them to look at the materials posted up and identify any patterns or themes in coverage. These could be compared to outlets such as EUObserver or the FT.
Such meta-criticality has to be part of our work with students if we want to fully develop their understanding of the world. Recognising that the media is part of that is thus no bad thing.