A new website for European agricultural journalists is to go live during the summer, reports Joe Watson, Guild member and agricultural editor of the Press & Journal, who was among a group of journalists invited to hear about the European Commission initiative in Brussels.
It will be launched as Europe prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the CAP, one of the most important post-war tools used to ensure food security for the EU’s now 500 million citizens.
“The interactive website will act as a one-stop shop for all news and information on agricultural matters,” says Joe. “It will also be used by the commission to interact with journalists by asking their views on particular subjects and encouraging them to post stories, their own views and questions.”
It has been developed in response to requests from agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos that information on the Common Agricultural Policy be made more freely available to journalists working across Europe, and for the important role journalists have in telling the wider story about the CAP to be better recognised.
The plans were revealed to representatives of agricultural journalist Guilds in Ireland, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands, as well as Britain. Guilds in France, Germany, Spain and several other member states were not represented, but expressed their support.
Journalists from Cyprus, Romania, Latvia and Malta also attended in the hope of encouraging their colleagues to set up Guilds in those countries for those working in farm and horticultural communications.
Password access will ensure that the new website can be used only by legitimate journalists. It will contain all news on agricultural matters issued by the commission, regardless of the directorate-general that issues it.
“That in itself should prove a boon as it will mean we no longer will have to search various commission websites for information,” notes Joe. “The site will also provide statistics on agriculture in every EU country and information on the types of crops and livestock produced, the scale of production, the key contacts within government agriculture ministries, commission contacts and details of the main agricultural journalists.”
It will link into the commission’s existing Facebook and Twitter sites and be hosted outside the Europa platform to allow greater freedom and better search features. It is likely that running the site will, in time, be handed over to European Guilds.
Much of the work on co-ordinating the new site has been led by British Guild member Roger Waite (left), the spokesman for Mr Ciolos. The interactive part of the site, he points out, will allow journalists to post stories on the CAP and ask the commission questions, as well as probe fellow hacks on any aspect of agriculture.
“The commission also hopes it will develop improved links with journalists working in European regions and respond to their particular needs, through special or technical briefings involving senior officials,” adds Joe Watson. “That could mean Guilds in the various countries being asked to identify issues their members want to discuss, so that the commission can send an official to a group talk or briefing.”
It is also anticipated that the website will help in selecting journalists to participate in commission-organised trips to see the CAP in action across Europe.
“I was impressed with the commission’s willingness to engage with journalists working in the regions, a sign of its concern at the diminishing number of Brussels-based correspondents reporting on agricultural matters,” says Joe. “The new website looks a fantastic tool that will help us all convey news on the CAP to our readers and listeners. I would encourage everyone with an interest in European affairs to sign up to the website when it is launched.”
The meeting also heard tentative plans for a new network of journalists working across Europe. A task force has been set up to take the idea forward with a view to launching the initiative in December this year.