CIRCOM Regional and DG Regio (EU Commission) organised a three-stage training programme in Brussels to help journalists explain how EU money is spent and how those who spend it should be held accountable.

The first workshop took place 21– 23 November 2016 at the European Commission in Brussels. 

The aim was to help European journalists working in regional television to understand how best to report on the EU funded projects in their own area, and how to hold to account those spending the money on behalf of their audience.

To do this, the workshop was structured in a way that offered participants:

1) Briefings from key EU Commission experts with extensive knowledge and experience in how the DG Regio funding structure works, how countries apply for money, how the oversight process works, why some projects worked and some didn’t and finally, how journalists can access information about projects online.
2) Creative thinking – a practical session on how to think differently about stories that we are very familiar with and need refreshing.
3) Active journalism – everyone has been briefed to make a pitch about a story in their region for our next meeting. This story can be based on any EU funding project and will be developed by current journalists working in Brussels at our next meeting. The idea would be that those who can, will then go onto shoot these stories and bring them to the third and final gathering in April for discussion and viewing.

The workshop was well organised by Brigitte Waltsburger and many of the expert guests were supplied by Javier Jimenez Moratalla from the Dept of Communications at the Commission.

The Head of the Communications Unit, Anna Paula Laissy gave a welcome dinner on the first evening and made it clear that her department was there to listen to what the journalists had to say about working with the Commission.

To help this relationship, on the last day, the journalists made their own recommendations as a list of action points they believed would help Anna Paula Laissy’s team build a stronger and more effective relationship with journalists. These points are being passed onto her directly.

We gave out feedback sheets at the end of the workshop to gauge opinion from those attending. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. These are some of the verbatim comments:

Interesting, useful and motivating

Best sessions were Open Data Platform, creative approaches to storytelling, getting to know the Citizenship project and of course, the opportunity to meet and discuss with colleagues from other countries”.

It would be a good idea to have a similar (workshop) at home to provide as many journalists as possible with the information

The area where the journalists wanted change was from the experts who addressed them...

more concrete examples, less official “bureaucracy ” (this refers to the language many of the guests used)

"the main issue is there are no ‘euro-people’ for contacts’"(by this they meant they didn’t know who to contact in their own country

Overall, everyone left on a very positive note and looking forward to coming together again in January.