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Journalism: The incredible shrinking E.U. press corps

2 April 2010
The New York Times New York

I might not be here next year. Spanish journalist in the European Parliament on EU election night,  Brussels June 2009.

I might not be here next year. Spanish journalist in the European Parliament on EU election night, Brussels June 2009.

Even as the EU gets more and more talked about, the Brussels press corps is dwindling. Nowhere is this phenomenon more marked than amongst journalists from the new member states of Central and Eastern Europe.

Winner of a prestigious award in her home country and fluent in three languages, Ina Strazdina is the most influential Latvian journalist in Brussels, the home of the European Union. But even she admits that the competition is not too tough. Though she worked alongside three competitors when she arrived in Brussels in 2006 – and one more later joined them – Ms. Strazdina is the last Latvian journalist in the E.U. press corps. To make ends meet, she does three jobs: reporting for Latvian Radio, Latvian TV and the daily newspaper Latvijas Avize – churning out almost all the news that reaches Latvia from Brussels.

Around the globe, journalism jobs are being cut as the combined effects of the economic downturn and the Internet threaten the viability of traditional media organizations. In Brussels, the trend is particularly acute among the former communist countries that joined the Union in 2004. The financial situation is so difficult that not a single media outlet from Lithuania, an E.U. member, has a correspondent permanently based in Brussels. This downsizing accompanied the arrival of the bloc’s Lisbon Treaty, which promoted a global role for the European Union while granting new powers to institutions like the European Parliament, initiatives that needed the support of all member states.

According to the International Press Association, or A.P.I., the number of accredited reporters covering the European Union, whose member states have more than 500 million citizens combined, has dropped by more than one-third since 2005. Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, a spokeswoman for the commission, said it was worrying that media coverage from new members states was disappearing. “It is very important to have a presence in Brussels ,” she said. “Who would dream of covering Westminster without being on the London parliamentary circuit?” Read full article in International Herald Tribune...