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Last autumn, the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU carried out an in-depth study among and of Brussels correspondents on their work, their working conditions and their professional expectations. Main objective was to gain insight into how correspondents perceive their work and that of the press services of the EU institutions, amidst all the developments of recent years. This has been particularly reinforced by the coronavirus pandemic, which has profoundly changed the way in which journalists report from Brussels.

The final report of the study is now public, under the title ‘Live from Brussels, a study of the Brussels press corps’. 
The study is based on data from the inter-institutional database of accredited journalists, and on an online survey in which 21% of the correspondents participated, which is a high number according to the (independent) researchers. The results of the survey are therefore considered representative.

Some key data from the survey:

  • there are currently about 880 journalists accredited at the EU

  • their average age is 41-43

  • correspondents spend an average of eight years in Brussels

  • 37% of correspondents are women, compared to 28% in 2002

  • the vast majority of correspondents work for the ‘traditional’ print media

  • 29% of the correspondents are freelancers
  • social media, and in particular Twitter, are seen by 60% as an extremely useful source of information

The report dedicates a special chapter to the impact of the Corona pandemic, which has radically changed the way correspondents work. They were for a longtime forced to work mostly from home. Meetings were and are organised online or in hybrid format. Personal contact with spokespersons, officials and diplomats has become much more difficult. And it is precisely these contacts that are crucial for correspondents.

The study gives an insight into which themes and topics they consider most important, how they perceive competition from other media, which sources they use and prefer most, and how the press services of the institutions meet their needs.

Press activities organised by the EU institutions are still the most important sources of information for correspondents, with off-the-record briefings being considered the most valuable. It is expected that in the future these will continue to be held in a hybrid format. A large majority of correspondents think that such briefings should remain reserved for EU accredited media/journalists. Opening up to non-accredited colleagues outside Brussels will have a negative effect on the size of the Brussels press corps and on the quality of EU coverage.

The full report can be found here.

Later this spring a meeting will be organised to discuss the results of the study with all stakeholders.

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