EU coverage given little room in regionals

A SURVEY of media coverage of the European Union has found UK regional newspapers devoting few resources but complaining that the EU could be more proactive in providing information.

Included in the research, which took place at the end of last year and has just been published, was Glasgow’s Evening Times newspaper, then under the editorship of Charles McGhee, now editing The Herald.

The research was co-ordinated by Dortmund University in Germany and looked at EU coverage across Europe, not just in the UK.

But in the chapter devoted to the UK, the researchers found little commitment to European affairs.

The Evening Times was one of seven newspapers looked at, the others being the Manchester Evening News, the Birmingham Evening Mail, the Leicester Mercury, the Nottingham Evening Post, the Sheffield Star, and The Sentinel, Stoke.

The researchers found that none of the newspapers had an European editor or specialist and “the task of monitoring and providing EU news usually fell to a copy-taster working to the chief sub-editor on the backbench”.

This person would monitor incoming material, primarily from the Press Association news agency. At the same time, none of the newspapers had journalists based in Brussels – or anywhere else abroad.

By the same token, however, all editors interviewed felt that “the EU was remiss in both the volume and form of material it supplied for journalists’ use. They argued that the EU needs to be more proactive and provide material more relevant and tailored to local issues for an increase in coverage to occur”.

It said of McGhee that he could not recall having contact with any of Scotland’s five MEPs during the previous year.

“Interestingly,” reports the researchers, “he also felt that, since devolution, the presence of the Scottish Parliament has made media in Scotland more rather than less parochial, and news about Europe, as international news in general, has, if anything, reduced. In other words, the focus on national politics has decreased any lingering interest in foreign affairs in general and the EU in particular.”

McGhee told Spike: “On international news, I said the regional press tended to concentrate on breaking news – the Tsunami, etc. – rather than offer a comprehensive daily round-up. I don’t recognise the quote about ‘a decrease in any lingering interest in foreign affairs in general and the EU in particular’, which sounds like the author’s own interpretation.”