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Liveblog from EPP Summit

Today, Blogactiv is covering the EPP summit at Meise castle. This liveblog is part of our ongoing EU Citizens and Media debate. It’s only the second time that bloggers (so-called “citizen journalists”) have been given access to an EPP summit. Time to debate a few of the practical and ethical issues that this sort of access throws up? Follow @Blogactiv on Twitter for live updates, and hashtag #EPP.

UPDATE:

To clarify: Joe Litobarski is writing today’s liveblog

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17:19 – Wow. Okay, a lot of stuff has happened since the last update. The most interesting part of the summit was definitely the second part – after I went “backstage,” so to speak, and saw a bit behind the scenes. Unfortunately, wi-fi access power sockets for the laptop were not very easy to come across (and a lot of time was spent standing in corridors talking to people) – so the “live” part of this blog has suffered. I’m now switching to “analysis” and “debate” mode. I’ll be posting a full review of today’s events – talking about the ethics of what happened, the trend towards inviting bloggers to events like this, and what added value bloggers can provide (after the second half of today, I think there’s a great deal we can do).

14:00 – Really interesting couple of comments by Europasionaria (who keeps an EU blog and has been given access to EU Council events as an accredited blogger herself) about this liveblog experiment:

“I wouldn’t say you are ‘citizen bloggers’ in this situation. You are professionals of an organisation, a branch of a news organisation actually. That gives the EPP the certainty that you are not going to act weird. Providing access to independent citizen bloggers who do that as a voluntary activity is a whole other story.”

Then, when I argued that – personally – the distinction between covering an event as a citizen and covering it as a professional blogger feels very blurred, she made a good point:

“Well you are blogging indeed. But you are there as Blogactiv, blogging on the Blogactiv social media blog, and not on your personal blog. So in this situation, you are not a citizen blogger although in your leisure time you are. Does it make sense?

It’s complicated for bloggers to deal with their different hats. I think probably the future of the debate on bloggers’ accreditation will have to deal with this.”

The practical restrictions on what a blogger can do at a summit were covered brilliantly last year by Julien Frisch (who attended the same EPP summit I’m at right now). However, what we can perhaps do today is talk a bit about the ethics involved in something like this. As Europasionaria points out – “citizen bloggers” have to juggle many hats. Also: are we just playing “useful idiots” by gaining access to events like this and providing fairly uncritical coverage. It’s a very grey area. Any thoughts?

13:16 – Fascinating to watch the journalists and politicians interact. Some politicians will really work the press – going down the line and talking to as many journos as possible, really taking their time.

The press, for their part, are all very keen to get their own unique version of the same footage that everybody else will be running. Step-ladders and chairs everywhere, as photographers and cameramen scramble to get good shots. Every time a car pulls up, the chain-smoking journalists around me squint through the crowd and ask “who is it?”

We were given a list of names and faces so we could identify the politicians as they got out of their cars. It feels a bit like bird-watching. Fascinating to see it through the fresh eyes of a blogger.

Some VIPs are more VIP than others. Generally, the longer the convoy of limos, the more excited the press pack gets. Add a couple of police outriders and journalists start running around frantically. When Jean-Claude Juncker arrived, a loud “Shhhhh!” rippled through the pack as everybody struggled to poke their microphones in his face.

 

12:32 – European leaders are starting to arrive. A few of the “more obscure” ones so far. Nevertheless, there’s a sizeable press scrum – with photographers standing on chairs and jostling one another to get the best shots. It seems the “arrival shot” of a VIP is almost the most important part of the day. I’ve heard rumours that ministers arriving at EU Council events might be staying in a hotel within walking distance of the venue, but will actually go round the block, get into a limo and drive 20 metres round the corner just to achieve that dynamic “doorstep” shot.

12:30 – Photo of Meise castle – the venue for today’s EPP summit – with press starting to gather. A castle is an interesting choice of venue for leaders to meet in. Very feudal.

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