Interview conducted by Marco Valenziano from the “Becoming Bruxellois from Afar” project
This article is part of a series of interviews conducted by a group of Groningen students as part of their Eurocompetence II project. The interviewees all work in Brussels institutions and were asked questions related to the Euroculture’s 2020 IP topic: “A sustainability Europe? Society, politics and culture in the anthropocene”. Here, Marco Valenziano asked Eline Schaart, a young female journalist from Politico to give us her perspectives on sustainability in the news.
Marco Valenziano: Could you please introduce Politico and its main objectives?
Eline Schaart: Politico is a global nonpartisan politics and policy news organization, launched in Europe in April 2015. Our European division is a joint-venture between POLITICO LLC, based in the USA and Axel Springer, the leading publisher in Europe. With operations based in Brussels and additional offices in London, Berlin, Paris, Rome, and Warsaw, Politico connects the dots between global power centres. In June 2018, an annual ComRes/Burson-Marsteller survey ranked Politico as the Number One most influential publication on European affairs, for the second year running. Its journalism lives online at politico.eu; in POLITICO Pro, the real-time subscription-based policy news service for professionals; in daily morning newsletters, such as Brussels Playbook and London Playbook; in print via a weekly newspaper; and through live events.
Je voudrais vous demander quelque chose, est ce que vous croyez aux fantômes? (I would like to ask you something: Do you believe in ghosts?)
Back in 2010, a bunch of young freshman finally could smell a wave of change, a wave that hypnotizes mind, and its magnetic aura did raid the whole world. 
“The political system must change”, screams one. Proudly, another one responds with a confident tone as if he knew it all: “The dominant culture would simply reproduces the same political system and its authoritarian practices. You will change a dictator for another… Anyway”. The third boy, in an attempt to outsmart the other ones, whispers: “Forget it. Let’s start a new community, a self-sufficient community with our refined elitist pure values: a kibbutz.” 
These memories are already mummified in my head and I could not care less about change anymore. Running away from the spectre of this conversation led me to the far east of the globe, its centre, and then back to the west.
Nine years later, on another saturday evening, it is time for my ritual, a kind of a few pleasurable residues of a boring childhood, glancing at Strasbourg’s ruelles, Rhine, Cathedrale and the monk who inhabits the church – but stays outside it -, my favorite street saxophonist. It does not leave me any option at all. Let’s roam again.
As I am tasting the pleasures of the city, I cannot stop thinking how spoiled I am looking through these shop windows where the most recent fashion is displayed – to everyone. Everyone is looking through the windows, nobody enters. I mean, it is still beautiful to look at. Some esthetic truths or realizations do not require possession, hasn’t Osho said it? If you love a flower, you appreciate it as it is, you do not have to own it, right? Anyway, these things are overpriced and rich people pay for the flashy light bulbs, not for the quality or for the function of these brand new cool clothes.Continue reading “The ghosts are back”→
Béline Hermet (2017-2019, FR) has a background in International Development with a minor in Italian Studies. After a couple of years in Canada, she wanted to go back to Europe. For her, Euroculture was an obvious choice. Apart from her interest in the issues the programme attempts to tackle, she finds additional appeal in the mobility opportunities that the programme offers, which allow her to study in different universities and countries in a multicultural environment with international students.
Béline started her Euroculture life in Uppsala and Göttingen. She spent her third semester doing an Editorial Assistant internship at Eurozine, a network of European cultural journals and an online magazine, headquartered at Vienna, Austria.
Thanks Béline for taking the time to share your experience!
1. So, why an internship?
I know I don’t want to do a PhD, so I was sure from the beginning that I wanted to do an internship to have professional experience and opportunities. I have not yet had the opportunity to do an internship that is of longer duration, and I wanted to get a better idea of what I want to do after Euroculture.
Last week’s chilling news about the murder of Slovakian journalist Ján Kuciak and his partner Martina Kušnírová at their home close to Bratislava marks the second case of an investigative journalist paying the ultimate price for their work in an EU Member State. In October 2017, Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb as a result of her investigations of Maltese officials regarding fraud, money laundering and links to the Panama Papers.
This time the victim was Ján Kuciak, a 27-year-old journalist working for the news website Aktuality.sk. Kuciak was investigating cases of suspected VAT fraud by two businessmen Marian Kočner and Ladislav Bašternák, who are both associated with the ruling party in Slovakia, Smer. Kuciak had also recently been investigating the Panama Papers scandal and the suspected theft of EU funds destined for Slovakian by the Italian mafia group ‘Ndrangheta. Months before his death, Kuciak had filed two complaints with the prosecutor’s office after receiving several threats. Neither had been followed up.
Cases like these are doubly worrying. Not only do they reveal that violent and ruthless methods for stopping investigative journalism are taking a hold in the EU’s own Member States, but the lack of effective investigation into these killings by the national authorities responsible also exposes deeper problems regarding impunity and the rule of law.
The Asian Century is a debated concept which posits the idea that the 21st century will be led by the Asian continent from an economic, political, and cultural perspective. Supposedly, the previous 19th and 20th centuries, have been the British (European) and the American centuries respectively. The AsianDevelopmentBank is so confident of such an accomplishment that it published a report in 2011 titled “Asia 2050: Realizing the Asian Century.”
The implications are plentiful and, unsurprisingly, global. Yet this article aims to move one step beyond the above discussion. Over the past few weeks, several articles have focused on the possibility of a shift of power in Eurasia, from different angles. The first piece, “Black Wind, White Snow: Imagining Eurasia”by Casey Michel was published on TheDiplomat website, which referred to a recently released book reflecting on the Russian concept of “Eurasianism.” The notion was apparently coined, or at least, co-opted by the Kremlin and surrounding bodies as a way to promote and promise a brighter future to the disillusioned post-Cold war generations. The outcome of this attempt at normative construction has been mixed, according to Michel, but an overall aura of pessimism is perceivable across the book, suggesting that the imagined Eurasia may stay in the Kremlin’s mind.
Still, due to its strategic position and regional influence, it is crucial to consider the role of Russia in any potential Eurasian ‘coalition’.
The second and third articles tackle the issue from a more inclusive perspective and, perhaps startlingly, depict two opposite scenarios. The first one is from George Friedman, an expert in intelligence and international geopolitics, who wrote an article for Forbes claiming that the “Last time Eurasian Instability Was This Bad Was Before World War II”, describing several factors to justify such a dire prediction. A few examples are the supposed failure of the European Union, followed by the Russian and Middle Eastern crisis, in addition to the aforementioned slowdown in both China and Japan’s economies. The only exception, according to the author, is India, but that country alone will not be able to stop a ‘grand’ destabilization affecting the whole Eurasian continent.
Such a vision, in my opinion, is rather unconvincing, especially when considering the economic and geopolitical self-interest of the majority of the Eurasian countries. Their goal is, mostly, to pursue peaceful means of gain, being well aware that armed conflicts can bring far more disadvantages than benefits. A notable exception may be North Korea, for obvious reasons.
The last article, which I particularly enjoyed, provides a more optimistic view on the phenomenon. Graham E. Fuller, a former senior CIA official, wrote for TheWorldPost (partner of the renowned HuffingtonPost) an article entitled “The Era of American Global Dominance Is Over.”Such a bold statement from an American citizen may sound preposterous to some. Yet it is another piece covering the position of Eurasia, seen as an increasingly relevant one in this article. The author recognizes that the term itself may remind the readers of a geographical feature more than a political one, Eurasia as a sole, vast landmass. The author sees it as more than that. The central reason why Fuller thinks that the US is failing to deal with Eurasia is its stubbornness in ignoring the mega-continent “rising force” which is attracting more and more nation-states to its sphere. The article then mentions several economic, military and political reasons that support the author’s well-articulated stance. Nonetheless, the recurring theme is that the current century has seen the demise of Western global dominance and that the US should accept it now in order to take advantage of such power shift, while is still happening.
This last article appears to be the most convincing when you look to the latest global developments. A change is indeed happening, and although it does not mean that the US is not going to occupy a predominant position, their position is certain to be less hegemonic.
The above articles may not follow a common pattern and they likely originated from different pitches. Still, they have all been published in the past few days which may be a peculiar coincidence or a hint of an upcoming geopolitical trend. Regardless of that, it is unquestionable that the current European situation may benefit from additional transcontinental collaborations and a more balanced, multipolar power redistribution may benefit all the global players in the long run.
As a journalist for twenty years and a journalism educator for a further twenty years, I am often asked what preparation is best for a young person seeking a career in journalism. I avoid answering the question directly, generally saying it depends on the individual, their interests and their abilities. I came into journalism by a series of accidents and I hope that others can continue to have such opportunities.
The media industries are in crisis. Advertising spending has collapsed. Public trust of the media is in decline. Editorial staff numbers are being cut. And nobody’s too sure any more just who is and who isn’t a journalist.
And you still want to be a journalist?
Certainly journalism remains a popular choice across Europe for studies and a (hoped-for) career. Journalism training and education courses of various kinds continue to proliferate. Private colleges compete with public universities. More practice-oriented courses compete with more theory-based.
Some courses emphasise the convergence of digital technologies, others follow the traditional demarcations between print, broadcasting and online. Some prepare students to be media entrepreneurs, others train them to be effective employees of large corporations.
I am often asked…
As a journalist for twenty years and a journalism educator for a further twenty years I have been many times through the debates that lie behind these differences. I am often asked what preparation is best for a young person seeking a career in journalism. I avoid answering the question directly, generally saying it depends on the individual, their interests and their abilities. I came into journalism by a series of accidents and I hope that others can continue to have such opportunities.
Good preparation for Euroculturers…?
Doing a European Masters in European culture and writing for this lively online magazine may be as good preparation as any for a career in journalism. There are good reasons for thinking that the mobility between culturesand contexts that the Euroculture experience brings is especially valuable in journalism in these challenging times.
The hard work is done by the students themselves
Journalists are increasingly expected to move between topics, audiences, technical platforms, even languages. But some of the basic attributes of the journalist are unchanged and, it has to be said, some of those attributes can hardly be taught. Journalism education can create an environment in which they are fostered but the hard work is done by the students themselves, more than by the educators.
Some basic attributes of great journalists can hardly be taught
Curiosity, endless curiosity, is essential: how does this work? why is this like this? how did we get here? Keen imagination is needed too: how do I turn this person’s experience into a story of interest to thousands of people? A compulsion and a competence to communicate are required; the journalist needs to tell others what she has found out and must have the tools to do so.
Scepticism is necessary
Journalists are often thought of as cynical – not caring about the consequences of what they do – and many of them do become like that. They get to the point where they have seen “everything”. When they get there, they should know it’s time to stop. Often confused with cynicism, scepticism is in some ways the opposite: it is an enabling, rather than debilitating part of the journalist’s make-up. The sceptical question keeps the journalist moving forward: why should I believe what they are telling me?
Future journalists from MA Euroculture?
The Euroculture student or graduate is, or should be, open to many possible answers to questions that are of public interest, thanks to operating in cross-national, comparative contexts. European media are generally national or sub-national but I would love to think that there are openings, and that there will be more in the future, for journalists who bring broader perspectives and reflexive thinking to the issues of the day.
Brian Trench is a former senior lecturer and Head of School in the School of Communications, Dublin City University
Editor’s words: We express our sincerest gratitude to Brian Trench who accepted the invitation to share his expertise in Journalism with The Euroculturer. His daughter, Nora Trench Bowles, is Copy Chief of The Euroculturer, and is a 2011-2013 MA Euroculture student.