Thursday, January 27, 2005

Je Blog, Donc Je Suis

Here's a version of my column this week in European Voice newspaper on how blogging is catching on in Europe. I didn't mention it in the column, but I would add here that Marc Johnson's European Weblog Review offers an excellent look at what's out there.

BLOGGING is a genuine media phenomenon in the US – it played a prominent role in the last presidential election, proving in a few cases to be more reliable and incisive than the ‘mainstream’ press – but it is only just catching on in Europe.

However, if the trend continues, the on-line weblog or ‘blog’ may become a significant media force in an age when major European newspapers are busy losing circulation and sometimes credibility.

True, plenty of inhabitants of the ‘blogosphere’ are certifiable nutters – operating on the lunatic political fringe or somewhere beyond it. But others publish web sites that are well-written and informative – and come equipped with advertisements, useful links and even the occasional scoop.

Naturally, politicians are getting into the act, including the one charged with communicating the EU to its citizens. European Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström has just launched her own blog. Yes, some of her entries are a bit mundane. Take this one from 19 January: “It is six o’clock in the morning. It is also dark, wet and cold. The only living creatures we can see are a fox, two cats and the newspaperman. Me and my husband are out for a regular 45-minutes walk or slow jog.”

But her 13 January instalment – the blog’s inaugural entry – is genuinely moving in places (her concern for friends in Sri Lanka), funny in others (her assessment of 2004 – it “sucked”), and overall an interesting read.

Other Brussels types, including MEPs, have also started blogging. Netherlands deputy Jules Maaten is one of the more active online diarists. In his most recent posting he plugs a speech he gave last week at European Voice’s conference on health care.

New blogs – some serious, some otherwise – launch every week. A Fistful of Euros has a fairly comprehensive list of other EU blogs and even includes a ballot for readers to vote on the best European blog. Nominees include: The Yorkshire Ranter, Viewropa, and the perfectly named, Paris-based website Je Blog.

Then there’s the intriguing and well-written Europhobia, which bills itself thusly: “The musings of a non-partisan one-time Eurosceptic turned pro-European and his far better-informed friends.” Its most recent posting excerpts a lengthy treatise on EU-US relations from the New York Review of Books.

And how could anyone resist the transatlantic musings of the French expatriate whose blog is called Au Texas, Tout le Monde est Fou Sauf Moi?

Political partisans abound in the blogosphere. UKIPwatch devotes itself to skewering the Eurosceptic British party. Socialist Group president Poul Nyrup Rasmussen started a Euroblog during the 2004 parliamentary campaign to “combat voter apathy”. And Publius, in French, is devoted to coverage of the EU Constitution. Its most recent entry links to an op-ed written by Pierre Moscovici in Le Figaro.

Which paddles us back to the media mainstream. Even Le Monde, Europe’s most sophisticated newspaper, has started a blog section, with correspondents filing diary entries on a range of subjects.

Latest example: the paper’s editor-in-chief, Eric Le Boucher, is blogging from Davos during the World Economic Forum. He describes the celebrity panels being held, including one discussion on whether artists can still change the world featuring French model Carole Bouquet. Confides Le Boucher, “J’hesite pas.”

1 comment:

Nosemonkey said...

"Intriguing and well-written", eh? Ta very much... Shame that European Voice doesn't allow non-subscribers access to articles on its own site though... Meh - I'll quote that anyway, if you don't mind - testimonials are always handy.