European Federation of Journalists

London: the world capital of foreign correspondents


The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has attended at the Brussels Press Club,  the launch of a new book Mapping Foreign Correspondence in Europe showing that London is the world capital of foreign correspondents. The editor of the book Georgios Terzis has conducted a pan-european research for almost two years and gathered data about the 6.600 registered journalists working as correspondents in 27 countries (this first edition does not include information for Poland and Italy).

1.700 foreign correspondents in the UK (copyright : G.Terzis, 2015)

According to the data disclosed, the country that has the highest number of foreign correspondents working there is the United Kingdom (1.700), following by France (945), Belgium (931) and Germany (729). It is surprising that there are only 258 foreign correspondents in Spain, which is a relatively small number compared to the size of the country. On the contrary, Cyprus has a relatively big number of foreign correspondents, as the country is considered as a hub to report on Middle East. Germany has the biggest number of foreign correspondents based in different countries in Europe (505) followed by the USA (450) and the UK (378).

This scientific research shows that, contrary to previous reports made a few years ago, the number of foreign correspondents in Brussels and in Europe has not massively declined but is growing on a regular basis. According to Mr. Terzis, foreign correspondents in the past used to be more willing to contribute to the “European project”.

“Today, foreign correspondents don’t see themselves anymore as the promotors of the European identity,” said Mr Terzis. Among significant events that shows the emergence of the European public sphere, Mr Terzis gave three recent examples :

  • “The 2011 confidence vote in the Greek Parliament was broadcast live in most European PBS

  • when the UK budget was announced in March 2013, the top six stories on the FT’s website were about the Cyprus banking crisis and the seventh was about the British budget

  • While in 2015 the Greek elections were front page news in all EU countries”

Some unchanged data over the years are that foreign correspondents are still dominated by experienced male reporters who are working for print media. However the social status of foreign correspondents has dramatically changed as the job has quickly shifted from full-time employees to freelance journalists, from globe-trotters to semi-permanent residents, from expacts to national reporters, from single media correspondents to multiple online platform freelancers, from EU hub to single-person bureau. The book shows that the pressure on foreign correspondents working in print is increasing as they are expected to report for all media platforms 24/7 (24 hours per day and 7 days a week).

More investigative journalism needed
Single-person correspondents are affected by the huge flow of press releases produced by lobby groups, institutions and NGOs. As a matter of fact, it has an important impact on news content and quality. Gareth Harding,the co-author of the Brussels chapter of the book, said:”Investigative journalism is more and more difficult to do as most of the foreign correspondents have limited time to report on EU issues that are often complicated for national readers.”

Germany has the highest number of foreign correspondents (copyright : G. Terzis, 2015)

In the UK and the US, the media interest in European issues is decreasing and this tendency has an impact on the status of correspondents. Unfortunately, the research did not aim to collect data concerning the average salary, but what we can see as a general outcome is that the financial crisis is used as an excuse in order to decrease or at least not increase the journalists’ salary.

It is important to point out that there is a considerable interest for European news from BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries.

(Photo Credit : EB-MK/EFJ)

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