#Brussels Calling on covering energy

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29 June 2017

Covering EU energy policy is no small feat. This month alone journalists have had to write about Brexit negotiations kicking off, Trump pulling out of the Paris agreement, and long-awaited positions by the Parliament and Council on a number of major files in the Energy Package – and June is only half way through. Against this packed policy backdrop, Cambre’s #BrusselsCalling series turned the spotlight on the energy journalists of five leading publications – Mlex, Euractiv, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the Financial Times (FT) and Reuters – to chat about the ins and outs of covering energy policy.

From the nitty gritty to the big picture

The audiences following energy policy are broad and varied, and have appetites for different types of stories. Alissa de Carbonnel explained that Reuters tends to focus on breaking news for clients, but also tries to combine this with the macro level and do more in-depth analysis pieces on implications for the future. For Mlex, the focus is on businesss, Laurel Henning explained: “In writing about energy policy, we are writing for large energy companies which are looking at where the risk comes from in EU regulation,” she said. “Concerns over costs are increasing by the minute with the Paris deal”. She added that energy and climate policy journalists need to deal with the constant tension between short-term government plans and the long term climate goals – Trump’s U-turn on climate commitments is a clear example of this. “The key is to link week-to-week decisions with the long-term story,” she concluded.

Finding a good story in 1000+ pages of energy legislation

In Brussels, many stakeholders are eager to read about institutional developments – but this is not necessarily where the best stories lie. “What tends to make a good story is conflict,” said the FT’s Rochelle Toplensky, illustrating her point with the example of the Polish fight for coal within the package discussions. “The Energy package is extremely challenging to understand – it’s hard to figure out what story is in there to tease out,” she added. Indeed, according to Alissa de Carbonel a lot of the work on covering EU energy policy consists in translating complex legislation titles into plain English. “The bigger challenge is unravelling Brussels and making the EU interesting,” she said. What makes this easier is the multifaceted nature of the policy field. “Energy policy is an easy sell as it either involves politics or big companies and money,” said WSJ’s Emre Peker.

Getting the facts straight: a key role for industry and capitals

How do journalists stay up-to-date in a field that brings together business, engineers, politicians and academics? Expertise from the sector and national capitals is crucial. “It’s useful to have experts explain why their story is interesting,” said Rochelle Toplensky, adding that “the FT people love the numbers.” For Euractiv and the WSJ, input from correspondents in other capitals can make the difference. “Euractiv tries to cover EU capitals as they can influence how policy is being shaped in Brussels,” said Frédéric Simon. The WSJ interacts a lot with local bureaus, Emre Peker explained. “Stories will change depending on whether Brussels or another capital is in the driving seat.”

With so much this month on the EU agenda, Brussels will definitely be in the driving seat – and the industry will be eager to power the media machine on with expert insights.

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