European Parliament Embraces the Blogosphere

The European Parliament has launched a new web portal that looks like a blog. It is available in the 20 official EU languages. European Commissioner for Institutional Relations and Communication Margot Wallström has already been running a blog on the Commission's server since January 2005. The new site of the Parliament has been totally redesigned to be more user-friendly with the emphasis on making the site more dynamic and attractive. It aims at presenting "content specially written for citizens", for example "What if the Constitution is dead?"  It is divided into five separate areas: News, Parliament, Your MEPs, Activities and EP live. EP Live allows one to view debates in the European Parliament in real time (webstreaming).

The Parliament also held a series of three round table debates dealing with (1) blogging, (2) the Internet as an opportunity for the formation of new political communities and (3) the use of the Internet as a tool of government information. The debate about blogging "Weblogs - competition, challenge or chance? Who's afraid to open Pandora's blogs?" was led by Guido Baumhauer, a journalist at Deutsche Welle. There were four blogging panelists:

  1. Karlin Lillington, a technology journalist at The Irish Times, said that the main difference between blogging and traditional journalism was that bloggers need not care about presuming to be neutral. Lillington seems to have too high an opinion about her colleagues in the media. One can, indeed, wonder whether traditional journalists in Europe's "consensus-media" always care about neutrality. Watching or reading some of our allegedly independent and neutral newspapers or TV stations, one often gets the impression that they are not neutral at all, especially if they are publicly funded. Admittedly, this probably also depends on the specific circumstances in each country.
  2. Aidan White, the Secretary General of the International Federation of Journalists said that there is no contradiction between blogging and journalistic standards. On the other hand, White adds, bloggers should learn to deliver quality and disclose their sources. This remark is related to the controversy about the legal status of bloggers. The latter is still an unsettled or partially settled matter in several countries. Usually a blogger is not considered a professional journalist. This implies that his sources are not legally protected in the way the sources of  professional journalists are. For anyone interested in the relationship between journalism and blogging, an interview with James Taranto, blogger-journalist of The Wall Street Journal, is a good starting point.
  3. Thomas Burg, from the University of Krems in Austria, declared that blogging is not so much about content but more about building social networks.
  4. Richard Corbett, a British member of the European Parliament for the Labour Party. Corbett was the first MEP to launch a blog. He uses his blog for… rebutting eurosceptics

On blogging politicians, one can also refer to Taranto's "They can run, but can they blog?"