Author Archives: aseidlhofer

Reporting Social Issues: The Challenges

Spanish freelance journalist Maria Crespo says one of the main issues she faces as a social issues  journalist is access. As a reporter for the global website Equal Times – News at Work, she covers topics such as the treatment of immigrants in Spain’s Immigration Detention Centres. Journalists are not allowed into the centres – the only way to get in is to be a family member of one of the people held there. People also often don’t want to talk about the problems they face and there are not many reliable numbers.


She says she uses various techniques to encourage people to talk to her. For a story about families, who lost their home as a result of the the housing crisis in Spain, she told them that they may help people in the same situation:

“They feel ashamed, isolated and frustrated but if you show them they can help others, that often gets them talking.”

Equal Times is a website based in Brussels, which is supported by the international Trade Union of Confederation. It employs 50 freelance journalists all over the world.  Maria Crespo says the project is a very advanced idea in her opinion.

“The idea is to talk about it from the perspective of what happens in the place where it happens not only from an outside perspective. We are all human, we all care about social issues, instead of sending a correspondent to the place, let’s have a global network.”

The website is funded by a trade union but Crespo says that doesn’t influence the reporting. She says she has never been censored and has been free in the way she reports.



Language and Immigration in the media: Do we need a glossary of appropriate words?

Italian journalist Giorgio Zanchini spoke out against language discrimination and hate speech in articles about immigration in Italy’s press at today’s conference session. He said immigration has been a recent phenomenon in Italy. It went up from 0.5 to 3million in the last 6 years.

However, immigration is never reported in a neutral way and always seen in a political context. Zanchini sees language as a central problem, saying that headlines containing swear words and other offensive and aggressive phrases are used on TV.

“We’ve had superficial, lazy and sometimes violent ways of describing immigration in the press.”

IMG_5722Zanchini proposes a glossary with appropriate words and expressions that can be used as there is not much awareness of which words are offensive and which aren’t. Even if journalists write articles showing attention to objectivity and language, editors often write offensive headlines.

Italy does have a self-regulation system for the media in which professional journalists have to take an exam and be part of a guild and can also be sanctioned. However, not all people who write for papers are part of the guild and therefore they can’t be sanctioned. Giorgio Zanchini also admits that the question of freedom of expression when it comes to language is difficult.

Social media is not helping to keep the balance because the Italian audience is divided into a right-wing and left wing group and there is not much discussion between these groups. The national discussion about this social issue is lacking, according to Zanchini.

Fabricated stories are another problem. In one case, a newspaper accused two Roma men of raping an Italian girl but the story turned out to be wrong – the attackers were Italian. In another instance a campaign was launched in the press against Albanians after an Italian girl and her boyfriend killed her mother but claimed Albanians committed the crime.

Photo Gallery: Day 2 & 3

Reynald Blion about the role of the Council of Europe

Reynald Blion helps run MEDIANE. In this video he explains a bit more about the role of the Council of Europe in supporting inclusiveness and diversity in the media

Pascale Colisson: How to teach ‘inclusiveness’

Pascale Colisson, Diversity Manager at the Institute Pratique du Journalisme (IPJ) spoke today about how her

Pascale Colisson, Postgraduate Studies & Diversity Manager, IPJ .

Pascale Colisson, Postgraduate Studies & Diversity Manager, IPJ .

journalism school, which harnesses the French Diversity Label, teaches students to be culturally aware.

She described how she starts off with a module about stereotypes including where they come from and how they compare to reality. She said it’s important to be aware of prejudice: “It’s normal to have stereotypes, everyone has them, including myself.”

She also includes exercises in which students have to change around an article written about a female politician with the same content but with the opposite gender. “It sounds completely different when a male politician talks about juggling family and work.”

Other tasks include checklists where students have to decide what is written about a female politician and if that is relevant to the article; so for example, if a female politician’s dress or make-up is mentioned in an article about a politician.

The school actively promotes cultural inclusiveness but this doesn’t mean that all students are tolerant. She described how a girl was called a “dirty arab” by her classmates and how this had to be discussed.

Even though she thinks the stereotype that young people are more tolerant is not true, she says a lot of things have become better too: young women don’t laugh at sexist jokes anymore to conform to the group dynamic and speak up more often.

Promoting Intercultural exchange: The Media 4 Us Perspectives Project

A journalism project based in Brussels aims to educate the public about immigrants and migration and raise awareness of cultural diversity. Media 4 Us recruited several young writers, originally from outside the EU but who were living in Brussels.


Many came from French-speaking African regions and received training in journalism as well as writing in English.

The website Perspectivés Media covers a broad range of topics including politics, social questions, culture and health. A series of articles were published in Metro, a free newspaper distributed in Belgium. The organisation bought space in the paper to extend the reach of the project.

The director of the project, Paul de Theux, says he doesn’t want to sell these articles:  “It has an inclusive educational goal, it’s more a question of social themes rather than professional journalism.”

The project was initially funded by the EU but now carries on through funding by the francophone community in Belgium.

New Roma and media website aims to help journalists share best practices


Vitor Tome presented a new project to improve reporting about Roma in Europa at the Mediane conference today. The website provides journalists and journalism students with many resources about Roma, including information about history, institutions and common stereotypes. Vitor Tome said: “Roma are the most stigmatised group in Europe. Our objective was to understand the relationship between media and roma people.”


Vitor Tome speaking at MEDIANE

They compiled a report about how journalists in Portugal and France approached articles about Roma, which is available on the website. Vitor Tome says the website aims to inform but it also aims to share best practice and includes a questionnaire for journalists to self-monitor the objectiveness of their reporting.


The project was born out of a conversation with Thierry Michel, whom Vitor met at the Mediane conference in Florence. The project developed through several meetings with MEDIANE and is now supported by a research centre in Lisbon.


Video Interview: Lis Howell on Gender Diversity in the Media

Lis Howell, Director of Broadcast at the Department of Journalism at City University hopes her research into the representation of women in the media will spark debate over how to increase the number of women experts and women reporters on major TV and radio channels.

Find out more in this video: