Anna Ferrari on connecting journalism to the politics of the European Union

In today's Mundus Monday alumni profile, Anna Ferrari, a graduate from the Amsterdam specialization talks about why it is important to connect journalism to the European Union politics and how journalists can better report on the European Union Issues.

2019.07.29 | Sabeen Jamil

Anna Ferrari, Mundus Journalism graduate 2017

Among the many causes that she cares about, connecting European Union Politics to Journalism is closest to Anna Ferrari’s heart. So much so that this Mundus Journalism alumna decided to make a career in it after graduating from our ‘Media and Politics’  specialization in Amsterdam, in 2017. Anna recently started working as a Parliamentary Assistant to a British Member of the European Parliament (MEP) at the European Parliament in Brussels. As she braces herself for her new job and the “Fight against Brexit”,  she takes us through the various twists and turns she's experienced after graduation and tells us why is it important to connect journalism to the politics within the European Union.


Mundus Journalism: Congratulations on getting the new job  Anna. Your career after graduation has mostly focused on connecting European Union (EU) to your Journalism education. How did you move in this direction and what motivated you to follow this path?


Anna: When I was studying in the Mundus Journalism programme, the European Union was going through multiple crises - an economic crisis, a crisis of identity and the refugee crisis. The EU and EU politicians were receiving a lot of criticism. Sometimes rightfully so, sometimes not. In the journalistic reporting of the EU crisis, I saw that a lot of times there was incomplete information, simplistic reasoning and sometimes misinformation. I felt that the journalists who were reporting on the EU issues often did not have the complete picture of the EU and how it works, and, as a result, EU citizens lacked a thorough understanding of the EU issues.


I started to think it was my time to do something about it as I had previously studied law and I was studying journalism and I believed in the values of the EU project. It was a matter of responsibility for me. Instead of blaming, I wanted to start taking action. My idea was to try to make reporting on the EU issues my career and to gain experience in journalism and European Union related topics.


During my studies, I participated in the European Youth Event (EYE)’s bi-annual event as an EYE Reporter, took on training with the European Youth Press and volunteered at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia. These experiences  were a starting point for me to launch myself as a reporter specialising in European Politics and become part of the journalists’ community. Soon after graduation, I took up the Schuman traineeship (the traineeship programme of the Europan institutions) and, quite surprisingly, I ended up working in the Press Team in the Cabinet of the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani. This traineeship helped me to gain insights into about how communication works from inside the European institutions.


After the traineeship ended, I went through a rough period where I worked in a job that I didn't like. Then I went into freelancing, but it was difficult, and later I also experienced unemployment as a young person in Italy. Those months were very hard and frustrating for me, but they connected me even more to the struggle of youth throughout Europe. During this time though, I also had some great experiences, I took a trip to the Middle-East (Israel, West Bank and Jordan) as a fellow at the Media in Conflicts Seminar and I repeated the European Youth Reporter role in 2018.


After a few months of unemployment, I obtained a Praktikum (the German equivalent of an internship) with the German private television company ProSiebenSat.1 in Munich. This traineeship taught me a lot about how the scouting and research departments within TV broadcasters work. Alongside this traineeship, I kept freelancing in EU politics.


At the end of the Praktikum, I landed an internship with the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament during the campaign for the European Elections 2019.  I assisted the Communications and Strategy Department in the handling of the social media channels as main task.


All of these traineeships and volunteering opportunities were ways for me to use my Mundus Journalism education about Media and European Politics and gain a better understanding of how the EU institutions work. These experiences led to my recent job at the European Parliament in Brussels as a Parliamentary Assistant to a eurodeputate. In this role, I will be taking care of the parliamentarian’s political communications and supporting her parliamentary work.


I consider it a great challenge and honour to work at the heart of EU politics, using my political communication skills to contribute to something I deeply believe in. This job isn’t journalism, but it definitely fulfils my ambition to work to bring citizens closer to the EU and make them feel that they belong. Journalism is a great training and is very useful in my daily work.


MJ: From your experience of how things work at the EU institutions, what kind of changes are needed in the EU and EU policy? 


Anna: In my opinion, the EU needs to get more true power in decision making. I think that the criticism that the EU receives for not functioning well is often due to the fact that, in many circumstances, the European Union does not have the power to take and implement the necessary decisions and to make changes. This is still mainly in the hands of the individual member States, through the decisions and negotiations between their Heads of State and Prime Ministers. Additionally, the EU needs a European Commission which should look more like a government with a president elected by the citizens. In addition to that, the European Parliament, which is the only truly democratic EU institution as the only one directly elected by the citizens,  should be given the power to initiate the legislative process - something which it doesn’t really have at the moment.


In the EU we need many other things: more gender equality, more diversity, more power to the people and youngsters in particular, closer communication with citizens showing them the benefits that the EU offers them, along with a serious system of feedback from citizens. I also think that the European Union needs to become more transparent and open to its citizens. Some good practices are already in place, and unfortunately the citizens often don’t know about them, but there are clearly many things that need improvement.


MJ: How can journalists best target their journalism practices in order to create these changes in the EU?


Anna: Journalists, as a medium between citizens and politicians, can play a very important role by showing the different shades of the European Union. I think that what reporters should avoid is representing the EU as an abstract consistent block, which it is not. There are different interests, different political positions, different departments and parties inside the EU that are clashing and challenging each other. It is very complicated at times, but also very interesting. Reporters covering the EU need to be prepared, to specialize and to incorporate these distinctions in their reporting. Finally, my wish is that more journalists would embrace the “constructive journalism” method and not always show the bad examples, but also offer possible solutions and good examples from the EU.


MJ: How was the fellowship in the Media in Conflicts Seminar (MICS) been helpful to you as a journalist who aspired to report on the EU politics?


Anna: MICS was a one week seminar where I had the chance to attend lectures from Israeli academics, military officials, government advisors and journalists, about covering world conflicts. The seminar included a field trip to the Palestinian settlements in Jerusalem and to the conflict areas on the borders of Israel, like the Golan Heights at the border with Syria. This fellowship was not directly connected to my EU reporting projects. It was instead linked to the general need of understanding different realities, including war and conflict in a neighbouring region of the EU.


It was very enriching both professionally and personally. I also took the time to travel on my own not only in Israel, but also in the Palestinian territories and in Jordan. Among other things, it made me think in a much more profound way of the European Union in a political and historical perspective, for example of its peace project aimed at bringing the people and nations together that have been at war with each other in the past.


It also made me reflect on the consequences, create connections between actions and reactions to historical events and political decisions, as well as the cultural, religious and geographical reasons. As a journalist, I gained an understanding about the importance of dual narratives, which means including both sides of stories, in order to bring balance in reporting on any issue. I brought that experience with me and it turned out to be very useful in any discussion in the EU Parliament on the EU role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


MJ: Making a career related to the EU is not an easy job. What advice would you give to Mundusians who would like to follow your path?


Anna: Getting traineeships in the EU institutions is a great way to start. These traineeships are open every 5/6 months and they usually pay enough to allow you to live in Brussels. You will gain a high level of experience with recognised institutions and you will be able to create a very meaningful network.


Other than that, my general advice is to be open to all the tasks and strive to achieve meaningful experiences. Also, networking with other EU journalists is vital as well as increasing your knowledge about EU politicians, political groups and NGOs.


On a personal level, I would say: Try not to compare yourself to others and don’t be disappointed when you're rejected from certain jobs/internships. Just keep trying and applying, do your best and above all stay open to opportunities. Know that things can come in circles, too. Sometimes you don’t get what you want straight away and you might go through frustrating situations before you manage to get back to a certain goal, but then you will be better prepared and more motivated! That's how it happened for me. 


Good luck in your new job, Anna!


Curious about what it is like to work at the European Parliament?  Anna reported live from the EU parliament on the Mundus Journalism Instagram channel last week. Check it out!

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