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Europe needs local news in the global language

As The Local throws open the doors to its new office in Paris, founder Paul Rapacioli argues - purely coincidentally - that a daily diet of local news could change Europe’s destiny.

Europe needs local news in the global language

An Italian programmer in Berlin, a German doctor in Barcelona, a Spanish architect in Brussels – they number in their millions, these healthy roots of a rapidly maturing European garden.

And yet, despite a flourishing generation of young adults who truly consider themselves to be Europeans, this grand union of nations is very frayed. You may have noticed. It has been mentioned in the press.

Indeed, a barrage of dismal European news – the teetering Euro, the north-south factions, the bailouts, a potential ‘Brixit’ – has left many of the union’s 500 million citizens wondering “what has the EU ever done for us?”.

Because the pro-Europeans have well and truly lost the PR initiative. That’s a tragedy, because there will be referendums and populations must be persuaded. And it’s a disgrace, because they have all the material they need to tell a winning story.

So what is that material?

Is it that the dream of freedom of movement has become reality? That there’s more trade between EU countries than ever before? That intra-European travel has become commonplace and remarkably unremarkable? Or what about the 2.5 million European students who have enriched their cultural awareness, language skills and contacts books by studying in another country?

We are all now exposed to internationalia to an extent that would have been unthinkable just three decades ago. And let’s not forget the very human product of all these mobile lives: more international romance – producing a new generation of binational, bilingual children.

This is all good news. But if the official from the EU serves it up, it won’t smell right. It will smell a bit too much like propaganda.

No, the narrative that will cement the European project is made up of the daily lives of Europe’s citizens.

Because unless we understand what makes our fellow Europeans tick we can never persuade our politicians to solve the problems that threaten our extraordinary European freedom.

Of course, the best way to understand any country is to visit it, talk to the people who live there or to live there yourself. The next best way is to read that country’s news.

But intra-European daily news reporting is practically extinct. As news organizations all over the world scrambled to update their models for the digital era, the first victims were foreign correspondents and their everyday stories giving a flavour of life elsewhere.

What we get plenty of, though, is a one-size-fits-all diet of “International News”, which tells us very little about the countries where it happens. In fact, being by definition an aberration, International News gives us an utterly narrow view of life in the country where it happens. It’s the news which could have happened anywhere.

There is of course a place for the broad-brush top-level analysis but you don’t expect to learn about life in the Czech Republic by reading an article in, say, the Economist, about the country’s first presidential debate.

Daily news is the glue of our society, defining the issues we care about and how we respond to them as a community. And since your community goes beyond your local neighbourhood, your city and even your country, daily news from around Europe should be a vital part of our lives.

But take away the Big Stuff Which Could Have Happened Anywhere and what you’re left with is the occasional rehashed quirky story, out of context and written by someone a long way from the action.

Knowledge and insight give way to hackneyed archetypes which reinforce people’s prejudices – lazy Greeks, thrifty Germans, rebellious French, responsible Scandinavians. As the economic crisis has bound the fates of reluctant Europeans together, media clichés have been driving the continent further apart.

If you are an expat, if you travel or do business internationally, if you study abroad or have friends and family in other countries, then you need to know what’s happening around Europe.

But then, you know that, because you are reading this article. There are millions more like you and at The Local we are doing our best to spread this news, these small snapshots of life that together form the essence of nations, to as many people as possible.

Local daily news from around the continent will break down barriers and bring us closer together. And if it helps voters to understand how much they have in common, then it might just change the destiny of Europe.

Paul Rapacioli, CEO, The Local

Twitter: @paulrapacioli

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THE LOCAL

What The Local’s new design means for you

You may have noticed that The Local looks quite different today. Here’s how our new design makes it easier to get around the site.

What The Local’s new design means for you

After several years with the same design we decided last year that it was high time to give the site a makeover. For one thing we wanted it to look nicer, but most importantly the new design is aimed at making it quicker and easier for you to find what you need without hassle.

You will notice, for example, that the site has a new menu bar that will direct you to the most popular categories. The example below is taken from our France edition but you will find variations on the same menu items on all our country sites. 

You won’t be surprised to learn that we are hoping to retire the Covid-19 category as soon as possible. 

On the desktop version of the site, if you hover your mouse over a category title you will find some of the most important related topics. 

If you click on one of the main categories in the menu bar you will find links to what are currently the most popular related topics. 

On the homepage, each article’s main topic will be displayed above the headline so you can quickly click or tap your way to more articles on that subject. 

You will also find more topics at the bottom of every page that will take you to related articles. 

One significant change is the introduction of a feature that will automatically load up a new article for you once you have got to bottom of the page.

Similarly, articles (like this one) that are not affected by the paywall will show an unlocked padlock. 

If you want to search for a particular topic the search tool is prominently displayed at the top left of the desktop and mobile sites. On desktop it’s just under the dropdown menu you can use to switch editions. 

As a members of The Local you will be able to quickly access your account details and update your newsletter preferences using the buttons in the top right. 

If you are not yet a member you can cast your eyes to the top of the site to see offers that are such good value you will wonder what you’re waiting for. Now really is as good a time as any to join. 

READ ALSO: How The Local’s members are helping us get better

We have also worked hard on significantly speeding up the site, which we hope will make your visits to The Local more enjoyable. 

You are sure to notice plenty of other changes as you get familiar with the new design. But one thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to producing independent journalism that leans heavily on dialogue with our readers. 

With this in mind, we would love to hear from you if you have any feedback on the new design or suggestions for improvements. You can drop us a line at [email protected] or, if you are a member, you will as always be able to let us know what you think in the comments below the article. 

Thanks for reading, and we hope you like the new look! 

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