Friday morning, the European Investigative Journalism Conference will kick off at the Olympia Bourse Ballroom of the Marriott Hotel Brussels. Our key note speakers will focus on the profession of journalism as a whole, and on the special object of our two-days-stay in Brussels: Europe.
• Siim Kallas is the EU’s vice-president for the “triple A’s”: administrative affairs, audit and anti-fraud. As such, he oversees the financial management of the Union, an important and sensitive portfolio since the predecessor to the current Barroso Commission resigned over mismanagement of EU funds by some of its commissioners. Kallas is known for his candour when suspecting possible mismanagement of EU money, and an advocate of journalistic investigation into the vast amounts of currency that are funnelled from Brussels into every corner of the Union. Recently, he publicly encouraged journalists to keep a closer watch on the ten billion euros the Commission gives out in grants every year.
This fall, the Commission will open a website to provide insight into who receives EU grant money and for what. Sounds logical, doesn’t it? And one would expect such a register to have existed for a long time already. Apparently not… Kallas’ Cabinet finally pushed the initiative through. He will be the same man of action as he opens the conference on Friday morning.
• Geert Mak, Dutch writer and documentary film presenter, spent the four most recent years of his professional life on the whimsical beauty that is called Europe. He travelled the continent extensively, first for a long-running series of newspaper columns for the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad, then for the series of documentaries ‘In Europa’ that were a spin off of the book based on the columns (www.ineuropa.nl) . His view of Europe, old and new, is non-prejudiced, often optimistic, deeply curious, and always full of new insights. His key note speech will lament the lack of interest in Europe in any of its manifold appearances, and will show us how we can do better with our readers and viewers when provided with the chance to sell them the continent we live in. He proved it can be done: the book was a best seller, and the TV-series drew a constant viewer ship of over half a million, unheard of for documentaries broadcast on Sunday nights.
• Nick Davies. British investigative journalist named about every ‘… of the year’ honorary title thinkable by the time he decided to investigate his own colleagues and wrote the best seller Flat Earth News (2008). He uncovered newspapers allowing secret services to plant stories, colleagues paying bribes, media outlets printing internationally manufactured propaganda. In his key note speech, he will elaborate on the book that drew comments stating that ‘..if even half of the charges levelled by Nick Davies are true, this is a morally bankrupt profession which is in desperate need of fundamental reform’. And he will not leave without presenting a new model for understanding the news that we seem fit to print.
Friday morning will also see the presentation of VVOJ’s Yearbook 2008, a unique collection of the best investigative journalism stories in Flanders and the Netherlands, with commentary on methods and techniques used by the journalists themselves. (Sorry, the book is in Dutch…)
On Saturday afternoon, the European Investigative Journalism Conference will close with a key note speaker that will show the brighter and the lighter side of investigative reporting. Journalist, writer and stand up comedian Mark Thomas will talk about his latest discoveries while investigating one of the world’s largest industrial moguls, Coca Cola. The book, Belching out the Devil, will appear on September 25, 2008, and Thomas will travel the UK with a program based on the book from that day on. For us he will cross the Channel, to show us that investigative journalism can be funny without being shallow, hard-hitting without being tedious, and right without being self-righteous. Do not leave on Saturday without this much needed antidote to the seriousness of journalism.
Saterday, November 22nd
15.45 English comedian, presenter, political activist and reporter Mark Thomas