By Emily Potthast
Along with twelve other journalism students and two journalism professors, I traveled to Europe and it was quite the experience. Yes, anything but ordinary. We traveled to Paris, Prague, Rome, and Brussels. No, we didn’t travel there because of the food even though it was quite delicious. We went for a two and a half week time period and it was perfect. It was plenty of time to see all of the sights and news outlets.
The main purpose of our trip was to visit various news outlets abroad and learn the differences. A lot of them possessed similarities, but a lot were very different. For example, Rome news outlets mainly focused on Catholicism. In the United States, there are so many various religions; we can’t focus on a specific one. Another huge difference between the news outlets abroad compared to the US is the informality. Looking around at various news outlets, jeans and alcohol were the first two things I witnessed. Yes, alcohol costs less than water in Europe. All of the news outlets were very laid back and the stress levels seemed much lower than the United States. The main point I am going to focus on is the difference between the broadcast stations in Europe compared to the United States. After all, I am a broadcast student.
The first destination I am going to focus on is France Televisions. When we first walked in, the biggest difference was the modern format. France Televisions incorporated high technology and their newscasts were conducted in a completely different manner. In the United States, the typical format of a broadcast is thirty minutes with two anchors and numerous reporters. It incorporates weather, news, and sports. At France Televisions, they conducted their broadcasts in a separate room from the anchors. There was only one anchor chair present at the main news desk and the weathercaster was in a completely different area. Normally, the weathercaster is located right across from the anchors and carries out conversations with them. In the United States, especially KOMU, the producers are constantly warning the anchors of their time. It normally takes a producer to force an anchor to get out on the news floor before the start of the show. At France Televisions, we witnessed the weathercaster practicing his segment at least twenty minutes before the start of the show. France Televisions didn’t rely on a prompter as much as we rely on them here. Along with the different newscast format, the overall building was set up in a completely different way. A lot of their story meetings were conducted in private conference rooms. In the United States, most story meetings are conducted in the general newsrooms. At France Televisions, a lot of the offices were on different floors of the building too. France Televisions is also located in a general office building with other businesses around. In the United States, offices are separate from newsrooms, but normally located close by. Most US newsrooms are also their own building and are not located in the same area as other businesses. France Televisions was not the only different broadcast area.
Like I mentioned before, Rome’s coverage was very different than the United States. Since over 75 percent of the population in Rome is Catholic, the news over there reflects this. At the Vatican Radio, the Vatican owns the radio station. Obviously, there news coverage is going to be biased towards the Catholic religion. Yes, partisanship exists in the United States, but nowhere near what it is in Rome. A huge focus in Rome was soft news. Yes, we also have soft news or features stories in the United States, but the target market is more interested in breaking news. I even had a discussion with one of the priests in Rome who said there newscasts focus on soft news because it is more interesting. This is a huge difference from the United States. In a thirty-minute newscast with commercials, weather, and sports; the producers normally don’t have time to incorporate a lot of soft news stories. Features stories are normally done on small news days. Then again, Europe doesn’t have a lot of the same crime problems the United States has.
There was one news outlet that was very similar to the United States. Reuters in Europe was very similar to the United States. Although it is only a wire service, they run it exactly like a wire service in the United States. I was amazed by one thing though. They are very small staffed and each individual person has to put in so many hours to make everything run smoothly. This was like many news outlets in Europe. Newsrooms in the United States normally have a ton of reporters to cover everything that needs to be covered. In Europe, they have to pick and choose the news to cover because they don’t have enough employees to cover everything. Another huge difference was the language barrier. All of the reporters and multi-media journalists spoke numerous languages to translate news. In the United States, many reporters and anchors are only required to speak one language. At Reuters, they require all journalists to speak English and Spanish. This is because many of them have to take incoming news and re-send it out in a different language. One translator at the European Parliament could speak 18 languages. I think news outlets in the United States should require journalists to speak multiple languages.
Overall, my experience abroad was something I am never going to forget. I got to spend over two weeks with an awesome group of journalism students and two great professors. It was a great way to network and learn all about European news outlets. I loved visited the various news outlets and seeing all the differences between them. Of course, I also enjoyed the food, culture, and shopping. I would highly recommend this trip to everyone. Don’t worry, after all of the academic aspects, there is still plenty of time to see all the sights.