Greek politics group engages with the media on crisis in Greece
In 2009, the Greek Politics Specialist Group (GPSG) launched “Greece Beyond the Crisis” – a series of activities, such as research fieldwork competitions, podcasts and sponsored roundtables, aiming to explore the root causes, as well as the possible ways out, of the current political, economic and social crisis facing the country.
This work culminated in the organisation of a major, two-day international conference, held in Glasgow in December 2011, under the auspices of the Association’s Specialist Activities Fund.The conference, entitled “The Politics of Extreme Austerity: Greece Beyond the Crisis”, was hosted by the School of Government and Public Policy at the University of Strathclyde, with additional support from HSBC and Glasgow City Chambers.
Hub of Experts
At a time of heated rhetoric, historic decisions and a polarised public sphere, promoting informed and scholarly discussion with a comparative and multidisciplinary perspective is more important than ever. However, engaging with broader audiences and informing the public debate through the media is equally important and,over the last few years, the GPSG has built a robust track record of media appearances and expert commentary. While, as accomplished academics and researchers, our members may have their own contacts and presence in the media, the emergence of the GPSG as a hub of experts has created synergies and has produced a total that is more than a sum of its parts. Hence, we have worked with tens of news organisations across media platforms (print, radio, TV and online) across six continents (Europe, North and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia) through expert commentary, interviews and op-ed pieces.
Reflecting on the Group’s operation as a link between academics and the media, I feel that four elements have been critical to our success: online presence, accessibility / rapid response, track record and proactive creation of opportunities. The big majority of media enquiries has come through our website (www.gpsg.org.uk), which has rewarded our strategic decision to invest substantially (both in terms of money in proportion to our limited means, but also more importantly in those of time and effort) on building a serious online presence during the last four years. Signposting our availability to the media, but also providing a dedicated online query form and answer-phone has meant that journalists are able to easily and quickly contact us.
This brings me to the second major factor, which is rapid response. Most, if not all, of the media queries have been very time-sensitive, with a short window period for a response. While this sometimes becomes a resource-intensive job, the opportunity to engage with journalists and, through them, inform the public debate is a very important and rewarding one. As a response to this demand, the GPSG gives all its full (fee-paying) members the opportunity, while registering with us, to also sign up for the “media experts” service. This, in turn, has provided us with an international and inter- disciplinary network of experts who are willing to be approached.
Signposting our role and having a network of available experts have both been key; but of equal importance is highlighting the Group’s track record. We have, thus, developed a dedicated space on our website featuring a full list of all the news items featuring GPSG’s work or experts, along with links to the original content. This is paramount to demonstrating the Group’s credibility as a leading network of experts and has allowed us to build a relationship of trust with our media partners. Given the sensitive and sometimes controversial subject matter of our field, it also helps us demonstrate that we are, truly, a non-partisan and independent network, as we encourage the free expression of opinions across media regardless of political persuasion.
Point of Reference
Finally, due to the structure of the news cycle and the nature of news values, featuring a specific event or activity – such as our recent Glasgow conference – can facilitate engagement with the media and with the broader public, with that event acting as a tangible point of reference for the discussion. Combining the academic core of an activity with broader public engagement can create multiple synergies, maximising its impact and pedagogic value. During the last few months and as European media outlets have increasingly focused on the Greek crisis, we have witnessed the role that the media can play in the construction or perpetuation of nationalistic stereotypes and, even, in states’ bilateral relations. Engaging with the media, educating journalists who have no first-hand understanding of the reality on the ground, reframing the debate, challenging stereotypes and putting informed or alternative interpretations and solutions forward, all form an important agenda for academics, especially in the context of an evolving framework for the evaluation of political and social sciences’ contribution in society.