Hear from Louise Guillot, the recipient of our sixth fellowship

February 28, 2020 | My last blog post

I won’t be the first fellow to tell you this but time flies! It’s already been five months since I became the sixth Lénaïc Fund for Quality Journalism fellow and I can now say what a great adventure it was and will continue to be.

Five months ago when I started, I had a lot to catch up with as I didn’t go to journalism school but studied EU affairs. I used to write for students’ papers and a free online media called Le Taurillon, so I had the basics. But I can admit that I lacked a little self-confidence at the beginning as coming to Brussels and working into the European bubble as a reporter was a whole new world for me to discover. As my training advanced, I got more confident about my story ideas and how to do my reporting. I also covered a variety of events, including a European Council summit, the entry in office of a new European Commission and of its Green Deal strategy that is expected to transform EU’s economy and society. As such, I will always be grateful to the Lénaïc Fund for offering me to live my passion and support my training as a European journalist in Brussels. I am now hundred percent sure that I will not stop reporting on EU affairs after the fellowship ends. This is what I want to do in the years to come.

Don’t expect to sit down on a chair and watch, the motto here is “learning by doing.” That’s what the training with the Lénaïc Fund offered me. I have been pushed out of my comfort zone, but that’s okay, that’s actually what you need to become better at the job.  I can recall coming in on my first day last October, after a short introduction about how the POLITICO’s website works, I was already covering breaking news from across Europe and asked to write my first article. But I would be lying if I would tell you it has been a nice and smooth journey all along. I made mistakes and tried to learn from them as much as I could. Indeed, learning how to be a journalist is a bumpy ride! These last five months have been a challenge and have been marked by a steep learning curve. I went through ups and downs, when I worried I would not be learning fast enough, not asking the right questions, or not being stringent and rigorous enough with myself and my reporting.

But now I can say that my efforts paid. My English writing improved, I sharpened my eye for news, and I got my first scoops. I am also pleased to write that I will stick a little longer in POLITICO’s newsroom and continue covering EU environmental and sustainability policies. Of course, I still have a lot to learn but I know where my weaknesses are and where I can improve. As such, I would like to finish my emphasising that the Lénaïc Fund fellowship is not at all a lonely journey. Since my first day, I have been grateful for the support and solidarity from the other fellows. I would like to thank them for always being available to help me and give me advice. Now I fully realize what the Lénaïc Fund’s motto “once a fellow, always a fellow” means and can ensure you it is no empty words.

Finally, I would like to congratulate the new and already seventh fellow, Sarah Anne, and wish her all the best!

January 15, 2020 | Half way through the fellowship

A few months have now passed since the beginning of my traineeship and I can only say that it has been a steep learning curve for me. But not in a negative way, on the contrary. I had a lot of motivation but little ground experience when I started as the 6th fellow of the Lénaïc Fund for Quality Journalism. Now, three and a half months later I know I have developed new skills and solid foundation to pursue my career as a journalist in Brussels.

The past months have been particularly busy in the office with the start of a new European Commission on December 1. The EU executive rapidly announced its plan for the next five years and unveiled parts of its political agenda. It is thanks to the Lénaïc Fund for Quality Journalism fellowship that I was able to follow closely the first steps of the new Commission, further enhancing my skills as a European policy reporter.

As I work with the Sustainability team at POLITICO, I have developed a focus on biodiversity policies and the circular economy. I started working more autonomously – reaching out to other Lénaïc fellows for tips and advice – and connecting with people in these fields. Collectively in the newsroom, we have also been directing our attention particularly to the European Green Deal. This flagship proposal of the new Commission is supposed to be the backbone for every policy initiative it will take during its mandate. In that sense, it was particularly interesting to analyse the language the Commission used and the initiatives it wants to put forward. But the most exciting was to try and spot where the political bargain and tensions could lie and where last-minute changes were made. The news coverage of the European Green Deal revealed the team spirit within the newsroom.

In December, I also covered my first European Council summit. The gathering of EU leaders was marked by the difficulty of getting every country on board with the objective to decrease our CO2 emissions and reach carbon neutrality by 2050. What struck me most during these two intense days of summit, was the unique atmosphere of the Council building which gets suddenly overcrowded with hundreds of journalists from all over the world. At first, I wouldn’t have guessed that most of the time spent during this summit would be walking around, getting coffee and trying to get insights from inside the leaders’ room. I am grateful to the Lénaïc Fund to have allowed me to be trained at POLITICO and to report live from the summit. In that sense it was a very intense and enriching two days.

One of the best parts of my daily job is to meet people that are passionate about their job or about their cause, and to combine their voices to tell a story that will be both informative and analytical. The hardest thing to do, I find, is to make sure you ask the right questions. Another great part is that I get to learn new things every day, to read studies about the discovery of new rare birds or about the effects of microplastics on human health.

The call for application for the 7th fellowship just closed after the new year and I am glad that a lot of motivated and dedicated young female journalists applied.  I wish all of them the best of luck in the selection phase!

November 9, 2019 | My first post

I never thought I would actually be standing here today, wearing a yellow badge around my neck with the inscription ‘press’ written on it, walking in the corridors of the European Parliament or attending the midday press briefing at the European Commission. But here I am, in the heart of the European institutions reporting on decisions made by policymakers that will impact hundreds of millions of European citizens. Therefore, I am incredibly lucky and gratefully to the Lénaïc Fund for Quality Journalism, that gave me the chance to live this experience this year as its sixth fellow.

I started reporting a few years ago, just as kind of a hobby at first, because I am passionate about Europe and EU politics. Then I got more and more involved in the daily management of a news website on EU affairs – Le Taurillon – run by volunteers only. Now, I feel extremely blessed and proud at the same time, to be able to start my career as a European journalist here in Brussels when I thought it will remain a dream. Today, I found myself being part of this big and diverse community of European reporters, who are tracking every move and every declaration of EU policymakers.

My first weeks at POLITICO have been incredibly challenging, I am not going to lie. But, it’s not a bad sign, on the contrary even, because it shows that I am learning something new every day. When I arrived on October 1, I started working on breaking news for the first three weeks, following the coverage of major European outlets and writing my first articles. Editors immediately challenged me on my style, my tone and the structure of my articles. Not having studied journalism before, all of this was quite new to me since I have been learning-by-doing as an amateur reporter. The organization and the work in the newsroom at POLITICO is a big change of scale compared to what I experienced before. But I am grateful that, even if always busy, my colleagues are always available to answer my questions and very kind.

I have also been very lucky to find so much support from the other Lénaïc fund fellows currently working at POLITICO or elsewhere in Brussels. They have been very supportive, always ready to answer any of my (numerous) questions and to give me some tips to better understand how this giant European machinery works in practice.

After learning the basics of reporting in my first days at the office, I joined the sustainability team. I started to dive deeper and decode EU policies related to biodiversity, waste or plastic pollution for instance. I am happy that I will publish my first story together with Eline Schaart, who is the fourth fellow of the Lénaïc Fund.

It’s been an enormous amount of information to absorb in only a couple of weeks, but such a great learning experience! Thus, I will always be grateful for the opportunity and the support of the Lénaïc fund.

You can follow my journey on Twitter.