One year ago, UvA student Julius Fintelmann (21) launched the European Correspondent, a continent-wide news outlet. Today, he leads a team of 175 journalists next to his studies, to get a better understanding what’s at stake in other, European countries. “We realized we know basically nothing about what is happening in the smaller EU countries.”
The idea for the European Correspondent was born over gaming when Julius Fintelmann was visiting his friend Philippe Kramer in Basel. Fintelmann, 21 years old today, was living in the Netherlands and his friend Philippe Kramer in Switzerland. They updated each other on the news of their respective countries of residence but in a friendship of two you can only get so far: “We realized we know basically nothing about what is happening in the smaller EU countries. That is a pity, because if you want a European public sphere, you need engagement in common media, which we barely have”, says Fintelmann.
Fintelmann and Kramer decided to change that and make European journalism a thing. After the European Correspondent left the brainstorming phase and took its first steps as a news outlet, it grew quickly. In a team of three, Fintelmann now co-leads over 170 journalists and organisers from all over Europe. “I learned so much from them about what is happening in Europe, and I still do. It’s really cool.”
The main product of the European Correspondent is a daily newsletter that alternates by regional focus. “We are primarily targeting the Erasmus generation, people that have maybe already moved within Europe and do not see themselves only as nationals but also Europeans”, says Fintelmann.
With what goal? “To achieve a feeling of Europeanness. We want to make it a norm for people to consume European journalism, besides national and local news”.
Full-time journalist, hobby student
The European Correspondent won the 2023 Charlemagne Youth Prize by the European Parliament and the Foundation Charlemagne Prize of Aachen. Everyone working at the Correspondent is doing it voluntarily and for Fintelmann, there is a lot of travelling involved.
Next to doing his bachelor’s degree in Law in Society at the VU, his minor in Middle Eastern Studies at UvA, and working at another German newspaper, this means a lot of stress: “In September, we published a major investigation on wealth concentration in Europe and how Europe’s richest influence politics. The run-up to that, making sure we get the best possible product, was one of the most stressful times of my life”.
He just laughs when asked whether he goes to all his lectures. Studying for him means using up time that he could spend on the European Correspondent. “I really like studying, but I am also looking forward for it to be over, so I can focus on the European Correspondent fully. I don’t think I’m having the typical student life right now.”
Fintelmann’s engagement trickles down to his editorial team. Martina Monti (24) is finishing up her bachelor's degree from the University of Venice. She has been on the team since the brainstorming process and once the European Correspondent was launched, she became the leading editor for Southern Europe. “It’s great to work with Julius, he is a source of inspiration. He manages to combine professional integrity with a lot of personal warmth”. That helps her to find a balance between working for the correspondent and doing her studies at the same time. “It can be a lot”, she confirms.
Nathan Domon (25) is co-leading editor of the Western Europe section and UvA-graduate. When he met Fintelmann, he was immediately hooked by his plans for the Correspondent. A year after, he does not regret joining Fintelmann: “He is not just good at convincing but consistently doing his best to make us feel confident.”
Managing a team of 175 – most of them are students or recent graduates and are spread across the continent. How does that look like?
For now, everything that happens at the European Correspondent is decided collaboratively. The editorial team meets every Thursday, extensively debates proposals, and then decides democratically. Domon explains: “Julius is involved 24/7, so obviously he has more input, but we are all very much included. If he has an idea and we don’t want it, it will not happen.”
Domon appreciates the culture amongst the journalists at the European Correspondent. “We have high expectations. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s good to be ambitious.” The team has managed to cultivate a positive work ethic: “We just try things, and see how it goes”, says Monti.
She admits that it can be tricky too: “Julius and Philippe have done an incredible job for being so young, but I think going forward we need people with professional organizational skill as well”. The team has recently taken Carla Allenbach on board as Managing Director. She has several years of professional experience in the media sector and specialises in revenue models and the organisational development of independent media outlets. “We might have needed her a little earlier”, Monti says laughing.
Where to next?
Fintelmann is convinced that the European Correspondent has a place in the European media landscape. “Other outlets look at the EU, at Brussels, which is good, but not what we are doing. We look at what happens in countries because the news does not just stop at your border.” Also Domon is confident about the quality of their work: “We’re not famous or have big names. If someone reads our stories it is because we are doing good work.”
Potential competition does not worry Fintelmann: “It’s a continent of over 700 million people that could potentially read us. If you break that down to the 10% actually interested in European content, that’s still 70 million. Even if there’s other outlets like us, the market will not be saturated.”
The team is currently working on growing its audience. To tap into that potential of a European readership and public sphere, the Correspondent exemplifies the community it wants create. “Everyone wants to be part of something big. The European Correspondent is that for me – what makes me stay is the feeling of belonging to a community”, says Monti.