Amcham: Please tell us the history of your media group and, most especially, explain what you have tried to do with your Chronicle magazine
G-Media was born in 2013, with Chronicle.lu having been launched in May 2012. The focus was to create an online information source of what is happening in and around Luxembourg affecting both the business and social communities. With many connections in both, and a lack of reliable information (published in a timely manner) from other media sources, the international community was missing the former English-language print publications of the Luxembourg News / 352 magazine, as well as Business Review and, previously, Station.lu, the first online newspaper in Luxembourg that I had launched in 2003.
Amcham: What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
(Geoff) Whenever one starts a business, one has a number of challenges to overcome, namely building revenue streams, limiting expenditure / not overspending, marketing the product / service, building and delivering a quality product / service, and building up the knowledge base, including staffing. I was able to address each in turn, with solutions often overlapping. With my background in IT, I was able to conceptualise what was needed from a technical perspective, and I was able to spec the requirements and then oversee the website’s development (and subsequently replace this a few years later with a more solid platform and series of tools). I invested in the venture myself, buying a company “off the shelf” to reduce the administrative burden, and I developed a network of sources / feeds, including obtaining a press card and registering to receive official press releases, invitations, etc. I wrote and published myself, with some other journalistic involvement for periods of time, until Jazmin came along.
Amcham: I remember talking with you many years ago when you first were developing this project and struggling to decide what the name should be. Please tell us which names you were considering and why you settled on the name Chronicle?
(Geoff) I wouldn’t describe it as a struggle, but it was an important issue, one that would be crucial for the branding of the service. I remember coming up with a short-list of titles and then inviting a handful of corporate sponsors / advertisers to “vote” on what it should be called. One of the criteria I remember addressing was “gravitas”, it had to be one that portrayed more “broadsheet” than “tabloid” and had to be more of a serious nature. Then I remember, once that decision had been made, was to select a font for the logo. We went for one which served us well for a few years. When we replaced the IT platform in 2016, we took the opportunity then to modernise the logo at the same time, to what it is today
Amcham: We understand the criteria for government subsidies are very demanding. Please explain the government’s rules and requirements to get a subsidy and the amount of financial support they provide.
(Geoff) Last year the Luxembourg government changed substantially its criteria for “press aid” (Aide à la Presse). The first is where a publication has five or more full-time journalists, as well as other criteria. Straight off, we knew that we were not in that category. The other, described more as “innovation”, requires proof of investment of €200,000 at least, two full-time journalists working solely of the publication in question, publishing six days / week every week, covering international news as well as national / local stories, and publishing at least two original articles a day. We then took the plunge and invested more to meet these criteria and after submitting a dossier showing how we complied for the last six months, we received formal notification that we were awarded the Aide à la Presse. This consists of three annual grant amounts of €100,000 (index-linked).
Amcham: Over the years which has been your three most interesting interviews and why?
(Geoff) While interviews themselves have not been central to Chronicle.lu’s content until fairly recently, there are a couple that stood out, all in relation to guests invited over to Luxembourg from Ireland for the Ireland Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce (ILCC), whom I got to interview wearing my journalist hat. One was a footballer, Niall Quinn, who played for Arsenal, Manchester City and Sunderland, later becoming Chairman of Sunderland FC. As a keen supporter of the Republic of Ireland’s fortunes on the football pitch, and having watched him score in the 1990 World Cup in Italy, it was great to interview him. Staying on the sporting them, this time rugby, Donal Lenihan (a former Munster and Ireland international and now journalist / pundit / commentator), he came over and participated in the first of the ILCC’s “The Business of … ” events. While he had mainly made a presentation about the evolution of rugby from an amateur to a professional sport, I had worked with him beforehand to help prepare what he would be addressing. And then Jim Sheridan, the renowned film director from Ireland, came over (the week before COVID-19 reached Luxembourg) – I had met him a couple of years before at the Galway Film Fleadh in Ireland (as preparation for the annual British & Irish Film Festival Luxembourg) and eventually he was available during a period we could host such an event. That was held in the format of a “fireside chat” interview. He was a great interview subject, I hardly had to say or ask anything, he just loves to speak and recounted fascinating insights after amusing anecdotes…
Amcham: How did the Covid crisis impact on the demands for information from your readers and what adjustments did you make in your business model?
(Geoff) We had operated a teleworking arrangement over the past few years, so continuing to work from home during the pandemic was not any different. But the fact that we could not attend events (none were being held) or attend press conferences in person (all were online), meant that we had to look for other sources for stories to publish. Right at the start of COVID-19 in March 2022, there was an explosion of requests from readers wanting information about government restrictions, staying indoors, protective clothing, travel and much more related both directly and indirectly to COVID-19.
Amcham: Jazmin, as a young journalist beginning your career, what challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
For context, I joined Chronicle.lu as a student intern in 2016 whilst completing my master’s degree in history at the University of Luxembourg. After completing my two-year degree, I became a full-time journalist, allowing Geoff to get back into IT consultancy for a few years, and in April 2021, I took over as CEO of G-Media Sàrl.
In terms of the challenges I have faced in these early years, I initially found it difficult to “fit in” with the other journalists in Luxembourg – a lot of them already knew one another and had more experience than me. But I soon gained confidence, as well as experience and connections… It was just a matter of diving in – networking and introducing myself at press conferences and other events, attending more and more press (and other) events and believing more in my own journalistic ability, i.e. overcoming “imposter syndrome”.
Another challenge was getting used to teleworking in the beginning, but one of the perks of this job (at least pre- and post-COVID-19) is being able to attend various events and meet a lot of interesting people, so I’m neither bored nor lonely. And I, like quite a few others during the pandemic, have come to appreciate the advantages of flexible working.
Amcham: Jazmin, what have been your three favorite interviews and why?
One thing I really love about this job is just how many people from very different backgrounds you get to meet (and sometimes interview). I remember being quite nervous about conducting my first few interviews but each one played an important part in shaping me into the journalist I am today – and I am still learning and growing every day. I did more reporting in the first couple of years, although, as Geoff mentioned, the team has been focusing a lot more on interviews since we decided to apply for the new press aid.
A few of my favourite interviews so far:
– one with the Luxembourgish-Egyptian film director Adolf El Assal about his film Sawah back in 2019; this was one of my very first interviews and I remember being so nervous (even though I could rely on Geoff’s guidance) but Adolf and his crew put me at ease and I feel like I learned a lot from this early interview;
– on-the-spot interviews with Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and the Minister of the Economy and for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, Franz Fayot, during an official visit to Niger and Rwanda in June this year. This whole trip was unforgettable and allowed me to experience a different, faster-paced side of journalism. We were always on the move and had to come up with questions for the Luxembourg ministers and other dignitaries right that second;
– recent interviews with LUkraine asbl President Nicolas Zharov and his dedicated team of volunteers. As a media partner for LUkraine asbl, Chronicle.lu launched a series of interviews with the non-profit’s team over the summer, a few months after the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Such interviews have been insightful regarding what is being done on the ground in Luxembourg to support Ukrainian refugees as well as humanitarian efforts in Ukraine itself. I truly admire the work being carried out not only by LUkraine asbl but also the many other non-profit organisations who are making a difference in various ways in Luxembourg.
As someone with an interest in diplomacy, I have also particularly enjoyed conducting interviews with ambassadors in Luxembourg, as well as with representatives of various cultural institutions, clubs and organisations and business leaders (particularly in the area of SMEs and startups). As a small team, we get to cover so many different topics, so you are rarely asking the same questions twice and often you get to research an area with which you may not yet be familiar. It is very diverse and you learn a lot on the job. The main thing for me is that both my interviewee(s) and I are at ease during the interview.
Amcham: Jazmin, in what ways do you think the English-speaking community contributes to the economic and cultural success of Luxembourg?
I believe that the Luxembourgish economy thrives because of the particularly international nature of its society, and the English-speaking community plays a significant role in this. I am proud that my host country appears to balance its traditional Luxembourgish identity with the presence of diverse international communities, each with their own cultures and languages. Regarding the English-speaking community, whether native speakers or those simply working in the English language, we see their value in a plethora of economic and cultural sectors, particularly in the private sector (Luxembourg’s strong financial and banking sector, the Big 4, SMEs, etc.) and the European institutions but also in the growing English-language media industry and the world of theatre, to name but a few.
Amcham: Jazmin, what do you like most and least about living and working in Luxembourg?
Above all, I really appreciate the high quality of life we have here in Luxembourg. This is something a lot of us may take for granted, but we are lucky to live and work in a multicultural, safe and economically stable country with a sound healthcare system. Of course, it’s not perfect – nowhere is. I do think more needs to be done to make housing more affordable, for example. In terms of work, it can be very rewarding having access to major events and “VIPs” that a journalist may not have in a bigger country or media company. For instance, I (and other members of the press) had the opportunity to accompany the Prime Minister and Economy Minister on their official visit to Africa in June. Plus, it’s not often you’d run into the British Prime Minister walking down the street in Belfast (near my hometown), but this is a pretty common occurrence in Luxembourg! That’s another thing: politicians and other dignitaries here seem more approachable in general (for citizens, not just journalists). And whilst you’d think there would be less news to cover in a smaller country, Luxembourg has no shortage of startups, financial institutions, cultural venues, non-profit organisations, events, etc., so I cannot imagine running out of material any time soon…
Amcham: Geoff, you along with your wife and family have made your home in Luxembourg for many years. How has your expat lifestyle prepared your children to be global citizens of the world?
Living in Luxembourg allowed us to provide our children with an education we could not have offered them if we had stayed in Ireland. Our eyes (and hearts) were opened to much, much more, from languages to cultures and a whole lot more. We now have one daughter married in the US, one married in Italy and the other engaged here in Luxembourg.
Amcham: Geoff, as you and Ruth adjust to another life phase, what are your views of Luxembourg as a location for you to live this third life phase?
We have thought long and hard about whether to retire back to Ireland or to stay here, on retirement. I have just retired myself recently (but I’m busier than ever!) and Ruth plans to retire shortly too. We had spent a number of family holidays at a rural town in West Cork in Ireland, to be ready to take the decision to retire there when the time came, but we decided that, at least for the foreseeable future, we are happy here in Luxembourg, it’s where many of our friends are, and we have excellent access to affordable healthcare. Travel connections to Ireland are great (thank you, Luxair!) so we get back to Ireland a few times a year, and we can also travel to family and friends further afield too (my brother lives in Australia).
Amcham: Please both share with our readers any additional thoughts you would like to offer them
We are very proud (and grateful) to be celebrating the tenth anniversary of Chronicle.lu this year – a milestone which we marked recently with a social community event at this year’s British & Irish Film Festival Luxembourg and a business networking event in the form of an ABAL Lunch, together with AMCHAM. We are both, along with the rest of our team, looking forward to continuing to bring the most impactful local and national (and international, through Reuters) news stories in English to our readers for years to come.
Amcham would like to thank Geoff & Jazmin for this very interesting interview!!