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Foreign journalists praise 'epic' freebies at Trump-Putin media centre

International reporters covering the Helsinki meeting are impressed by the media centre's spread which runs the gamut from fresh strawberries to sauna.

Washington Postin Moskovan-toimiston päällikkö Anton Troianovski ja Washington Postin turvallisuuspolitiikan erikoistoimittaja Greg Miller Finlandia-talolla.
Washington Post journalists Anton Troianovski and Greg Miller enjoying the media centre's offerings. Image: Retu Liikanen / Yle

The close to 1,500 journalists covering the Trump-Putin summit often work around the clock, and many are accustomed to media centres offering little more than WiFi and coffee and water.

The Finnish Foreign Ministry has made great efforts this time to leave a positive impression on journalists in Finland for the meeting, sourcing Finnish design, food, experts, beer and even sauna for their media guests.

The international reporters and photographers in town to cover the Helsinki meeting have expressed surprise and gratitude for the work space, food, drinks, and events on offer at the media centre headquartered at Finlandia Hall.

The Washington Post’s Anton Troianovski and Greg Miller are enjoying fresh strawberries and peas at the media centre.

”These are incredibly delicious,” says Miller, to which Troianovski nods in agreement.

Merikonttiin rakennettu sauna Finlandia-talon pihalla.
Organisers even set up a makeshift sauna in the grounds of the Helsinki media centre. Image: Retu Liikanen / Yle


”They’ve really done incredible work,” says Miller, referring to the press centre. ”Everything works incredibly smoothly from media accreditation, to the working spaces, and getting around the city,” says the Washington Post’s national security correspondent Miller.

The meeting between the American and Russian presidents in Helsinki was only announced a little over two weeks ago.

Hillary Gallaschin, who works for the German public broadcasting company ARD, says ”This ranks well with other large scale summits that I’ve attended,” says Gallasch.

Both the Washington Post’s Miller and ARD’s Gallasch have covered numerous top international political summits and meetings.

Gallasch was in Singapore when the leaders of the US and North Korea met. She has also reported on numerous G-7 and G-20 international summits.

Miller and Gallasch say that at press centres usually journalists are offered space to work and mostly just water and coffee. As work is done around the clock, it’s very important to eat, too.

"This is very exceptional. Right now there’s strawberries and peas on offer,” says Gallasch, as she helps herself to more.

Key broadcast connections work

Sitting on the terrace adjacent to the pop-up sauna brought in for the event, Friedrich Schmidt, the Moscow correspondent of German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, characterises the media assistance as very professional.

”The staff is always ready to help. There’s food on offer, which is something that I’m not used too – and it’s tasty, which is a bonus,” says Schmidt.

He adds by way of comparison that at the Minsk meeting on Ukraine in February 2015, the food ran out in the middle of the conference.

Although Schmidt says he appreciates the food, the most important aspect for him is that the internet and broadcasting connections work seamlessly and staff are helpful when there’s a problem.

Another Die Zeit reporter, Alice Bota, also says she values the fact that she’s received help to problems quickly.

”Especially since there was such a short time to prepare for this event, everything has gone incredibly smoothly,” says Bota.

Neither was interested in trying out the pop-up sauna in front of Finlandia Hall, as the mercury soared to +30 degrees Celsius this week.

”It’s too hot. I’d rather go swimming,” says Schmidt.

Perhaps the best endorsement so far came from Moscow correspondent for The Guardian, Andrew Roth, who tweeted:

"Pro-tip: hold your next summit in Finland #Helsinki2018 press centre has free food, free WiFi, free travel cards, free tote bags, FREE BEER, free G&Ts and live-streamed the World Cup Final on a massive screen. There's even a fellow who just tells you about Finnish design. Epic."

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