Why are word games so common in journalism


Greetings at the annual meeting of the Netzwerk Recherche e.V. 2009: "Journalism between morning and gray", Hamburg

Quality journalism is a cultural asset and a cornerstone of our democratic society. And research ensures profound reporting - and is therefore one of the prerequisites for freedom of the press.

Dear Sirs and Madames,

In these days there is again much talk of journalistic clear-cut and media neglect. Indeed, the current financial and economic crisis is leaving its mark - also and above all in the media industry: Hundreds of jobs have recently been cut in German publishing houses, editorial offices have been merged and budgets have been reduced. Losses of the order of 20 to 30 percent are to be expected for this year. Last but not least, research as one of the core disciplines of the journalistic trade is threatened - and sooner or later the quality of journalistic offers will also suffer as a result.

Above all, the advertising-financed media industry - i.e. newspapers and magazines, private radio stations and television stations as well as countless offers on the Internet - is already trying to compensate for the decline in earnings by means of massive savings measures. From a business perspective, this appears plausible and consistent. Whether this economic slimming mania is also socio-politically justifiable is another question - because: Where would we be if one day not a single regional newspaper appeared in our cities just because it did not generate enough returns? What flourished for us when at some point only fully automated search engines would collect information for us that was neither verifiable nor professionally classified? And what, if asked very specifically, would our society actually be missing if in 20 years we no longer had any well-trained journalists, but only self-appointed citizen journalists?

Some online pioneers and so-called alpha bloggers claim that it makes no difference whether professionals or laypeople provide humanity with news and opinions about events in this world - in the end it comes down to whether they are fast and free. Most of the people in this room will probably see it differently, but you know as well as I do that the free culture on the Internet is currently breaking the neck of the quality media. On the other hand, Jürgen Habermas and other intellectuals have pointed out that no democracy can afford a market failure in the press sector: In order to preserve the spirit of the printed word, Habermas demanded that subsidies for quality journalism or public newspaper models should be considered.

A look at America meanwhile shows that the media industry there, especially the newspaper landscape, is struggling with considerable upheavals due to increasing Internet competition and the extremely popular citizen journalism: According to a recent report by the American Project for Excellence in Journalism, the total circulation has fallen Newspapers in the US last year rose 4.6 percent, publishing house sales fell 23 percent from 2006, and the number of permanent US journalists contracted by ten percent. At the same time, for the first time, more US citizens looked for political information on the Internet than in newspapers. Even if the German press landscape cannot be directly compared with the US markets in terms of its distribution structure and reading habits, such developments will almost certainly soon have the first feedback effects on the newspaper markets in Europe.

The media industry, ladies and gentlemen, and you as your journalistic representatives are not only threatened by financial difficulties. Rather, the recession has exacerbated a deeper-seated structural problem in our media society, which results from some undesirable developments in recent years and decades: My impression is, and some of your colleagues also complain, that for years it was often wrongly invested, sometimes not at all: instead of money, for example To invest in the training and further education of young journalists or to sustainably promote independent research, it seems to me that a number of media houses were more interested in quick profits.

But: Journalism must free itself from commercial logic and the pursuit of profit in order to be able to work professionally; good journalism is - even if it has to sell at the end of the day - not a common commodity that can be easily manufactured with less and less human effort. Rather, quality journalism is Cultural asset and Cornerstone our democratic social order. And research is still a lubricant for in-depth reporting - and thus one of the prerequisites for freedom of the press.

Quality journalism as we know it has at least two irreplaceable functions: one Watchtower function and a Lighthouse function. While the Watchtower function is responsible for the functioning of democratic systems, in that journalists keep an eye on those in power from business and politics, occasionally proving scandals, corruption and clergy Lighthouse function for social values ​​and traditions, a sense of community and cultural identities to be communicated into our society. So, according to my thesis, we need good journalism if only to be able to maintain these two functions that are so important for our democracy.

Seen in this way, freedom of the press is not just a historical achievement, but a sui generis indicator for modern societies - a privilege that has so far been withheld from countries such as China, Russia and Cuba. In recent years we have seen time and again that a free press does not exist per se in our country either: I mention the "Cicero" trial, Telekom Gate and the BND affair as just a few important catchwords for targeted attacks on freedom of the press in Germany. Now, as a result of the increasing concentration and the pressure to cut costs in many media companies, this is what I want to say, the freedom of the press is being further undermined.

I hope for us that such attacks against freedom of the press - whether from politics or business - will continue to be successfully fended off. In view of the threatened disappearance of the printed newspaper in the next two decades, in the medium term - in the spirit of our democracy - alternative financing models and funding options for quality journalism should be considered, and in the long term independent of the medium of paper. Because to subsidize a troubled industry for decades according to the watering can principle with a kind of media scrapping bonus, as is currently emerging in France under Nicolas Sarkozy, is not a solution.

My overall impression is that the entire media industry is currently deeply insecure - and rightly so: precarious working conditions, the increasing intermingling of journalism and PR, also the widespread lack of ideas and outdated business models mean that the prospects are bleak - sooner or later, if we cannot do that Oppose future concepts that could turn into an identity crisis of our media democracy.

"Journalism between tomorrow and horror" - that is why the catchy and, in my opinion, apt pun at this year's annual conference of the Research Network. This message has little to do with illusion. I believe it should rather be understood in such a way that we should all work to ensure that journalism experiences a tomorrow without horror - you as professional researchers, editors and media representatives, but also the citizens of our country in the interests of one living democracy.
The goals of the Research Network are in line with this requirement - take, for example, the long-term effect of the media code, the award of the negative prize for the locked oyster or the various practical studies, for example on capital city journalism or business journalism, which have received a great response in the media industry. To the best of my knowledge, no other independent journalists' association in Europe has made such programmatic and conceptual efforts that are directly related to journalistic practice.

As most of you probably know, the Federal Agency for Civic Education has been involved in journalistic education and training for many years - and with great success: The aim of our "Forum for Local Journalists" is, for example, to always include future scenarios To debate media practitioners, politicians, scientists and citizens. I think a lively culture of debate that transcends all professional boundaries and conceit is an important prerequisite for daring more quality in journalism overall. With this in mind, I wish you continued exciting discussions today and tomorrow about how quality journalism, which is under threat, can be revived through research and how it can remain viable. Research was and is the lifeblood of an enlightened and critical public - especially in times of crisis like these. Many Thanks!

- The spoken word is valid -