Saturday, September 5, 2015

Where Do Germans Get Their News?

For Americans observing German culture, you come around eventually to this unique feature of German life, which is not the same as an American.  So, I will offer these observations.

First, the German version of Time and Newsweek....are Focus, Spiegel, and Stern.  Unlike Time and Newsweek....which are fading fast across American society....these three German news magazines continue on.  I would speculate that they realized years ago that they couldn't compete with television, and they went instead to in-depth analysis and an interview format.  I would take a humble guess that roughly ten-percent of German society (those over the age of twenty-one).....will pick up and read an occasional news magazine.

Second, for a national paper....there's just Bild.  The best description of Bild would be....a working-man's daily newspaper, which en-capsules the news into a simple format.  Page one will have twenty items and four color pictures.   They will take a 80-line complex story and flip it into twenty-lines max.  Half of all the news on page one and two....will involve sports or German entertainers (their divorce, their bankruptcy, their latest success).  You can read an entire Bild in about fifteen minutes.  From the daily prospective, I'd take a guess that fifty percent of all Germans will pick up a Bild at least once a week.  If they don't buy it....they see one laying on the coffee shop table, or on a train seat, or a office buddy shares their copy.

Third, semi-national newspapers?  The Hamburger Morganpost or the Berliner Morganpost?  There's probably twenty-odd newspapers which are positioned into this situation, and another hundred which are regional papers.  I'd generally say that somewhere between ten and twenty percent of the public will pick up an occasional semi-national newspaper.  These are usually regarded as better publications than Bild (more political news, more in-depth analysis, etc).  The biggest draw to most people is the city section where they chat over crime, robbery, or upcoming street or road projects.

Fourth, AM or FM radio.  On each hour, you get a brief five-minute piece of local news, then they revert to music.  Talk radio in Germany is almost (not quiet but almost) non-existent.  Most folks will flip on the radio to get news, traffic reports and weather as they proceed to work or return home in the evening.  I'd take a guess that ten to twenty percent of Germans will get some brief element of news via these new 'minutes'.  A Rush Limbaugh-like talker?  Non-existent.

Fifth, morning TV news.  Unlike the Today-Show on NBC.....there's no draw that amounts to anything on German TV (state-run or commercial).  I doubt if more than five-percent of the public catches morning news.

Sixth, internet news.  While some papers have gone digital....most have a firewall and want money.....which the bulk of potential customers aren't interested in paying (at least not yet).  A Drudge-like site?  Non-existent.  Huffington-Post?  It just started in the past year, and the attraction currently is mostly entertainment, science or public-interest news.  If they were trying to interest the public via a political slant.....the Huff is going at a fairly slow introduction phase.

Seventh, commercial TV news.  Several of the commercial TV networks will carry a fifteen to thirty minute nightly news piece.  It's mostly all neutral and strictly slant.  Oddly, I doubt if more than ten-percent of the over-twenty-one audience watch this deal.  With the under twenty-one might be similar numbers.  Oddly, if you toss an entertainment thirty-minute news piece on opposite of the commercial news....the under-twenty-one crowd pep's up and there's probably half of them watching that segment of the news.  

Eighth, state-run under-twenty-one effort into news.  In the last year....the state-run folks have tried to introduce news programs and segments which are geared for the youthful viewers only, and have some slant tied to them.'s not commercial TV, it's state-run TV.  So far, other than the university or college crowd....I think it's mostly a failure.

Ninth, state-run 8PM nightly news.  Here is the bulk of effort.....probably over fifty percent of all German adults will catch this a couple of times a weeks (it runs all seven nights, on Channel One, ARD).  It's a fifteen-minute piece which has both factual and slanted news, with a minute or two on weekends for sports, and always ends with a nightly piece on weather for the next couple of days.  Around 9:45PM, a longer segment will come on, with several larger format news items.....more analysis, more interviews, and more details.

Tenth, Sunday night political chat.  At 9:45PM each Sunday night (except the Summer vacation period), there will be a seventy-odd minute political chat show.  Depending on the topic (they do strictly ONE single topic for that seventy-odd minutes) might have five or six million watching.....or have less than a million watching.  Sometimes, it's totally fair and balanced.....sometimes, it's slanted to a fair degree.  They generally have people who know the topic and do some degree of explaining how things got screwed up or how things fell apart.  The solutions are usually where you shake your head and wonder what the agenda is about.

Eleventh, regional state-run TV news.  Each state has their own network and carries a brief twenty to thirty minutes news piece nightly.  Generally, I'd take a guess that fewer than three-million Germans watch the regional news on a regular basis.  In fact, under the age of's probably less than 5,000 Germans (out of eighty million) who view this regional news effort.  Oddly, if you wanted to know about crime, robbery, murders, serious car accidents in your area....this is the network news piece that you want to view nightly to grasp what is going on.

I'd personally say that Germans over all (at least in the majority)....have a fairly decent view of the world and grasp the basic issues.  If there is a's the fact that they memorize the graphics chart of some state-run news item, and want to cite it as factual.....but never dig into the story or ask more questions.  They would assume the journalist has done the homework and noted everything (something that rarely happens, if you ask me).

The curious thing is that the changing nature of American news over the past two decades.....isn't the same thing that happen in Germany.  I admit.....German newspapers have lost subscribers and readers, but internet news hasn't really arrived on the scene.  Added to this issue.....young Germans aren't all that interested in the public news....nor do they care if such-and-such singer hypes up some political topic or slanted agenda item..

As for the Americanization of German news?  I have my doubts.  It's a different culture and things don't relate in the same fashion.

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