Monday, January 18, 2016

The Zimmerman Effect

Most German new media organizations don't pick up interviews by Dutch media organizations....unless it's some Hollywood connected deal or some political figure talking.  Today, Focus (the German news magazine) picked up a Dutch radio interview which has gotten some German state-run news folks all huffed up.

Dutch radio conducted an interview with a WDR (a sub-network off the state-run empire in Germany that heads up the northern part of Germany) reporter.

At some point in the interview.....they asked about the 'slant' of immigration, asylum and refugee news in Germany.  The state-run journalist.....Claudia Zimmermann....noted that they were told to report on the positive aspects of the refugee policy of Germany.  It was a collection of sentences which would typically bother the average German.

The 'slant'?  WDR was told to report positive comments, per government instruction.

All of this 'slant' continued on until Koln and the New Year's Eve episode.

The hint given during this interview is that various committees decided upon the direction of the journalists and how the stories would be told.

WDR?  They were pretty vocal after this came out....no, they weren't slanting any story and no committees were handing out such instructions.  Additional comments by Zimmermann?  None.  I looked up Zimmermann.  She's not some young punk journalist signed out of some university in the last year or two.  She's been around for at least two decades in the news business.

So, you have to stand there and ask.....what exactly occurred here?  What did the Dutch interview stumble upon and what did Zimmermann really see?

My humble guess is that the Berlin leadership (not really Merkel but just the 'gang' itself) just kinda stood there and watched the immigration business grow from a meaninglessness number.....to a fairly robust number in the spring of 2014.

The Berlin crowd who should have shown some dynamic leadership and asked questions......simply stood to admire the situation and asked questions.  Suggesting a fix?  For what?  They didn't see anything broke, so why fix a non-existing problem.

By the end of 2014....the numbers were increasing and the state-run news media saw this great human interest stories.  The immigrant rafts sinking in the Med.....the poor people making their way to Greece and the trail to Germany.....the 'good-Germany' serving as a light-house to asylum seekers.

So, out of various chats and party functions.....where Berlin political party enthusiasts and state-run news media members hang out....there was some type of euphoria that existed over this topic.  It wasn't money under the table, or promotions tied to good reporting.  It was simply an intoxicating moment of high spirits.

So boss X went to his meeting with the news controller staff, and they talked over the great positive message that they could carve out of the immigration, asylum and refugee exultation.  Perhaps exultation is a harsh word for some people.....but it's better than using the word 'glee'.

Then the news controller staffs went off to each division and sub-network and charged up people with a slanted way of telling a story.

You could always weave the word Xenophobic into comments if anyone asked stupid questions...whether it was a journalist or some poor German who doubted the slant.  That scared people to be insulted like that, and typically worked.

The Koln episode finally triggered journalists to be a bit embarrassed.  These are people who saw various angles and problems around the 'slant' and the actual government policy.  Normally, the job of a reporter is to always be critical and ask more questions.  When you fail to be critical or ask question.....you aren't a journalist anymore.....you're a cheer-leader.

Zimmerman?  I'm guessing that WDR will ask her to take two weeks off and reconsider her words.  At some point.....some other journalists from the state-run network side will stand up and say basically the same thing.  Within a week.....maybe five or six such people will admit that they felt the same way as Zimmerman.

The problem is....what now?  Sixty-plus-percent of German society doesn't believe the truthful nature of the news today (statistical report from fall of 2015).  This is simply icing on the cake.

My guess is that Zimmerman will say enough, and just walk away.  Maybe RTL or one of the commercial networks like N-24 will hire her, and life will go on.  Maybe the WDR will bring the 'herd' of reporters into a room and try to shake them enough and let them know that it's just not like Zimmerman spoke about.  Some idiot will ask why she left, and the WDR chief will look foolish in front of everyone.  Normally.....you'd fire the guy, but then you'd have to admit that there's something wrong.

So, that's it.  If you are a German.....your state-run news folks let you down.  Don't worry.....the TV council folks will ask stupid questions and eventually believe the story of the managers.  Life will go on.

Update: By the end of Monday, Zimmermann had backpedaled a bit.

1 comment:

Jess Short said...

Today's society no longer has television journalist, they are news readers. They simply read what is put in front of them. All network news is simply a means of communication their particular slant or agenda. CNN is Liberal, Fox is conservative, neither can function without the willingness of sheep. I find myself hopelessly lost in a mountain of misinformation and bias that make my skin crawl.

My grandfather once told me, "Boy, don't believe nothing ya hear and half of what ya see." It would help the world greatly if this advise was followed.