Anniversaries. This is the name of the great and long novel by Uwe Johnson, whose first volume was published in 1970 and the last, the fourth, in 1983. The focus is on Gesine Cresspahl, who fled the GDR and lives in New York with her daughter during the Vietnam War. In 366 chapters, each of which stands for a day between August 21, 1967 and August 20, 1968, if you follow Johnson’s leaps, you can also read a good three-quarter century of German and other history using the example of a woman, a family. This begins with Gesine’s father’s year of birth in 1888 and ends in the summer of 1968, when Soviet tanks ended the Prague spring.
Anniversaries. The newspaper is also something of a daily chapter that captures events and facts, but also feelings, opinions, perceptions. The newspaper, regardless of whether it is printed or distributed digitally, is a constant update of what constitutes the world of its readers, every hour, every day. It has won a church over the years and decades. This community is constantly changing, and so is the newspaper. Some of those who have read it for a long time measure it by how it used to be. On the other hand, others who have just joined have the feeling that the newspaper, especially the printed one, is too attached to what it used to be.
Incidentally, the same perceptions exist in the editorial office itself; some older people want to preserve what the essence of the newspaper is for them, even the spirit (if it really becomes important in Germany, the terms spirit and essence are never far away). Others, mostly younger ones, consider it urgent to say goodbye to the old ways of thinking, forms and formats. Both are right, because a newspaper needs the long-term readers (“I’ve been a subscriber for 30 years …”) as well as the new ones (“I hardly read anything on paper …”). If you have been reading the newspaper yourself for decades, you know that. If you have worked in the editorial department for decades, you also know the cyclical return of the urgent desire for major reforms. Or, in a slight modification of a well-known saying: The greatest critics of the moose later become some.
Anniversaries. It has been 75 years since Southgerman newspaper first appeared. On October 6, 1945, a Saturday, they were available for 20 pfennigs in destroyed Munich. It was eight pages long, and the print run was at least 357,000 copies. The SZ was printed on a machine from 1924, which was in the basement of the publishing house of Munich’s latest news had survived the bombing raids on Sendlinger Strasse. In a symbolic act, part of the lead set from Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf” was melted down for the first printing plates of the press. The U.S. military government in Bavaria had given license three to three men: the conservative journalist August Schwingenstein, the social democrat Edmund Goldschagg and the Catholic Franz Josef Schöningh. Later the later editor-in-chief Werner Friedmann and the general director of the publishing house, Hans Dürrmeier, also joined as shareholders and shareholders. The publishing house and editorial staff of the SZ also reflected what shaped the early years of the Federal Republic: Among those who were to shape the new democratic era were opponents of the Nazis, indifferent people, fellow travelers and certainly also former Nazis. In this regard, the license holder Franz Josef Schöningh, for example, but also the later editor-in-chief Hermann Proebst, were clearly burdened.
The most important national newspaper, the most important newspaper in Munich
Apart from the Friedmann family, nobody from the families of the former shareholders is now involved in the publishing house. At the end of 2007, the heirs of the previous shareholders sold their shares to the Südwestdeutsche Medienholding (SWMH), to a group of publishers from Baden-Württemberg and a publisher from Rhineland-Palatinate. The SWMH, which includes many newspapers in the south and southwest of the republic, was born as a holding company and has been in the process of becoming a kind of media group and possibly even a company for years.
In any case, in 75 years, SZ, the local newspaper that appeared twice a week, became the most important national newspaper in Germany (a friendly greeting to Frankfurt). At the same time, it remained the most important newspaper in her homeland of Munich and Bavaria. This dual role is what makes SZ so special; if it goes well, subscribers should be informed about Manhattan as well as about Giesing. This is not easy, especially since financing this claim has made it even more difficult in times of falling advertising revenues. This becomes particularly clear in the weeks of the Corona crisis, which also means a further, significant drop in advertising revenue for all newspaper publishers. This leads to a paradoxical situation: Although people’s interest in trustworthy information increases in such a crisis, which can be seen from the higher number of users and subscribers, the revenue nevertheless declines. The industry, including the SZ, has to meet increased demand with less money.
Anniversaries. October 6 is not only an important date for the printed newspaper. On October 6, 1995, the 50th “birthday” of the newspaper, “SZonNet” went online. There was no editorial office yet, but not many at the time, who used the network, which was really new at the time, not only for professional purposes, could read and read articles from the newspaper. The beginnings of the website and the digital edition of the SZ are now again, one can hardly believe it, a quarter of a century old.
The smartphone as a reading tool
The tremendous boost from digitization and the associated complete change in public and private communication really started in the second half of the past decade. An indication of this is a fact that has played a role in the internal history of the Süddeutscher Verlag (SV) to this day: In 2007, the SV’s sales and revenues from advertising business, sales and other activities were higher than ever before – and never again . The publisher was worth a lot of money, which made those who bought the majority of it less happy than those who sold their shares.
The online business was interesting, but was by no means economically close to the center of attention until the second half of the past decade. At that time, money, if not very much, was made online almost exclusively with advertising; there was no so-called paywall or even a digital edition of the newspaper to be paid for. This was also due to the fact that the use of mobile devices as information and reading tools only really took off when Apple introduced its first smartphone in 2007.
Reading on paper is a centuries-old cultural technique. And for over 150 years, the printed newspaper, financed by advertisements and the sale of the newspaper, has been part of everyday life for many people, not only, but especially in the so-called middle classes. This has been changing more or less quickly for quite some time.
Mass communication began with the invention of the printing press. Previously, messages were exchanged face to face or handwritten in the broadest sense. The printing press made it possible to reproduce texts; which in turn was closely related to the Enlightenment, as a result of which more and more people learned to read. The rotary presses of the 19th century, which in principle continue to serve today, ensured unprecedented mass distribution of printed matter – of newspapers.
For SZ’s 90th birthday, will it still be a matter of course for people to read on paper?
The next big change was the introduction of the so-called electronic media, which later became radio and then television. Not only were these media faster, they reached more people. Despite many fears (“Are we enjoying ourselves to death?”), The mass media of books, newspapers, radio and television remained complementary to one another – also because none of these media can replace the other with their specifics.
With the third great communication revolution after (book) printing and electronic media, digitization, things can change. The central communication device is becoming more and more, to put it simply, the computer – whether as a smartphone, as an Internet-capable television, as a tablet, as a laptop or as an e-book reader. Yes, people still read books, magazines and newspapers on paper. It is not known whether this will be a matter of course for the 90th anniversary of the SZ. It may be. But it could also be that the digital revolution will mean that, for the first time, media, or to put it bluntly: data carriers, will no longer be complementary to one another. There was the song “Video killed the Radio Star”. Video didn’t do that. But maybe it would be interesting to continue the song as “The Screen killed the Printing Life” for 2040.
Fortunately, however, the newspaper is not dependent on its outward appearance, or, still a nice German word, its shape. It will be on paper for a long time for those who want it for a long time. And it has long since migrated to digital, too, every day. This transformation process is not easy, and sometimes you get the feeling that it is less difficult for readers than it is for editorial and publishing people. Incidentally, this also applies to the South Germans: never in the past 40 years has there been so much change, so much fundamental change as it is now.
Even if the shape changes; when technology interacts dramatically, overall communication changes dramatically; If the needs of readers become more and more differentiated, one thing remains: the idea of newspapers. The idea of newspapers means that an editorial team tries to the best of its knowledge and belief to represent the world as far as possible and necessary. She organizes the events for a certain period of time, she comments on them, and she does so in a way that people who enjoy reading, regardless of the medium, bring about knowledge in the best case and also create pleasure. Pleasure can mean joy about well-told stories, smiles about language pictures or satisfaction that after working with the SZ you know more than before. The Southgerman newspaper always wanted to be the smart companion of their readers’ everyday lives. It will stay that way, regardless of whether it looks the same as it did today at its 90th.
Anniversaries, this time the 75th. Anyone who reads a text like this so far belongs, knowingly or not, to the community, to the community of the readers. And that is what a newspaper like Süddeutsche needs, regardless of whether it is read on the screen or on the paper page. The newspaper lives through its readers, and that’s what we’re at Süddeutsche Zeitung proud.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung is 75 years old. Here you can find all stories, videos and insights about the anniversary.