Germany was a heap of rubble, Munich a heap of rubble; there was still no basic law, there was no state constitution, there was nothing to eat and there was little confidence. Those returning from the war felt that there was no home any more. At home – that was stench, black market, hunger, theft, law of the fist and fraud. That was the case in Cologne and in Berlin, Hamburg, Hanover, Dresden, Kassel and Munich. The external devastation continued inside people; the future was a hole the size of a bomb crater. It was the time when the writer Heinrich Böll wrote that some people only gradually dared to accept life, their life again. Of course, there were also the other survivors who with the washable conscience who managed the feat before, during and after the Nazi catastrophe, were politically correct.
Contribute “to the spiritual transformation of Europe”
During this time the Southgerman newspaper for the first time. The last preparations were made 75 years ago. The first edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung distributed – it had eight pages. The new paper was published: initially only twice a week, there was a shortage of paper. The three founding fathers of the SZ – Edmund Goldschagg, Franz Josef Schöningh and August Schwingenstein – had received license number 1 from the Military Government East. The SZ was the first German newspaper to be published in Bavaria with the permission of the Americans. The newspaper wanted, as the first edition promised, “to be the voice of a liberal present open to all young people who want to participate in the intellectual and cultural transformation of Europe.” After twelve years of lying, it was said that the newspaper wanted to prove “that there is still a real democratic spirit in Germany.” That formulated a high, a very high standard.
For this reason I am writing about my newspaper in today’s newsletter, the Southgerman newspaper – and about what good journalism is. In my opinion, good journalism is journalism in which the journalists know that they have a task and that this task has to do with a fundamental right: Article 5 of the Basic Law, freedom of the press. Not every profession has its own basic right, strictly speaking only for one.
Clicks, reach, circulation – and trust
Polls on journalists’ image are not very good: it’s not as good as it needs to be and not as bad as it could be. Journalism must not only fulfill the task it has in the democratic media society in numerical terms; Journalism is a qualitative task. If journalism is of quality, it doesn’t depend on image campaigns: it needs good journalists. Journalism that people trust and trust is as important today, in 2020, as it was back in 1945. The big question is not: How do you create clicks, reach, circulation? The big question is: how do you create trust? Then there are clicks, reach and circulation.
Born in Munich, at home all over the world
Already in the sixties of the last century the Southgerman newspaper in the British House of Commons as one of “the pillars of democracy in Germany”. It managed to bring together many of the good and not a few of the best German journalists. Hans Habe, the writer and journalist, put together the first weekend supplement, Karl Valentin wrote stories in the local section. The newspaper accompanied the denazification, the democratization, the economic miracle. It developed into a national paper, it advertised with the motto: “Born in Munich, at home in the world”.
A special feature of the newspaper is the side light – not quite from the first issue, but almost. Since 1946 the side light has been on the first page, first column, top left. The side light is the lapel of the newspaper, “the carnation in the buttonhole”, as someone once said about this daily gloss. Who wants to know what the Southgerman newspaper that matters, he has to read the sidelight. There you can feel the spirit of the newspaper especially; and maybe also why it has become so successful. The gloss is a special form of comment – and that brings us to my favorite subject.
The professor and the booth woman
Years ago – I had to give the Theodor Herzl lectures on “Poetics of Journalism” at the University of Vienna – I tried to formulate my demands on the newspaper, whose editorial office I joined at the beginning of 1988: “She is a Journal that writes reports, analyzes, commentaries and editorials in such a way that it is not only a gain but also a pleasure to read. It satisfies hunger and it arouses appetite. It is a journal for both the university professor and for them Standlfrau from Viktualienmarkt. She is able to present even complex topics in such a way that the expert respects them and the layman understands. ” That’s how it should be; and that’s how it should stay.
My favorite journalistic subject was and is the commentary, the leading article, the column – that is, the contribution to the discussion. Its power certainly also depends on the edition of the sheet in which it appears, i.e. on the range of the medium. But that’s not all. A lame comment is and remains a lame comment, whether it is in the six-office messenger or in the Süddeutsche Zeitung is published. A comment should not leave you indifferent; it should stimulate or excite, it should either convince or provoke contradiction.
An editorial or a commentary is not democratic if it seeks to represent majority opinion; Nothing would be more boring – then you could have Forsa and the Wahlen research group write the comments alternately. An editorial is democratic when, let’s say a little pathetically, it helps to talk. A good editorial is like a stone thrown into the water: it does not change the quality of the water, but it draws circles.
Back then, in my lectures at the University of Vienna, that was in 2011, I got the Southgerman newspaper presented and described as follows: “It offers comprehensive and reliable information. It is an opinion leader in political and social discourse. It is a sheet of paper that carefully reviews, classifies and analyzes information. It is a place of democratic and enlightened discussion culture”. I wish it to be and stay that way Süddeutsche Zeitung for the 75th birthday.
Quality comes from agony: This quality phrase is in the Hamburg journalism school, but it does not only apply to journalism students. This sentence does not mean that readers and users should be tortured with superficial journalism. Quality comes from torture: This sentence requires journalists in all media to torture themselves to do the best; and it requires publishers and media managers to enable journalists to do their best. Then journalism will have a good, and then maybe even a bright future.