Christian Lindner, former editor-in-chief of the Rhein-Zeitung, has made a remarkable contribution plea for more social diversity in the editorial offices. One can only agree with his remarks, not only to hire “smooth students”, but also to give applicants with breaks in their resumes, working-class children and migrants a Chance. Socially circumscribed media sooner or later produce a journalism that is one-sided and unbalanced. Such journalism is poison for a democratic structure, but also for the media itself.
Media criticism is on everyone’s lips. Journalists have been under constant fire for years. Parts of the audience romp. The criticism is clear: media report too unilaterally, especially on the major social and political issues; opinions and analyses that deviate from the “truths” of the major media are marginalized or ignored. It is obvious that our media system with diversity of opinion and analysis has a big Problem. The observation of the major political talk shows alone shows that different points of view usually only move within a very narrow spectrum of opinion. And so it looks in the reporting of the “mainstream media”. Even federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said some time ago: “the opinion corridor has been wider. There is an astonishing homogeneity in German editors when they weigh and classify information.”
But why is that? What are the reasons? The spirits differ on the questions. Some believe that the uniformity of reporting is due to the fact that a strong controlling hand keeps media and journalists under control. But even if one takes into account that there are of course power-elite influences, that rulers have an interest in opinion-making and try to control and direct reporting: the state of our media system cannot be explained by a “mysterious power” in the background. The enduring uniformity in reporting does not come from outside, but from within, that is, from the journalistic field itself.
As early as 2006, the journalism researcher Siegfried weischenberg, in his fundamental study of the social backgrounds of journalists, drew attention to the fact that media are not a “mirror of the population” in terms of their social composition. “Journalists are not only different from the average population in terms of their formal education. They also recruit very clearly from one area of society: the middle class. About two-thirds of fathers of journalists (66.7 %) are or were employees or civil servants; Children of workers represent a small minority (8.6 %).
This much quoted finding is clear. There is no such comprehensive study to date. One can assume that the results will probably be even clearer today.
The consequences are far-reaching. When media recruit journalists who have experienced a very similar socialisation, have very similar lifestyles and educational biographies, it is obvious that the view of the world within the editorial offices is very similar. In a complex way, “socially negotiated” truths and realities emerge that further solidify an already more or less “common” view.
What is interesting is that the Problem is well known to media makers. Probably also in the course of the massive criticism of the reporting, the economic difficulties (circulation losses) etc.there seems to be at least in some media houses an awareness that editors urgently need to open themselves socially. But fundamental changes are far away.
Christian Lindner, former editor-in-chief of the Rhein-Zeitung, has now spoken out forcefully in favour of a broader recruitment mode in the media. “If you only hire” smooth-through students”, you will unintentionally concentrate even more lukewarm German SMEs in your editorial offices. So too few children of workers or migrants, " Lindner writes in a post kress.de.
And Lindner continues: “If, on the other hand, you are open to” other " applicants, you are doing more for the future of your company. Wilde Schulkarriere, Talent statt Abitur, math 5 / German 1, a craft learned, Abi nachgeholt, late Resettler, Turkish parental home, the first study aborted, worked in a completely different industry, served with the Bundeswehr, deeply religious, volunteer, referee, Ü30, A own project daring and messed up, dancing visually out of line: already this enumeration shows, which worlds of experience we open up when we break out of the cultivated family house Ghettos in terms of young talent.”
Lindner, who was also editor-in-chief of Bild am Sonntag for a short time, provides the reason for his flaming plea.
With " atypical applicants, we better reflect the German reality in our homes and thus the lives of our target groups.”
That is the point. To be as close as possible to “reality” – that is what the media desperately want. This is how journalists proclaim it. And: basically, media users also expect this. Media should capture reality as far as possible, be able to engage with it in order to describe it with as little friction loss as possible, to show it. This requires the ability to approach the subject of the report from different perspectives. More perspectives means a more complex picture. How, for example, does that part of the population who can only with difficulty scrape together the money for a few liters of gasoline to go to work think when an editor-in-chief with a lavishly endowed salary says that gasoline must become more expensive for climate protection? Who in the editorial team at Spiegel and Co could take up this perspective on the basis of his own life story, but above all: understand and make it understandable? Well.
Perhaps Lindner had a similar example in mind when he talks about editors opening up other “worlds of experience”.
At the end of his contribution, Lindner addresses the word directly to leading journalists. He says: “if you don’t already have a soft spot for applicants with breaks: try it! You’ll notice: it’s exciting out there. And – if you demand, promote and protect it-soon also inside. First in your media house, then in your media.”
Anyone who sees the damage that a socially closed media system has already done would like Lindner’s words to be printed out by all editorial offices and taken into account in their next personnel decisions. Ultimately, the ignorance of the media towards positions and voices from Milieus that are not found in the editorial offices also leads to damage in the democratic structure. If a section of the population gets the (true) impression that the media too often reports from the perspective of the rulers (because they feel more attached to the powerful because of their own social situation), then journalists themselves undermine their role as Guardians of democracy. Quite a few media users recognize – this becomes clear from their criticism-that media too often support the decisions of those in power. The frustration with media,” those up there”, with” the System " among parts of the population also comes from excluding broad social groups from the media discussion.
For what reason should the politically interested person working for the minimum wage also spend 200 euros of his low salary on an annual subscription of a medium whose editorial staff is not even able to report from his perspective without prejudice? Why should the poorer sections of our society support the media financially when they see that journalists are disinterested in pointing out the political reasons for the suffering of the poor?
In the end, media positioned in this way also scratch their own economic Basis. The cushion from the fat years may have contributed to a very relaxed handling of the deficits of the political diversity of opinion in the own ranks, but now even large media understand that it can depend on every Euro.
In short: both for their own economic interest, but also for the sake of democratic stability, the media urgently need to understand that, in addition to their beloved “milieu truths”, other perspectives also belong in the paper.
Hence: yes, it must become uncomfortable in the editorial offices-at least in terms of the cherished and cultivated world views there. However, This is easy to say. It’s just not realistic. As we know,” Leaf lines " and diversity of opinion do not get along very well.
Even if there may be a certain willingness in some editorial offices to provide for a little more social diversity in journalism: the internal and external resistance must not be underestimated.
What if a journalist with Afghan roots would comment on the questionable role of “the West” in his country in the Daily News? What if a Journalist with Russian roots reported in today’s journal about the critical role of NATO states in the Ukraine crisis? What if suddenly journalists from poorer families in the FAZ were to comment with the necessary sharpness on the federal government’s behaviour with regard to poverty in the country?
It is not only personal annoyance in the editorial offices that their truths are being scratched that is an obstacle to the social opening of the media. Analyses of internal German conditions, positions on Afghanistan, Russia or Syria, which contradict the views of the major media, are often also attacks on the ruling politics. In other words, how media are positioned in terms of Personnel, how they report, how broad the opinion corridor within the systemically relevant media is of great importance for the powerful. Fundamental personnel changes in the media, which would lead to reports critical of the rule, are likely to result in massive resistance from outside, on the part of the rulers.
Hence: Lindner’s call for more social diversity in the editorial offices is important and appropriate. But it will, presumably, fade away.