Edition 2/2020

Table of contents

Editorial 2/2020 Crisis management

It was not planned, but an undoubted consequence of the precarious situation in which the profession of journalism now finds…

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New paths in journalism, a crossroads for education

by Konstantin Schätz and Susanne Kirchhoff / The professional field of journalism is changing rapidly – and so is journalism education. This study takes the Austrian educational institutions as an example to show which challenges journalism education currently faces and how it responds to them. In addition, the analysis of the course programs and guided interviews with program developers give insight into how the digitalization of journalism has been integrated in the curricula and how the status quo fits into current international debates about an adequate journa­lism education.

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The Commercial Advertiser in America’s New Journalism around 1900 Journalistic entrepreneurial spirit between the press' commercialization and its role in society

by Hendrik Michael / The Commercial Advertiser between 1897 and 1901 is considered a journalistic experiment in New Journalism. Under chief local editor Lincoln Steffens, the idea was to produce a local paper that was able to meet the need for information and entertainment among the educated middle classes and a new generation of immigrants through stylistic quality and unusual forms of address. This study attempts to reconstruct the situational contexts behind the project and examines the entrepreneurial spirit in the editorial office of the Commercial Advertiser in relation to a commercial media logic of New Journalism and its established routines of research and presentation. In this context, there is a discussion to be had about how the reinterpretation of professional conventions, the dismantling of editorial hierarchies and routines, and the integration of marginalized actors as journalistic perspectives in reporting can affect the success and quality of innovative journalistic projects.

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›Spotify for journalism,‹ ›publishing house platform,‹ or ›digital press wholesaler‹ Three scenarios for a cross-publisher journalism platform

by Christian-Mathias Wellbrock / Information technology is enabling the spread of digital platforms in numerous sectors of the economy – and the media sector is no exception. Key parts of content distribution in film, music and games is already happening in this way. Digital journalism, however, is yet to see this development. The explanation often given is various reservations towards such a platform on the part of publishing houses, usually based on the assumption that this platform would be operated by a third company and have the corresponding disadvantages. In addition, most believe that access to the content of the various providers would be via a central point, thus ripping the content out of the brand environment of the respective provider. This paper discusses three scenarios for a cross-publisher, subscription-based journalism platform. The scenarios differ in terms of platform operator (technology companies, a collaboration between German publishing houses, and a public service provider) and address the arguments described above. The paper argues that regional newspaper publishers have a strong incentive to collaborate to establish such a platform as an alternative to a platform controlled by a global technology company, since regional publishing houses – unlike many national media – are usually not in direct competition with one another. In terms of the social welfare, on the other hand, a public service platform that guarantees non-discriminatory access on the provider side (a kind of ›digital press wholesaler‹) appears preferable. This could halt the trend towards concentration at the distribution level, enable journalistic competition and diversity at the production level, helping to ensure a diversity of media and opinions and prevent ›news deserts‹.

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Will coronavirus harm right-wing populists? Hopes that the pandemic will also destroy political populism may be premature

by Nina Horaczek / Numerous political commentators see the end of political populism approaching in view of the Corona epidemic. Indeed, the popularity ratings of populist parties have been in decline since the outbreak of the corona crisis. But the virus offers populists also great opportunities for their media discourse. They frame Corona, the invisible, stateless virus, into a tangible scapegoat. Not without reason US-President Donald Trump speaks of a »Chinese virus«. To spread their message, populists on both sides of the Atlantic can rely on a media network that they and their confidants have very cleverly built up in recent years.

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Disinfection journalism Reporting on coronavirus has not been a beacon of orientation

by Timo Rieg / The journalistic reporting on the coronavirus pandemic displayed many essentially familiar deficits. Research and diversity of opinion came up particularly short. Journalism failed to ask crucial questions or look for critical voices. At the same time, policymakers were implementing measures that will have effects and side-effects for many years to come and for which, given its lack of involvement, the democratic sovereign cannot bear responsibility.

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Unjustified media critique The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated not the failure, but the value of journalism

by Tanjev Schultz / We are living in strange times. Few other countries have (so far) dealt with the coronavirus crisis as well as Germany, yet there are many who would have you think that the country and its institutions are on the brink of ruin. Arrogant media critique is not satisfied with merely highlighting the errors and mistakes that the press has undoubtedly made – it clamors to diagnose systemic failure of the media. This type of media critique noticeably suffers from exactly the distortions that it claims to see in journalism itself: negativity, one-sidedness, and exaggeration.

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The neglect of media critique

by Timo Rieg / Tanjev Schultz takes a different view from me on how German-language journalism has reported on the coronavirus. This was not just likely, but truly ›without alternative,‹ at least if we drill down to the tiniest details. After all, what we both have to say are points of view – »based on individual observations and opinions,« as the pre-print study by Quandt et. al. quoted by Schultz puts it. Such a wide-ranging spectrum of opinions or interpretations is exactly what I have missed in the reporting on coronavirus. Of course it was »multi-faceted,« and even underdog Jakob Augstein had the chance to say something somewhere outside his own weekly paper. But our role here is not one of a judging panel for a journalism prize, searching for pearls in a sea of oysters.

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Thomas Hanitzsch, Josef Seethaler, Vinzenz Wyss (Eds.): Journalismus in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz [Journalism in Germany, Austria and Switzerland] Reviewed by Roger Blum

This book is the first of its kind. Journalism in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have been examined many times, but never before together and using identical questions. Despite this, the first feeling one has upon reading this work is one of tedium – the results do not teach us anything new about the 41,000 German, 4,000 Austrian and 10,000 Swiss journalists. But then comes something truly striking and controversial: Although more than 90 percent of the media people surveyed see themselves as neutral communicators of information, they see their role of providing critique and monitoring as almost negligible. Only 20 percent in Germany and Austria, and 22 percent in Switzerland, view themselves as a counterweight to the government. That figure for the USA is 86 percent. Just 29 percent of the German, 13 percent of the Austrian, and 47 percent of the Swiss journalists trust the government, and clear majorities believe that it is acceptable to use confidential government documents without permission occasionally – yet they do not want to scrutinize the government. The study shows that there is a need for action here, and that the journalistic community in the three countries needs to hold a debate about how it sees its role! continue to article

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Katherine M. Engelke: Die journalistische Darstellung von Vertrauen, Misstrauen und Vertrauensproblemen im Kontext der Digitalisierung [The journalistic representation of trust, mistrust, and trust problems in the context of digitalization] Reviewed by Beatrice Dernbach

Trust is the buzz word of the modern age. Who trusts whom and why? Or rather: Why are some people not (or no longer) trusted? Is mistrust in political and economic actors growing? PR agency Edelman has been researching trust in governments, non-governmental organizations, business, and the media for 20 years (https://www.edelman.de/research/edelman-trust-barometer-2020). Unfortunately, this link is not included in the otherwise very comprehensive bibliography of the dissertation by Katherine M. Engelke. Although this is not a problem, its inclusion would have enabled a broader view of empirical findings on the object of the research. However, this comment is of little importance given the author’s overall achievement. continue to article

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Kai von Lewinski (Ed.): Immersiver Journalismus [Immersive journalism] Reviewed by Markus Kaiser

The »next big thing in human-machine interaction« is how Kai von Lewinski, editor of the book Immersiver Journalismus, refers to virtual and augmented reality. That was the reason behind the »Immersive journalism – technology, effect, regulation« conference at the University of Passau in March 2018. Now the transcript publishing house has put together the papers presented there in a collected volume in a Media Studies edition. continue to article

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Yoel Cohen (Ed.): Spiritual News. Reporting Religion around the World Reviewed by Nigjar Marduchaeva

»Corruption, political intrigue, sex, violence, and fiscal irregularities make good religion news« (21). In exaggerated yet undoubtedly fitting style, Yoel Cohen describes – based on the idea that »only bad news are good news« – the common idea of religion journalism. In a total of 19 pieces, this collected volume clearly demonstrates that the topic is much more wide-ranging than this phrase suggests. What does the reporting focus on; how is its content steered; and which influencing factors determine its thrust? Spiritual News examines these and many other questions. continue to article

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