How to write a bad article

Over media

In an essay in “Welt am Sonntag”, Susanne Gaschke complains about the “hubris of journalists”. In spite of all the justified criticism of this profession: most of the colleagues can probably not keep up with Susanne Gaschke's hubris.

Gaschke was an editor at “Zeit” for a long time, then failed briefly as Kiel SPD mayor and now writes for “Welt”.

She begins her text with three quotes, which are intended to demonstrate the exaggerated self-confidence of the journalists. One of them goes like this:

In an anniversary interview on the weekly newspaper's 70th birthday, a member of the "Zeit" editorial team said, albeit with a qualifying suffix: "We journalists have a muezzin position."

Indeed, there is a "qualifying suffix" (which Gaschke does not mention to be on the safe side). The deputy "Zeit" editor-in-chief Sabine Rückert said in the "Meedia" interview:

On the other hand, we journalists always have a muezzin position. What we call can still be heard louder. You have to behave differently. The old ruthlessness according to the motto “I am the 'time', I am right” can no longer be afforded today. Which is fine.

In the context, the supposed self-confidence that is on display becomes a plea for humility or at least a sense of responsibility.

But Ms. Gaschke still has two examples of hubris:

In an article from this spring, “Spiegel” compared journalists with the democratically elected members of parliament: “If you will, the media in Germany are also representative. Journalists have made it their job to weight the news and decide what is important and what is not so important, ”write the authors - and ask their readers the“ question of trust ”.

Not much remains of the presumption that Gaschke reads from these lines when one reads the next sentences in the "Spiegel" piece:

It is not the individual journalists who have power, but the institution they work for, such as newspapers or magazines. They have to assert themselves in the market and are free to choose their attitudes. From the conservative “FAZ” to the left-wing “taz”, it was a social process that had been practiced for decades and that went more or less well.

The internet has messed up all of that. It promotes the anti-institutional impulse of the people. The anti-elitist. The autonomous one.

It is an unusually thoughtful "mirror" text. It ends with the following sentences:

We would like to know your opinion about the German media, the work of journalists and the reporting of SPIEGEL.

Please write to us at: trust [email protected]

But Gaschke has a third example of what she calls "journalistic superhumanity" with reference to the late FAZ editor Frank Schirrmacher:

“The media are the fourth estate,” a former editor-in-chief of the “Berliner Zeitung” reportedly once joked, “but what are the other three again?”

A joke. A joke at least eight years old. And the "former editor-in-chief" who is said to have made it is the highly controversial Josef Depenbrock, who took this position in 2006 against the opposition of the editors, during an unfortunate phase in which the paper belonged to the financial investor David Montgomery.

These are the three examples of hubris among journalists with which Susanne Gaschke introduces her text about hubris among journalists. Yo.

Gaschke notices - unsurprisingly - an alienation between the audience and the classic media, a previously unimagined degree of dissatisfaction. As the "most powerful" trend in the "journalistic craft" that contributed to this, she - quite surprisingly - identifies the departure from (party) politically clearly identifiable journalism:

Anyone who read Ulrike Meinhof or looked at Gerhard Löwenthal's ZDF magazine knew what he was getting into. And wanted either to feel confirmed in his own worldview or to get upset about the absurd arguments of the other side. The media user was granted the sovereignty to classify the sender's point of view.

Was that the good old days? Where the audience-media relationship was still intact? Times when you knew where a journalist was and therefore knew beforehand whether you would be angry with him or have to agree with him? And anyway: Is that the job of journalism? To be predictably biased in order to confirm people's judgments, for the sake of clarity?

The fact that there are no more Meinhofs and Löwenthals could of course also be due to the fact that times have changed, but to pretend there are no longer any journalists with a point of view is completely absurd. Perhaps someone could show her the leading articles by Jasper von Altenbockum in the “FAZ” or that by Heribert Prantl in the “SZ”?

But Gaschke claims:

For about 20 years - and perhaps not coincidentally parallel to the neoliberal movement, which also believed in a single, quasi-scientific truth in political and economic questions - journalism has been said to be more and more decidedly “neutral”. At least as far as the political point of view is concerned (...).

Who is asking for that? Perhaps the estranged audience, but Gaschke thinks, on the contrary, that this duty of neutrality is a problem. “Neutrality” is a straw man anyway, because in their training journalists have been learning for decades that there is no such thing as “objectivity”. Gaschke:

Many publishers operate with compliance rules that are supposed to guarantee this neutrality.

I've never heard of such a rule. What there are, for example with “Zeit”, are rules against conflicts of interest for journalists who hold a party mandate. But compliance rules that are supposed to guarantee neutrality? Really?

Gaschke then criticizes, among other things, the lack of empathy of journalists and the herd instinct and recycles formulations, examples and findings from an article she wrote seven years ago for “Die Zeit” - apparently supplemented by bitterness from her experiences with the media business as a politician .

She is not wrong with her fundamental criticism of many forms of journalism. But your text is the best example of bad journalism because it doesn't care about facts.

As an example of how journalists maliciously harm politicians, she cites Klaus Wowereit, who had to have his interviewers certify that he was an “empty shell that speaks in pods”. Here, too, Gaschke does not name the specific source (just as her article does not link any of the criticized texts online). It is a farewell portrait of Hajo Schumacher and Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre in the “Berliner Morgenpost”, which deals extensively with how a politician - especially in response to attacks by the media - closes himself off and “armours”. The article ends with how Wowereit once "accidentally" becomes concrete and personal and vulnerable - and the speaker says afterwards that he must of course underline that when authorizing. It's an article that details the difficult media-politics relationship - and where it can lead. And Susanne Gaschke chooses that as an example of journalism that only wants to hurt?

The only thing that is even crazier is that she laments "the (certainly not at all appropriate) description of Peer Steinbrück as a 'sad clown'" "by journalists.

Peer Steinbrück has not been described as a sad clown. Steinbrück said in reference to the elections in Italy in 2013 that he was "downright appalled that two clowns have won". Bernhard Paul, the boss of Circus Roncalli, complained to him in a letter and signed: "A sad clown greets you."

Susanne Gaschke wanted to write an article about how bad journalism has become and immediately set a bad example.