October 2, 2006

Print Media Revitalizes Regularly for Readership

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According to Prof. Ute Maschke, German studies, “you can add a question mark or an exclamation point to the phrase ‘The End of News,’ depending on” your personal beliefs.

Maschke is largely responsible for bringing the senior political editor of Die Zeit, Germany’s largest weekly newspaper, to Stimson Hall last Friday to present a lecture with that namee.

The beginning of Martin Klingst’s talk focused on the credentials of Die Zeit, which Maschke called “the weekly newspaper in Germany … probably also the weekly newspaper in Europe.”

Klingst said that Die Zeit was different from weekly magazines, particularly the major weekly German magazine Der Spiegel, since weekly newspapers are not well known in the U.S.

As for the interest throughout Europe for Die Zeit, Klingst said, “All papers [in Europe] are nationally-based and linked to national culture. Only the International Herald Tribune is internationally-based.”

He said Die Zeit largely does not try to attract a more international readership.

Members of the audience seemed to feel that, as German speakers not living in a German-speaking country, the paper had draw outside of Germany.

“With the number of expats living outside Germany … people have access to any paper from any place,” said Ari Linden grad.

After discussing the paper’s founding in 1946 and climb to profitability in the 1970s, Klingst focused on changes Die Zeit made starting in the 1990s to attract a flagging readership, including adding sections like “Life” and “Science,” starting a magazine about science issues that comes out four to six times a year, introducing color, adding pictures to the front page, promoting their feature story on the front page and, most recently, starting a magazine for students called “Campus.”

“In the ’90s people told us a weekly paper will not survive … [daily papers] are up-to-date … and with their weekend edition, they are like a weekly,” Klingst said.

Others attitudes changed as Die Zeit began to grow in readership while many daily papers lost readers, however.

“Suddenly people said only the weekly will survive because there is more information and thought … [and] dailies must compete with television,” Klingst said.

A major issue for media sources discussed at the talk was how people want to intake news — through paper editions, online sources, radio or television.

“Online is still a way in progress … If you don’t invest you will lose. The wishful thinking is: via online, you attract readers that will be so interested they will buy a printed paper. If this is realistic, I cannot tell you,” Klingst said in an interview with The Sun.

The journalists for the weekly print edition of Die Zeit are separate from those who write for the online edition. At the current time, Die Zeit does not put all of their print edition online, which Klingst said they have no obligation to do. Additionally, Klingst said the quality of the online edition does not compare to the quality of the print edition.

When asked by an audience member, Klingst defined quality as finding exact news, being precise and analytical, weighing arguments and counterarguments as well as writing well.

“[The online people] want more multimedia journalists who write and video tape,” Klingst told The Sun. “Their concentration is diversified; that cannot be good for quality.”

Much of Klingst’s talk focused on measures newspaper take to sustain themselves economically, such as establishing programs to go along with the paper. Die Zeit, for example, has published an encyclopedia, which it distributed free to subscribers, and CDs with commentaries.

“Quality is linked to this paper, but we need to put more programs on the market with our label,” Klingst told the audience.

He cautioned later that these extras need to reflect the quality of the newspaper publishing themselves because if readers are disappointed by the supplement, they will reflect badly on the paper.

Last year Die Zeit had their first ever open house at their office headquarters in Hamburg. The employees put their resumes on their doors and offered readers the opportunity to walk through the building and talk to the employees. According to Klingst, the planners figured the experiment would take only a few hours, but they ended up with a very long line of people who wanted to meet Die Zeit writers and editors.

Klingst’s visit was sponsored in part by a grant from the Faculty Innovation Teaching Program.