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Germany
Online News in Europe
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"Online news media in Germany had a major breakthrough during 2001," says Mathias M?ller von Blumencron, editor-in-chief of Spiegel Online (whom OJR profiled a year ago). "Several publishers like Der Spiegel, Germany's leading newsmagazine, and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of the leading papers, invested in the editorial staffs of their news sites, so that several high-quality operations compete in the marketplace. The tragic events of Sept. 11 gave a huge boost to readership and demonstrated for many readers that they can get in-depth, high-quality coverage on the Net."

Spiegel Online -- in 1994 it became the first major news magazine to go online, beating out Time.com by one day -- delivers around-the-clock news coverage and attracts 15 million visits a month (unique users aren't measured in Germany), making it by far the largest news site in the country. Arguably, it's the top newsmagazine site in the world.

For young talent especially, the Internet is increasingly becoming the entrance into serious journalism

The site is run by former print editors of Der Spiegel (Europe's largest magazine) and Financial Times Deutschland, and the staff was assembled from journalists at leading newspapers and newscasts. The online staff works closely with their print counterparts, Blumencron says, and the print magazine's editors contribute regularly to the site. As a result, "The news on the site is closely watched by politicians, managers and journalists of other newspapers, and investigative stories, breaking news and exclusive interviews with leading members of the government are common."
 
The advertising downturn has hit German media and Web sites hard, and every site had to scale back its staff, Blumencron says. "But the worst seems to be over. And for young talent especially, the Internet is increasingly becoming the entrance into serious journalism."

Mark Deuze, the research associate in Amsterdam, co-authored a detailed report for the European Journalism Centre on new-media training and attitudes toward the online medium by media professionals in a half-dozen European nations. 

In Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium, Deuze's studies show an emerging professional group of online journalists with a distinctively different view on the profession than their colleagues elsewhere in the media: more focused on connectivity, community and service. But overall, many journalists are critical of new media's impact on their profession.

"Journalism is becoming more and more about managing information instead of telling stories," Deuze says. "Journalists sometimes describe their work as 'editorial cybernetization': journalism that has become less about storytelling and more about managing information or data-crunching. Part of their jobs has become to process or story-board information that has come from outside the newsroom, leading some to wonder about the credibility of the information and journalists' role in the news-gathering process. They don't like it, and I can understand that. When I started in journalism, I wanted to tell stories, I wanted to write, which is still the dominant reason why people enter the profession."

Deuze, who also wrote a report about new forms of journalism emerging online for Denmark's First Monday, says editors in Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark are now realizing that their biggest priority should be to train their online staffs. "A great many news staffs are feeling stressed out, aren't up to speed on the latest technologies, and feel as if they're merely managing information," he says. "As one editor told me, 'I don't take my journalists seriously unless they take at least one month out of the year to get retrained.'"

Noteworthy sites

Spiegel Online (and English version)
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (and English edition)
Netzeitung (daily Net-only newspaper)
Handelsblatt financial site (and English edition)
IndyMedia (alternative media)

 

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On to Great Britain...