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Germany – (C4) Journalism professionalism

Score in short:

There are signs of high professionalism, such as strong unions and frequent ethical debates, but the increasing workload of German journalists is a menace to news quality.

Score in detail:

Journalists and journalists’ unions agree on the question of workload: Both believe that the daily work load has significantly increased over the past years – and is still increasing. One consequence of this is less time for in-depth investigation. Two of the interviewed news media state that there is not enough staff for investigative research because the newsroom journalists have more than enough work with daily news composition. This work overload might be the result of job cuttings in the media. It cannot be referred to multi-media requirements, as the media companies have employed additional staff for online sites.

In Germany, journalists are organized in the unions DJu and DJV, which of course provide more or less regular training in ethical questions. Furthermore, they offer consultations on law and have national annual congresses where questions of ethics, the future of work or the journalists’ self-image are discussed. Congresses and meetings in the federal states’ sections of the unions are common as well.

Debates on ethics take place, but media journalists in newspapers as well as in TV, radio, and the Internet do not regularly discuss these matters. Most often these debates are reactions to current issues, like the coverage of the accident at the Loveparade in 2010. In such cases, ethical debates in the media occur, but their effect is limited. Public debates about journalistic behaviour are quite rare.