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Germany – (E9) Participation

Score in short:

Audience participation is widely established with classical instruments, but there is a growing amount of new means of audience involvement.

Score in detail:

Of course, there are the traditional avenues for participation in the news process, like letters to the editor or audience response by email and telephone. These forms of feedback are widely used and usually answered by special assistants or the journalists themselves. Only very few of these letters, however, will be published in specifically assigned columns or pages of the newspapers and magazines. TV and radio stations do not provide this kind of space for audience feedback. Most of the interviewed editors pointed out that the Internet is generally used as a platform both for the exchange between readers, listeners or viewers and for communication with the news media. Moreover, Internet presence is a place for corrections, especially for TV programmes that do not provide any space for corrections on their programme.

By instituting the so-called eyewitness reporter – which is supposed to represent a representative sample of the German population – one of the news media to offer ample opportunity for participation in the news process is N24. Civic journalism is encouraged by having the readers send in pictures and short videos. This feature cannot be widely used, as there are only two journalists in the newsroom who can supervise those activities. Obviously, the question remains whether these forms of participation meet journalistic standards. WAZ founded reader councils. The local editorial offices consult the readers’ advisory board regularly. The influence of the readers’ advisory board on the news process must be assessed as high because, according to the editorial office, the board’s suggestions are usually implemented. And finally, WDR features a large number of programmes where listeners can call in and interact. In addition to that, WDR regularly provides so-called Listener Days, which give the audience the opportunity to produce radio reports that are aired after being checked by an editor. All in all, there is a lack of opportunities for reader participation in journalism; only a few of the main news media allow editorial space for the public voice. But it seems as if there has been some improvement in this area over the past years: A tendency towards more participation with instruments like reader reporters or reader advisory council can be detected.