Austria and Germany: Comparing Journalists

March 10, 2009 • Media and Politics • by

Die Furche, March 4, 2009

When it comes to influencing the political agenda, speaking up for society’s disadvantaged, or drawing attention to deplorable circumstances, Austrian journalists differ greatly from their German colleagues.

A recent opinion poll led by Andy Kaltenbrunner and his research team, “Journalist-Report II:  Austria’s media makers and their motives,” surveyed a representative sample of 500 journalists.

Thirty-one percent of participants expressed a desire to influence the political agenda, and 60 percent consider it important to help underprivileged individuals.  These figures are more than double the results of Siegfried Weischenberg’s  2006 study of German journalists.  When it comes to criticizing deplorable circumstances, the difference is not so vast: 75 percent of Austrian journalists and 58 percent of German journalists found it important to speak up.

These numbers certainly suggest that German journalists tend to favor the Anglo-Saxon model of journalism more than Austrian journalists do, but the authors tread lightly. “This endorsement of critical-analytic journalism is, at first sight, pleasing and desirable from a democratic perspective,”  they say. On the other hand, they want to clear up misunderstandings:  “The specifically Austrian form of populist opinionated campaign journalism likes also to present itself in the garb of critical enlightenment.” At least the Austrian and German journalists agree on the importance of informing the public neutrally and accurately (Austria 92 percent, Germany 89 percent).  ). Perhaps only the journalists themselves can explain the $64,000 question of how these percentages fit together with other data.

But let’s bear in mind that such results simply illuminate the differences among European journalism cultures, even those who work within the same language.  Such cultural differences may also be viewed as precious enrichments that will only strengthen Europe.

Source: Andy Kaltenbrunner/Matthias Karmasin/Daniela Kraus/Astrid Zimmermann: Der Journalisten-Report II. Österreichs Medienmacher und ihre Motive. Eine repräsentative Befragung.* Vienna: Facultas Verlag, 2008

* The Journalist Report  II: Austria’s media makers and their motives. A representative opinion poll

Translation by Karin Eberhardt

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