Horny editors, thorny editors

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Horny editors

The mud slinging in the German media in the aftermath of the sacking of Bild Zeitung boss Julian Reichelt knows no end. Reichelt was fired after an internal investigation found that he would secure plumb jobs for younger journalists whom he was having affairs with.

One magazine took a particular interest in the story. Der Spiegel, which Reichelt sued over similar allegations earlier this year, flogged its print edition earlier this month by promising readers revelations of “sex, lies and exploitation” at Bild.

Now, we all know that those who live in glass houses probably shouldn’t throw stones. And that’s especially true if you have some angry ex-employees waiting outside carrying sling shots.

Former Spiegel columnist Jan Fleischhauer, who left the magazine under a cloud a couple of years back, couldn’t resist the chance to lob a rock back at his former employer.

“I don’t want to go into details here, indiscretion is not my thing,” Fleischhauer wrote in his weekly column for Focus magazine. “But a head of department who takes his secretary to the hotel? A correspondent who stalks his assistant? The editor-in-chief who falls in love with a female editor? There’s a ‘dirty boys club,’ at more than one newsroom,” he wrote, suggestively.

He then recounted how Der Spiegel found Rudolf Augstein used to meet female applicants at job interviews dressed only in a shower robe before asking “Do you want to fuck, too?”

Fleischhauer even alluded to a top editor at the Hamburg magazine who is currently having an extra-marital affair with a junior female colleague.

Talk about burning bridges!


Karl the comic

Poor old Karl Lauterbach isn’t in a good mood at the moment. The SPD politician, who has taken on the role of Germany’s highest soothsayer during the pandemic, isn’t going to get the promotion to Health Minister that he’d been hoping for.

The former doctor has earned cult status with his pessimistic predictions during the past year and a half. Newspapers found it hard to resist daily headlines along the lines of “Lauterbach macht düstere Prognose” (Lauterbach makes gloomy prognosis) which were almost certain to generate heated discussion among fans and foes alike.

The SPD leadership patiently let Lauterbach do his thing, even though he never corrected the false impression that he was speaking in an official capacity as SPD health spokesman (that is a role held by MdB Sabine Dittmar).

Now that the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us, the Social Democrats have fairly unsentimentally pushed their media star aside.

Firstly, he wasn’t invited to the talks with teh FDP and Greens on the pandemic measures that would be put in place once the national state of emergency ends later this month. Now, Bild Zeitung is reporting that the Greens are going to get the health ministry and that Lauterbach isn’t even in the running for a ministerial position.

Judging by a recent interview with ZDF, Lauterbach has found that a bitter pill to swallow.

Asked to give advice to new SPD parliamentarians, the veteran MdB replied with a straight face: “Always go with the flow. Be careful when voicing criticism, do it just a little or not at all.”

He then gave a commentary on SPD Chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz. “I don’t know anyone more idealistic than Olaf Scholz, the man is ideals on legs,” he said without the faintest hint of irony.

Ouch.


Thorny editors

More media news. State broadcaster ARD has taken a tough line on dissent in its own ranks, firing a journalist who wrote a blog post criticizing their coverage of the pandemic.

Ole Skambraks, a journalist at the national broadcaster’s south-western studio (SWR), complained in an article for an independent outlet that the public broadcaster had silenced internal discussion on topics such as the origins of the coronavirus, generic medications against Covid-19, and the danger of the disease for specific age groups.

According to Skambraks, when he brought up these and other controversial topics in editorial meetings he was met with stony silence or told that he was wrong and no further discussion was permitted.

This week SWR confirmed that it had fired him for “deliberately discrediting the organisation and its employees.” The broadcaster said that Skambraks was not involved in top level editorial meetings so could not have known what decisions were made there. It also defended itself by saying that it had reported on the topics he raised.

The website that published Skambraks’ post, Multipolar, reacted to the sacking by saying that: “The public broadcaster refuses to be self-critical, but feels so threatened by critics that it dismiss their arguments as disinformation.”


Merkel’s farewell

Last week was a historic one for Germany. Angela Merkel was given her Entlassungsurkunde (certificate of discharge) by the president of the Bundestag. As the new parliament was sworn in, the Chancellor watched from a balcony up above.

How historians will treat Merkel is a fascinating discussion. Did she carefully piece together difficult compromises to maintain stability in Europe during 16 years of economic and political turbulence? Or did she baulk at making the tough calls that would have ensured sustainable success for the country and the wider continent?

Whatever one thinks of the outgoing Chancellor as a leader, no one can accuse her of is being prone to melodrama. So it was sobering to read one of her last major interviews as Chancellor with the Frankfurter Allgemeine am Sonntag in which she described a world that has become much more dangerous during her time in power.

She warned that:

“The world is anything but in a stable state. We must be careful that, after the great joy of the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Europe, we do not now enter a historical phase in which important lessons from history fade away.”


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