On the demise of Julian Reichelt

Dear Reader,

Perhaps you’ve heard already. The “most powerful newsroom editor in Europe” lost his job this week after the New York Times published details of an internal investigation at the Axel Springer Verlag.

The man in question is Julian Reichelt, the now former editor-in-chief of Germany’s notorious national tabloid, Bild Zeitung.

Back in March the Axel Springer Verlag, which owns the Bild and Die Welt titles, announced that it was conducting an investigation into complaints of sexual misconduct against the Bild boss. But within a couple of weeks Reichelt was told to apologize for ‘hurt caused’ and things went back to normal.

Thanks to the NYT, we now know the investigation found far more damning testimony than Axel Springer let on. Female journalists described how their career chances were often dependent on whether they were prepared to sleep with the boss. There is only one conclusion to be drawn: Axel Springer saw Reichelt as too-good-to-fire and initially swept the allegations under the carpet, hoping the scandal would die down.

Reichelt allegedly took cocaine in the office and drove around in a bullet-proof vehicle. It’s easy to gain the impression of a paranoid tyrant who had his bosses wrapped around his finger.

At just 41 years of age, Reichelt was certainly an influential figure.

Bild Zeitung is the unchallenged leader among German news outlets with almost double the readership of any other news website.

But does that make Reichelt the most powerful newsroom editor in Europe (as the NYT claims)?

Those raw readership numbers hide the fact that Bild’s bark is often worse than its bite.

The editorial board - socially conservative but economically liberal - has been on the losing side of the argument on issues as diverse as gay marriage, the Greek bailout, ending gas reliance on Russia, and the nuclear power shutdown in recent years.

Not everything about Reichelt’s backstory fits into the picture of a right-wing villain either.

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