Journalists & Media: The largest European newspaper publisher, Axel Springer AG, commits all editors to moral and political goals

Posted in Best practices | 12-Feb-13

Axel Springer AG, the largest European newspaper publisher and owner of newspapers such as "Bild" and "Die Welt", includes language in employment contracts which commits editors to upholding moral and political ideals. These are outlined in the following excerpt of an employment contract:

ยง 2 General position of the newspaper
[The newspaper under the control of Axel Springer AG] has the following general position:
- unequivocal advocacy for the free constitutional state of Germany as a member of the Western community of states, and promotion of the endeavors toward unity of the peoples of Europe
- the prmotion of reconciliation between Jews and Germans: this includes support for the vital rights of the people of Israel
- the rejection of all forms of political totalitarianism
- the defense of the free social market economy.

The above rules show that pure commerce can be linked with ethical and moral principles in media companies. Why should editors not commit themselves through employment contracts or, better yet, negotiated editorial voluntary agreements to show tolerance and respect for other religions, races, and ethnic minorities?

The sole attention to viewing rates on TV and brutal sensations in print media, as well as the supposed rule, "Only bad news is good news", has led to utterly distorted reporting in the last decades. With an exaggerated focus on hate and violence, this style of reporting has made violence popular.

The excuse of many editors - that they are just showing reality, is not true. They do not show the reality of tolerance and intolerance, but simply 99% intolerance and thus have become electronic mouthpieces of hate and violence.

Especially for young people and children, the infatuation of the media with violence is toxic. The world is not defined by positive role models but by killers and terrorists. The skewed emphasis on violence provokes further (reactive) violence - a perpetuum mobile.

Behind this negative reporting there is another, further factor: the laziness of the media to research deep, true stories and to empatheically present them. The know all too well that this requires more work and time than pure repetition of the same images of murder, expulsion and brutality.

Yet these images have indeed - because we have seen them thousands of times alreay - become extremely boring, nothing more than a cheap mass commodity which is essentially unaltered and interchangeable over time.

The portrayal of Islam as prone to violence also does not correspond to reality, but leads to agitation in the western world against Muslims which is unacceptable. In recognition of the religious beliefs of the peoples of this world, tolerance and respect are needed, not depictions of the "other" as an enemy. The same holds for Islam in the Western media, Juadism in the Islamic world, and countless other contexts.

See Axel Springer AG here