Can news media ruin a criminal case?

From the newsroomFake news - an interim balance

"What should one still believe in times of fake news?" This is the question that listeners ask us every day. There is no one answer. Here are some considerations. Short version: The situation is serious, but by no means hopeless.

For more than two years, "fake news" has been the subject of intense talk all over the world. On the surface, the discussion has a lot to do with Donald Trump. But despite all the excitement about the unprecedented US president, "fake news" is not a new phenomenon. The matter is complicated and dangerous far beyond Trump. It's also about a lot more than just journalism.

Danger to democracy

One thing is clear: if the poison of "fake news" and "fake news" accusations work, should most people at some point consider all information and all sources to be similarly dubious, then this would not just be the end of news culture. It would also mean the downfall of a regulated social and political discussion and decision-making. Hannah Arendt put it this way in 1951 in "Elements and origins of totalitarian rule": "The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the staunch Nazi or committed communist, but people for whom the difference between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists."

From my point of view, I summarize the state of affairs here in a few theses, as it were as a collective answer to many listeners. *

A clarification of terms

The term "fake news" is emotionally charged. But I also find it extremely problematic beyond that. It darkens more than it brightens. Especially since actors like Trump managed to rededicate it and attach it to certain news media as a label. Trump's "Fake News Media" roughly corresponds to the German "Lügenpresse". The term "news" must not mislead us: It is not just a problem of the mainstream news media. All areas of society are affected, everyone is called to do something about it.

So we have to take a closer look. False news falls into different categories. Roughly speaking, they can be determined by the degree of falsehood, by the intention and by the nature of the actors. Here is a list of some important categories.

Formats such as "heute show" on ZDF also produce "fake news". However, the intention is not to be mislead. (dpa-Bildfunk / Rolf Vennenbernd)

Satire or parody: Yes, "heute show", "Der Postillon" and Jan Böhmermann also deliver "fake news". They spread fake news. Except that most of the time we all notice and that the intent is not misleading, but satire, ridicule and entertainment.

Half-truths: A very common case. The world is full of half-truths. We all almost never know everything about a subject. Somebody said something, but it's taken out of context. ("Green politician x:" Tempo 80 on the autobahn would be good for the environment. "The second sentence is missing:" But that is completely unrealistic. ") One number is correct, but it needs some explanation. (Here are two classics: the Depicting the crime rate of migrants as above average without breaking down the offenses, or depicting the educational achievement of immigrants as low without mentioning the social correlation.)

Half-truths are linked to something that is actually available and verifiable and is therefore particularly persistent. They give those who spread it and those who believe in it the opportunity to insist on the real ingredient - against all arguments. Half-truths are ideal for disinformation.

Images that are taken out of context and / or get the wrong headline: This "fake news" sub-phenomenon is very important on the web and on social media. (Angela Merkel has just spoken to the Vice Chancellor for a long time, but the picture shows the moment when she looks grim and yawns after the long night in Brussels. Headline maybe: "What's going on with Merkel and Scholz? Chancellor irritated and bored. "Or the section of the image that makes a demonstration appear much larger or much smaller than it actually is.)

Total falsifications of a message: For example with the source or content. Something like that is usually noticed quickly. Just think of the fax from January 2000, with which Helmut Kohl supposedly announced that he would now name the secret CDU patrons in the party donation scandal. After a short time and after great excitement in Germany, the denial came.

The situation is different with massive and complex disinformation campaigns, such as the attempted Russian influence on the US election campaign in 2016. The "New Yorker" recently described in detail what exactly happened there and to what extent it could have influenced the outcome of the election.

One of the first journalists to report on the so-called troll factories in Saint Petersburg is her Finnish colleague Jessikka Aro. The BBC described how she herself became a target of cyber attacks and reputational damage afterwards. More or less the same means were used that are also used for political purposes. No wonder, because the destruction of their reputation had also become a political purpose.

In a new analysis by the Brookings Institute, the following thought is suggested: Conscious of its fundamental technical and industrial backwardness, Russia could rely even more on the use of artificial intelligence for disinformation, the one point that keeps Moscow's influence affordable at world power level; of course, Russia is not the only actor using these means.

Of course, the USA, too, has repeatedly tried to influence elections, including in Germany. The American political scientist Dov H. Levin argues that the US has so far done this much more often than Russia.

Disinformation also drives other powerful interests beyond politics. Today we ask ourselves: How could the tobacco companies manage to keep the health risks of smoking low in the public perception for decades? And already in 2010, when nobody was talking about "fake news", "Der Spiegel" reported how commissioned scientists played down passive smoking and acid rain, the ozone hole and climate change.

Disinformation campaigns, supported by fake accounts and bots, are difficult to control and do not primarily run through the traditional media business. The same can also be said for related activities - advertising and PR on social media. These activities are also manipulative and influential.

Here are two more points that show the problems of journalism and that have at least indirectly to do with "fake news":

Prejudice / editorial bias / "mainstream" journalism: Putin is always right or wrong, nuclear power is always bad, wind turbines are always good, Keynes is the solution for our economic and social policy or neoliberalism. Three months of welcoming culture journalism, then refugee problem journalism.

Missing topics: From my point of view, the choice of topics is very important, even if not always considered. Even if you are absolutely correct in all messages, the selection can be the problem. Are we still reporting enough about Syria and is Yemen falling short? Do we have enough poverty in Germany on our radar and why is the car so powerful in many journalistic minds here?

These two points, with which I go beyond the usual definitions of "fake news", also contribute to the accusation of the "gap press". From my point of view, its content is to be taken much more seriously than the bad word of the "lying press", at least if you make the gap not only in issues such as migration or crime.

"Fake News" - this is nothing new

It may be relieving or depressing - the phenomenon is not new at all, it is as old as humanity. "Semper aliquid haeret", something always gets stuck, said the Romans - and they weren't the first to know the magical effect of rumors and half-truths. What we currently call "fake news" and disinformation has been used since the dawn of mankind.

Caesar used fake news when it came to power. (imago / UIG)

For example in politics. Whoever wanted to harm the Pharaoh or Pericles brought stories about them into circulation. And when Caesar and Charlemagne fought opponents, the rulers did the same for their part. Not only secular princes, but also the churches and many others have always made ample use of the remedy.

Constantine donation and stab in the back legend

What is certain is that there is still a lot of "fake news" in our history books that has settled and has not yet been discovered. One of the most successful "false news" in history is the "Donation of Constantine". An alleged imperial decree from the fourth century on which the popes have long based their claim to secular rule. As we know today, the document was probably made around the year 800.

The propaganda lie that is still known today as the "stab in the back" is world-famous. The idea that Germany had lost the First World War "undefeated in the field" through the actions of cowardly politicians met with open ears and contributed significantly to the discrediting of the Weimar Republic.

One of the worst fakes in history

We experienced the worst excesses of "fake news" in the political field in dictatorships, the worst in murderous Nazi Germany, when the deaths of millions of people were prepared and accompanied by slander.

In the Soviet Union, the KGB used so-called "active measures" to influence the public, including the public in other countries. These are the forerunners of today's Russian activities, such as influencing the 2016 US presidential election.

One of the worst fakes in history comes from Russia in the early 20th century. The tsarist secret police invented the so-called "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", which many (unteachable) people still use today as evidence of an alleged Jewish world conspiracy.

Lies as weapons of mass destruction

The list of "fake news" used to fuel war or civil war is long. The lies behind the genocide in Rwanda and Mao's Cultural Revolution, behind the war in the former Yugoslavia and the rule of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia - these are just four gruesome examples from the 20th century.

Lies can easily become weapons of mass destruction. This is one of the reasons why the Allies built up public service broadcasting in Germany after 1945, which some now consider superfluous or at least want to limit it on the Internet. But only by the way.

Spin and PR have also conquered free societies

Within free societies, the outright lie from the center of power does not dominate deception. Very often one comes across what was often called "spin" in the times of Tony Blair. There is the half-truth, the pointed statement, the conscious selection of certain facts - and the omission of others. That happens with the federal government as with the opposition, with DGB and churches. It applies to business, culture and sport, as well as to statements from Greenpeace or Amnesty.

PR and results-oriented communication are being trained everywhere, also with a focus on social media for a long time. Every party and every association, every non-governmental organization and every university - they all have more or less the knowledge of or the support of PR agencies.

The human factor

"Fake news" touches deeply human emotions. Hand on heart, who hasn't participated in gossip or passed rumors on? Because it was kind of interesting, because you wanted to impress or harm someone a little, just a little bit.

And haven't we all spread stories because we just wanted to believe them, because they suited us well, because we were too lazy to get more information? After all, you always knew that your neighbor leads a double life, that your colleague is not trustworthy, that Putin is the greatest or that the CIA will ruin us all.

Enlightenment, democratic rule of law, critical journalism are more recent and still not widespread in the world. Lies, half-truths, stubborn prejudices, deliberately or unintentionally created or passed on, all of these are constants.

Everyone is talking about Fox News or Breitbart. But what about the tabloids or the celebrity magazines? (picture alliance / dpa / Justin Lane)

The breeding ground for what is called "fake news" has to do with us humans and with prejudices of individuals or groups. Today these groups are called filter bubbles. The regulars' table may then be available virtually on Facebook. Bad rumors spread quickly as early as the Middle Ages, but the virality in social media dwarfs everything previously known. It is important to understand the human factor and always keep an eye on it, otherwise one cannot grasp the whole phenomenon - and also little can be done about it.

Is it all on social media?

No, social media is not to blame for "fake news" and disinformation. The media have always been platforms for spreading false information. Everyone is talking about Fox News or Breitbart now. But what about the tabloids or the celebrity magazines? Just take a look at "Übermedien", where the gossip press debunkers from "Pot of Gold" are at home. What about all the blogs and Facebook groups with conspiracy theories? And even the most serious of the serious media, have they never reported anything that influenced elections or forced politicians to resign and later turned out to be a lie?

An example: on June 27, 1993 the elite GSG-9 troop wanted to arrest Birgit Hogefeld and Wolfgang Grams who were wanted as RAF terrorists at the train station in Bad Kleinen in Mecklenburg. In a firefight, Grams shot and killed GSG-9 officer Michael Newrzella. Grams was also left dead. After several judicial investigations by public prosecutors, it was suicide. At the time, however, the media reported based on testimony of an "execution" Grams ’by police officers. As a result of these reports, the then Federal Minister of the Interior, Rudolf Seiters, resigned.

Research icon Hans Leyendecker has long been quoted as saying that this was the "biggest mistake of his journalistic life". Stefan Aust, at that time still with "Spiegel-TV", says to Bad Kleinen: "It is devastating how much the credibility of the media can be shaken by such windy research. But in the long run, that didn't even harm the journalist Hans Leyendecker, who was responsible for the wrong story - he is still considered the embodiment of investigative journalism."

Media change is not a novelty, but a constant

Media change is not an invention of the 21st century. The first printed newspaper opened up entirely new possibilities for character assassination. The introduction of the radio - think of Goebbels - or the mass medium of television made representatives of political and economic interests dream of unimagined new opportunities for abuse.

Rooms of retreat and self-affirmation mechanisms have also not only existed since social media. Sure, many people look for support for their own positions and sometimes emotional warmth at the digital round table. But weren't most of the daily newspapers in the past also clearly trend-setting companies, in some cases very differentiated - with one paper for the Catholic trade unionist and another for the Protestant workers?

And where is the structural difference between the hermetic spaces of opinion of people often described as backward and illiberal and the "filter bubbles" of the liberal elite, who were still quite sure on November 8, 2016 that Hillary Clinton would become president? Philipp Krohn recently wrote in the FAZ about the isolated existence of the left-wing liberals in Germany, as he sees it.

Everything doesn't have to get worse digitally

The Internet and social media did not invent the problem, they only changed it one more time, as earlier "new media" did. It is not at all agreed that everything will get worse digitally.

Yes, it is true, no one can control or regulate the new platforms in the way that print, radio and TV can. No state can do that, no press council or a tacit agreement by journalists about what to do and what not. This self-control of the media is - incidentally - often useful, but in turn serves some as confirmation of the accusation of the "politically correct lying press".

Has anyone threatened Facebook with a "fake news" tax? (picture alliance / chrome orange / Ralph Peter)

And it's also true that algorithm programmers, trolls, hackers and social bots pose a huge threat. Netzpolitik.org has provided a definition of the term.They can all trigger serious misconduct in the digital information society on behalf of companies, states, organized crime or just for fun. That is why the democracies of this world have to be technically up-to-date and ready to defend themselves, the media have to research and disclose here, and citizens should declare skepticism a virtue.

What can the tech companies do?

The technology groups are in particular demand, because they are the operators of the most important communication infrastructures of our time. Facebook / WhatsApp, Google / Youtube, Twitter and Co. must recognize their own responsibility for the global information system and act. The "We are just a platform" is no longer enough. The corporations have recently invested a lot in awareness-raising campaigns, which can also be called promotions. You have created many thousands of new jobs in deletion centers around the world in order to get hate messages and the like from the network.

Dare to regulate more

However, these previous efforts by tech companies are not enough. Sometimes the companies, including Amazon, Apple and others, appear like Goethe's sorcerer's apprentice. They cannot get rid of the spirits who called them. If so, then they need outside help, whether they want it or not.

From my point of view, state authorities like the EU Commission have to act tougher and regulate seriously. So far, there has been a strong reliance on voluntary commitments in Brussels. That is not enough for many. Criticism comes, among other things, from the European Broadcasting Union, EBU, in which the German public broadcasters are also represented.

"Fake News" tax and monopoly defense

The tech corporations are also one thing above all else: commercial enterprises. Your goal is to make money. This is where politics can hit you if there is only halfway agreement internationally. Has anyone threatened Facebook with a "fake news" tax - a dollar for every dangerous lie that has been online for more than four hours?

The market power of the large networks is also worrying. There are tough laws against monopolies in the US. In 1911 the then dominant oil company "Standard Oil" was broken up by a court order. Perhaps one day this will also affect the digital monopolists.

What can politics do?

Politicians must move the issue from the periphery even further into the center of their work. The possible manipulation of elections, the danger to social peace through well poisoning in the social media - these are not topics that can only be addressed once a year in a network policy debate in the plenum.

The hardest part: If you are politically responsible and fight against "fake news", you should do without it yourself, including the half-truths you have come to love and other PR tricks. Because something can only be achieved with credibility.

An interesting experiment has recently started in France.

France's National Assembly has passed a law against fake news with a majority of President Macron's camp. (dpa / MAXPPP / Le Pictorium / Julien Mattia)

However, it only refers to election campaign times. Judges can then, in urgent proceedings, impose a ban on the dissemination of demonstrably false information of great importance and enforce this on Facebook, Twitter and Co. The European election campaign in 2019 could bring the first test cases.

The French law is controversial, some see censorship intentions here. And yet, state preparedness would have been wished for in Brazil as well. Netzpolitik.org dealt with the disinformation campaign during the presidential election campaign, in which WhatsApp was the focus.

Some politicians hesitate - out of their own interest

The political reaction to the digital disinformation campaigns has so far been ambivalent and tactical. It is understandably not easy for the US president to attack Russian influence - without damaging the legitimacy of his own election. And how does the British government intend to investigate manipulations in the Brexit referendum when the same government is insisting on a majority for Brexit in this vote?

In the dispute with the large digital corporations, fear of investments and jobs also plays a role again and again. The only way to get ahead here is through international cooperation, which at least at European level reduces the companies' potential for blackmail.

"Fake News" prophylaxis: the very task of politics

But politicians have another task, namely their own, not to mention the big tech companies, not to mention external disinformation campaigns: They have to take up and openly discuss issues that are important in their respective societies.

Dealing with the media, and indeed the handling of information in general, must be given the role it deserves in schools. (dpa / Friso Gentsch)

You cannot duck back there, otherwise rumors will become credible, otherwise forces will grow that want to score points with the fundamental rejection of our open society and our sometimes arduous parliamentary and constitutional order. Politicians have to push their backs. This is "fake news" prophylaxis that does not only start when the child has fallen into the well.

Politicians must not leave these disputes to the media. If the media are perceived as substitute politics or as the actual advocates of certain political positions, even if they are the best, then that damages their credibility. Then trust in their independence sinks. Politics and the media are always best when everyone does their own job well.

Education, education, education

Dealing with the media, and indeed the handling of information in general, must be given the role it deserves in schools. Here too, politics has a special responsibility. A lot is already being done here, but there should be more and not just beginning in the higher grades.

Media competence is the somewhat cumbersome German word. The English "media literacy" is better for me. You have to learn to deal with the media in the same way as you learn to read and write. Here lies the key to much, including ensuring that enlightened and critical citizens leave schools.

What can the traditional media do?

The classic media face the subject of "fake news" everywhere under difficult conditions. Time pressure and a lack of resources are part of everyday life in many editorial offices. Among other things, this has to do with the economic situation of many media and the challenge posed by digitization. To tap into ten statements from the Bundestag, that was one thing in 1980. Having to verify half of the Internet every day and also have to do multi-platform journalism plus social media management is something completely different in 2018. Most of the media are currently working under considerable stress of transformation.

And yet, according to surveys, the traditional media in Germany have regained credibility over the past two years. There are reasons, good reasons. Many editorial offices have got off their high horses, have dealt more with the actual concerns of their customers and rely on dialogue. They ensure more transparency in journalistic work, they reveal their own mistakes. They explain what they do.

This is actually something normal for journalism. The crisis of confidence has now strengthened this open and society-serving basic attitude of the media again. Perhaps the lying press crisis was as helpful as a vaccination.

Verification and fact checks

Against a certain type of "fake news", larger editorial offices rely on new forms of journalistic and technical verification. Of course, it has always been part of the craft to check information for plausibility. But how do you do that with a tweet or a Youtube video? A good example is provided by Deutsche Welle and the verification project "truly media", which DW journalist Julia Bayer explains in a video.

Another specific example is provided by Tagesschau fact finder Patrick Gensing: He reports how his editorial team checked video material from Chemnitz for authenticity. It shows attacks on foreigners after the murder of a German-Cuban in the Saxon city. The then President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution Maaßen had expressed doubts about the authenticity of the video.

Another currently popular tool are fact checks. It is an often useful journalistic format. However, two problems arise: On the one hand, checks are sometimes carried out unilaterally, which reinforces conspiracy suspicions in parts of the audience. In my opinion, anyone who checks statements by Trump must also take a close look at information from the Democrats. Anyone who subjects Putin or the AfD to fact checks must also question the Ukrainian government and the German government.

Not every fact check succeeds

On the other hand, the fact checks really have to be beyond any doubt. A negative example for me is the debate about the number of spectators at Trump's inauguration, one of the first controversies of his presidency. It was absolutely right to firmly reject the presidential spokesman's lies and the concept of "alternative facts" introduced by Trump adviser Conway.

But the comparison of the images of Trump's big day and Obama's introduction in 2009, published by many media, was also not honest without classification. Because everyone knows that in the Washington area, the Democrats are strong in the majority. This should have been added or the pictures of Trump's celebration could have been compared with that of the two (Republican) Presidents Bush.

Arguments work poorly against emotions

The second problem with fact checks is even more complicated - and has nothing to do with fact checkers. Scientists not only tell us that the critical examination of abstruse expressions ensures that precisely these expressions have a lasting reach. In retrospect, this is a cornerstone of Donald Trump's election success. Scientists also tell us that arguments against emotions don't work well. Accepting that is painful for news journalists.

If one follows the Social Judgment Theory, factual information increases the resistance of those who reject it. The boomerang effect occurs. The information is received as an emotional attack, the facts are rejected with even greater decisiveness. Ian McCulloh from Johns Hopkins University recently explained this well at the German-American Institute in Heidelberg. The findings are actually not at all surprising, as we all know them from normal interpersonal life.

Attitudes are deeply rooted in culture

Dan Kahan developed the concept of cultural cognition, others speak of tribal cognition. What is meant for our topic is something like the following: Even if there is clear scientific evidence of a large majority of researchers on climate change, this does not end the social debate.

Conservative Americans, for example, often react not based on information but on the basis of the cultural values ​​of their group. For Kahan, this explains why so many people in the US do not take climate change seriously. On the other hand, one can surmise that many people also adopt their liberal positions for the same gut and emotional reasons and not primarily because they have studied the facts.

Of course, this does not mean that the media should refrain from exposing "fake news" and tapping into allegations. However, you need to be aware of the limitations and look for other, new ways of dealing with this problem.

What can we all do?

Each and every one of us can carry out their own verification when dealing with information. Tips on this are available from the Federal Agency for Civic Education, among others. We can all maintain a healthy basic skepticism and always ask the question of plausibility. Network and especially social media offer not only risks, but also opportunities. Sure, anyone can spread lies online. But everyone can also set about countering lies here. If that's too much work for you, you can at least think carefully about what to share or "like" on social media.

Raise an objection!

And we can all try to make room for truths that are neglected. An objection on Facebook, a comment on Twitter - you don't have to go to great lengths to create a blog to raise your voice. In the old media world you can write a letter to the editor, but you have no influence on whether it will be printed. In the new media world, the individual has more options, but is also challenged to a greater extent. We should all make use of it.

Of course, this appeal also applies to the work of our editorial team. If you have criticism or questions, send an email to [email protected] or send us a direct message on Twitter to @DLFNachrichten.

The gatekeeper paradox

The roles of the media and the public, the relationship between editors and readers, listeners, viewers and users have changed. I call this the gatekeeper paradox. For a long time the journalists were the gatekeepers, the guards. They decided what information they let through the gate to the audience. It's over. In the age of the Internet, everyone has potentially access to everything. The fence is gone, the gatekeeper role has lost its old meaning.

This development has made many people more critical media users, often in a good, constructive sense, sometimes also in a sectarian-conspiracy-theoretical way. For editors in the information sector, the loss of role has not been easy psychologically.

The paradox now arises from the fact that many people are exposed to an excess of information, the quality of which they cannot always judge. you are overnewsed but underinformed. The growing number of paywalls also isolates many worldwide from a considerable amount of serious information.

The Twitter account of the Deutschlandfunk newsroom. (Screenshot Deutschlandfunk)

In this situation, the editorial teams, not least those of the public service providers, have a new task. It is similar to that of the gatekeeper. Now it is no longer just a matter of regulating access to information itself. The point is to justify the selection of information and to have the public repeatedly participate in the considerations. The new Gatekeepers 2.0 work transparently, justify their decisions and are in dialogue with the audience.

What is the Deutschlandfunk news doing?

Of course, the listeners and users ask me again and again how our editors are doing, what we do against "fake news", how we arm ourselves against disinformation, what we do to justify people's trust with our news . Finally, a few words on this.

We are also not immune to false information, lies and disinformation. But we try to keep the immune system strong through craftsmanship and attitude. In order not to go beyond the scope, I will only mention a few of the points beyond the well-known classic news trade with four-eyes principle and much more.

It starts with choosing a topic

Messages begin with the topic selection. You need good sources for that. We try not to depend on the flow of news agencies when choosing topics. The major world agencies do a great job, but we also use a variety of other sources around the world. The internet and social media are a blessing. We talk to our correspondents and ask stakeholders, authorities, NGOs etc. who are involved in topics.

When choosing a topic, we don't want to be guided by it, you could sometimes be tempted to say what the others are doing. We discuss a lot about which topics are really important. The perspective of the people plays a role here. We know them (unweighted) through social media and we keep asking our listeners what topics they are missing. And of course we are all journalists - right in the middle of life and particularly curious.

Consider your own prejudices

Not only when it comes to topics, we make sure that we do not make "mainstream" news. We also keep discussing where our own bias is. Everyone has them, even groups such as an editorial team have them.

The important thing is to recognize them and ignore them. It is not allowed to note in a report whether it comes from a woman who votes for the Greens or the CDU. The report on the Hambach Forest must not appear as if it was written by the RWE press office or the tree protectors.

News beyond appointments and events

We are trying to alleviate a structural problem in news journalism, appointment and event journalism. It is important in the news stream if something happens in a day or someone with a relevant meaning says something. Many events are planned by PR agencies just to be reported. Latent topics without a deadline and press conference are easily lost. We try to counteract this.

Ignore something

We try hard not to jump over every stick.Not every tweet by an American president, not every provocation by a German politician has to be reported. This also applies to the countless surveys and studies that are published daily on all kinds of topics. Surveys and studies are often simply tools of PR and influence. The first thing we always ask ourselves here is who the client is. Here, but also in interviews and other statements, we always ask ourselves the question: Who is it good for?

weighting

We also try not to get carried away with the weighting of the topics. Most of the time, a hurricane in the US is a major media event and there are countless haunting images. But often - luckily - it doesn't get that bad after all. And storms in other parts of the world often have far worse consequences. Then why should we report less about it than about a storm in North America?

And in autumn 2018, when many politicians are still mainly talking about migration, it is still right to bring education and care, affordable housing and digitization into the news - and all the other questions that the majority of people in Germany are probably right now move more.

Forgotten news and journalism criticism

Together with the "Message Enlightenment Initiative" and student projects, we are looking for the "forgotten news". These are topics that are meaningful but don't make it into the media appropriately.

Markus Beckedahl from Netzpolitik.org has received the Günter Wallraff Prize for criticism of journalism. (Deutschlandradio / Jann Höfer)

Once a year we organize the "Cologne Forum for Criticism of Journalism", a public event that we broadcast. The name should be the program here. We want to improve our journalism through self-criticism and external criticism. This year we also presented the Europe-wide project "lie detectors" at the forum. Journalists go to school classes to talk about hoaxes and lies.

Never forget the language

After all: language is our most important instrument, even if images and graphics have now been added. We keep checking ourselves whether our messages are correct, understandable, clear and unambiguous, yes and also whether they are written in a decent language.

We try not to convey any messages uncritically. Because everything is in what is currently called framing, i.e. the attempt to get certain ideas and concepts into people's heads. When the minister speaks of the "good care law", then we have to be on our guard. And if a politician claims again that the German borders were opened in 2015, then all the more so.

The comparison doesn't sound very nice - but newsrooms are like sewage treatment plants in that regard. The language that reaches us is more polluted on some days than the Rhine in the 1970s. The social debate is full of attempts to manipulate, discredit or simply lie cleverly using words and concepts. We try to keep the messages that reach you free of all of this.

* The reason to write down the theses right now is an invitation from the University of Cologne. There I am invited to a lecture on November 27th, 2018 - and hopefully also a discussion - on the topic: "What should we still believe? - Fake news, quality journalism and the credibility of the news media".