Germany’s right wing attacked the media. Now Germans trust the press more than ever
|National Post 07 Apr 2017 at 16:53|
In one, reporters face what they call unprecedented distrust and hatred on the streets and in some cases even violent assaults. A quarter of Germans agree, according to a recent survey, that Lgenpresse a Nazi era word that means lying press is appropriate to describe the media.
But in the other, the publics trust in the press is at record-high levels. According to a recent study by the University of Wrzburg, which tracked more than 15 years of public opinions on the press, 55.7 per cent of all Germans trusted the press last year. The researchers suggest that the contentious and sometimes dangerous atmosphere journalists face when covering right-wing protests has not translated into growing media skepticism overall. In fact, the opposite might be the case.
Previous studies have recently come to a similar conclusion, said Martin Hoffmann, a senior researcher at the European Center for Press and Media Freedom. People who are disillusioned with the media hold increasingly hostile views toward journalists, but an unprecedented number of Germans openly disagree with those views.
For Germanys established parties, it could be an encouraging sign. Chancellor Angela Merkel and other mainstream political leaders fear that fake news disseminated on social media could help the far-right Alternative fr Deutschland (AfD) party win a large number of seats in the parliamentary election September. Germanys parliament even passed an anti-fake news bill on Wednesday that would compel social media companies to remove untrue stories or face stiff fines.
The study also has warning signs for the AfD and other parties whose supporters have turned away from mainstream media outlets. The Wrzburg researchers found indications that the link between populist right-wing parties like the AfD and media skepticism is weakening. The number of respondents in the survey who considered themselves right-wing and said that they trust the press has increased by 18 per cent over the last year, rising from 33 per cent in 2015 to 51 per cent in 2016.
Since then, national broadcasters and newspapers have made efforts to take the concerns of their readers seriously amid the growing refugee influx. But Kim Otto, a journalism professor at the University of Wrzburg and author of the study, says the news outlets made other changes that also help explain the rise in trust.
Many of the traditional German broadcasters and newspaper editors responded with more transparency. They invited citizens and critics to get to know how they work, said Otto whose findings suggest that the same methods could potentially work elsewhere, including in the United States.