Life In Berlin: German Journalists On Trump

Mar 10, 2017

German journalist Holger Stark spent almost 4 years in Washington D.C. as a correspondent for the news magazine Der Spiegel. During this time, he reported on a Tea Party summit in Des Moines, Iowa. The year was 2015 and Donald Trump was a guest speaker. Stark was among a small group of journalists who met Trump after his speech.

"He said his children are now old enough and grown up, so he can look forward to [doing] something new and the NBC contract has expired. So, he clearly was trying to explain and also to see how the reaction was, that he developed political ambitions."

Stark shares this anecdote with fellow reporters in Berlin. The Journalist Association of Berlin-Brandenburg (Journalistenverband Berlin-Brandenburg) invited Stark, now one of the editors in chief for Die Zeit, to talk about his time in the U.S. and the American President’s rocky relationship with the media.

"One of the lessons that we all learned, or should have learned from the election campaign, is that maybe often political journalism is too close to the political establishment - especially in Washington. It’s an in-circle - you want to belong to that circle; it’s access journalism. I think it leaves the impression to the people that journalism is not doing its duty to control and to criticize the powerful.'

Most of the questions to the award winning investigative journalist this evening revolve around the handling of Donald Trump. Is it okay to compare him to Turkish President Erdogan when it comes to Freedom of the Press? I wanted how he views the objectivity of German journalists.

"In Germany, it’s kind of hard to treat Trump in an objective way because the German audience overall, sees him really bad," explains Stark.

Nevertheless he says, "Journalism should not take his declaration of war - he said the media is the opposition party. Journalists shouldn’t go to war; they shouldn’t have a battle with the president; they should report tough.

"What I would like to see is tough reporting with good sources, shining light on the policies of the White House, on the chaos that this administrations is producing, and not attack him on a personal level," says Stark.

Among the attendees of the journalist talk, is German-American Randolf Carr. Carr studied media and communication science. He mainly consumes American media, but is interested in how the German journalists approach Trump.

"There is a self reflection and self critique going on that’s very different here on this side of the Atlantic, as it is on the other side."

Given the challenges journalists face in reporting on the new U.S administration, Carr says, "I think there is an opportunity for the media outlets to take this kind of windfall that they have received and invest it into a sustainable kind of business model for the next four years, at least of covering Trump."