"Journalism hasn't lost any of its tension"

Günther Nonnenmacher

Günther Nonnenmacher, co-editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper

Due to the economic crisis, the media get on to dangerous ground. Even leading German media such as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) are exposed to financial bottlenecks. As a guest of the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig and within the framework of the series of events "salon talks", Günther Nonnenmacher, one of the editors and director of the political department of the FAZ, talked about the developments of the newspaper.

In the "Villa Ida", Günther Nonnenmacher stated that there cannot be any politically relevant informed public without newspapers taking care of quality journalism. Günther Nonnenmacher discussed his theories about the perspectives of journalism together with the guests of the Media Foundation.

Mr. Nonnenmacher, after finishing your studies of politics in 1982 you went to the 'Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung' to become a journalist. If you compare the present with the starting point of your professional career: Would you still like to become a journalist as in 1982?

At that time I was an assistant at the university, had a family and - as a public official - was financially protected. When I take a look at today’s financial opportunities for development of journalists, I’m not sure if I would run the risk of changing occupation again. But journalism has become no less exciting. What has changed is the speeding up of the news business.

How is this represented in the everyday's life of journalists?

At that time I experienced the pace of journalism as pleasant. Our correspondent in Brazil sent his reports by letter. The letters needed 14 days to arrive. You can imagine that the written content of these letters was still up to date after two weeks. Journalism was more profound, more analytic than today, when much is "driven by events". But journalism is still an incredibly interesting thing. I have never regretted to have learned this trade.

Is quality journalism still possible in our hurried time?

In a fast paced world, you should also distinguish between what must be reported about and what not. In my opinion, journalists are producing too much hot air. It certainly became more difficult, but with a good power of judgement you can already differentiate.

You repeatedly blamed the Internet to be partly responsible for the media crisis. Why are all printed media still jumping onto the online train?

First, the Internet is a fantastic tool of investigation and has great potential. In addition, some parts of the ad markets have migrated to the Internet. Because of that, print publishers have to go along with this. The Internet also supports the awareness of the brand FAZ. And of course, it replenishes the printed media. You can read an interview that was only published in a reduced form in the printed edition in full on the Internet. The Internet offers endless possibilities, but so far it does not pay. And as long as it does not pay, I do not see any possibility to provide the same quality online.

Is the online world nonetheless the future of printed media?

I can well imagine that we will have electronic newspapers in the future. But I have my doubts that the future lies only in the online world. The failure of the netzeitung (German online newspaper, closed in 2009) does not indicate that the future belongs to the online newspaper.