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Germany's Top News Magazine Scrambles to Restore Lost Traffic from Anti-Russian Bias (Spiegel)

  • Spiegel's online readership is down nearly 20% from October 2014, a result of the magazine's heavy anti-Russian bias over the Ukraine conflict.
  • Editor in chief Florian Harms writes a letter to readers trying to restore confidence, but only succeeds, in humorous Teutonic fashion, in making himself look ridiculous.  
  • If this guy had the slightest sense of personal or professional honor, he would resign in disgrace.  (He doesn't, and he won't)
  • German journalism is in serious crisis  (that's a good thing).


MORE: Germany

Translated from German for RI by Mihajlo Doknic

Last week Florian Harms, chief-editor of SPIEGEL ONLINE, explained to his declining readership what goals the editors have set for this year. The goal is to “even better inform the readership about current world events”, and to continue to practice “journalism based on clear rules and principles.”

<figcaption>Germans have had enough</figcaption>
Germans have had enough

According to, has lost 14.6% of its traffic over the course of the last year. The losses actually wipe out gains made as the Ukraine conflict began to heat up. Later, as Spiegel's bias made itself evident, German readership began an exodus, resulting in a nearly-20% drop over the course of five months.

Last year those Spiegel principles led above all to a steep decline in readership. While there is no sign of self-criticism in his post, Mr Harms explained what this highly regarded SPIEGEL-journalism actually is.

Here are some excerpts:

... Our aspiration is to report, daily and under the time pressure of an up-to-date medium, as exactly, as balanced, as transparently and as truly as possible. So you, the reader, don’t get an abridged and one-sided version of events. We want to enable you to form your own opinion of world events based on our reliable, often-investigative, researched news and our skillful and pointed opinion posts from different perspectives. This is the journalism we are dedicated to, faithfully following Rudolf Augstein’s [founder of Spiegel] saying: ‘Say what is.’

Notice the emphasis on not providing a "one-sided version of events". It is obvious this is the reason for their declining membership, the only question: Is it too late?

With this in mind we report critically but fairly, passionately and with the courage to have an unconventional opinion — staying unbiased, however, independent and untouchable but also original if the topic allows for it. We are convinced: this journalism is needed in these days when Europe has slipped into a new East–West confrontation, where violence by terrorists fuels violence against Muslims, where our values and our prosperity are endangered by debt crisis, climate change and change in demographics, and thousands of political lobbyists in Brussels, Berlin and other capitals are trying to interpret the events for their own benefits

Here, again, there is a focus on "unbiased".

We spend a lot of time, effort and hard work to ensure that the information you find on Spiegel Online is true.

Since when has a newspaper had to make comforting assertions to its readership that what you are reading is "true"? Is this to stop those from leaving, who have had cause to believe what Spigel has published is untrue?

But the crucial thing is that we thoroughly verify the news before we publish it. For us, it is more important that news is true and accurate, rather than that we are fast in publishing news that might be partly or completely false. We follow the old but timeless journalistic principle: ‘Be first but first be right.’

Another assurance about "true" and "accurate".

Will Florian Harm's speech bring back their readership? What do you think?

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