The principles of objectivity and freedom of the press have led the German character, which is somewhat given to exaggeration, to a fragmentation that is unequaled elsewhere, and whose cause in no way lies in the famed German race. Otherwise, each village of more than five hundred inhabitants would have its own conception of the German “race.” We have the dangerous remnants of city, state, and church steeple politics. It looks as if we must also have a Bismarck to force the small under the leadership of the large.
According to the Institute for Newspaper Studies in Berlin (Dovifat), Germany has over 4,500 newspapers. North America, England, France, and Italy combined do not reach that total. The total daily circulation is 28 million in both Germany and England. In England, however, this total is shared by only 140 newspapers! The Institute also states that, if one disregards the reduction during the war, the number of German newspapers has been continually increasing for about 40 years. All the technical innovations and all the capitalistic influences have not brought about a reduction in the number of German newspapers or raised the circulation of the larger papers. Thus, there is a newspaper for every 21,000 inhabitants in Prussia, one for every 15,000 in Württemberg! England has only one newspaper for every 180,000 inhabitants! Countless German regions with less than 20,000 inhabitants have three or four newspapers.
The excessive fragmentation shown by these figures has its effect on the party position of papers. We have already shown that a newspaper is not an end in itself, and that a newspaper must serve a task and an idea. The task and idea can only be political. Hugenberg has discussed this notion in the following basically correct way. “In the long run, no great German paper can be the property of an industrial firm, of a group of industrial firms, or a federation of interests. Nor can a German paper in the long run be the representative of the property interests of such a firm or such a federation for the simple reason that the readers would go elsewhere. In the long run, a great newspaper can crystallize only around an idea…. This is proven today not only by socialism and the deliberate struggle against private property, but also in the uncertain direction and confusion of public opinion…. There is nothing for which I am more thankful to my friends in the Ruhr than this: they have previously followed this train of thought and have brought economic concentration into reality.”
The policy in German newspaper rooms is still quite different. Of the 3,000 newspapers that existed in 1895, 45% designated themselves as nonpartisan. The figure has since steadily increased. By the year 1930, it was over 55%. And newspapers that designated themselves as nationalist, patriotic, German, etc., were included with the party papers, not in the percentages of the nonpartisan. The result is a ratio of party papers to nonpartisan papers of 22% to 70%. A dismal state!
Less than 1% of the total of 4,500 German newspapers have circulations over 100,000, and about 70% have circulations of less than 5,000. The largest German newspaper is Ullstein’s Morgenpost with a circulation of about 500,000 followed, to a greater or lesser extent by papers such as the Nachtausgabe, theLokalanzeiger, the Münchner Neusten Nachrichten, the Hamburger Fremdenblatt, the Völkischer Beobachter, the Hamburger Anzeiger, the Breslauer Neuesten Nachrichten, the Welt am Abend, and theB.Z. am Mittag, all having circulations between 150,000 and 200,000. Alongside them are a profusion of boulevard, yellow, local, provincial, and village papers, having circulations between 200 and 15,000 (in total, 99% of the German newspapers).
The defect in national and economic discipline shown by these figures becomes apparent when comparison is made to conditions in other countries. In Italy, according to Hans-Joachim Bottcher’s figures, there are at present no more than abut 80 daily newspapers. (The most important are La Tribuna, Il Giornale d’Italia, Il Lavoro Fascista, Il Corriere della Sera, Il Popolo d’Italia, La Stampa, Il Mattino.)
The most important newspapers in the Soviet Union are Isvestia with a circulation of 500,000 and Pravdawith 600,000 as well as boulevard and party papers printed in Moscow and Leningrad which have circulations between 180,000 and 300,000.
The number of newspapers is also small in the United States of America; nevertheless consider that theChicago Daily News has a circulation of 440,000, the Chicago Tribune 820,000 daily and 1,050,000 Sunday, the New York American 220,000 daily and 1,000,000 Sunday, the Daily News 1,300,000 daily and 1,600,000 Sunday, the New York Herald Tribune 300,000 daily and 400,000 Sunday, the New York Times420,000 daily and 700,000 Sunday, and the New York World with 350,000 daily and 530,000 Sunday.
The unity of public opinion is shown even more strongly in the intellectually advanced French and English papers. France’s largest newspaper is the Petit Parisien which has a circulation which varies between 1,400,000 and 1,800,000. Matin has 700,000 as does the Petit Journal. Intransigeant has 400,000, the nationalist Coty paper L’ami du people has a circulation of 1,000,000 and sells for two pfenning. La Croix,the Catholic family paper, has 750,000, and a dozen provincial papers have circulations between 250,000 and 300,000.
In Great Britain, the Daily Express and its competitor the Daily Mail have circulations of almost 1,800,000. The circulations of the Daily Telegraph (1,500,000), the Daily Sketch and the Daily Herald (120,000 each), the Sunday Dispatch (1,300,000), the News Chronicle, and the Sunday Express (100,000 each), The Star, the London News, and the Manchester Guardian are likewise uncommonly high.
In Japan, the five leading daily newspapers in Osaka and Tokoyo have circulations ranging from 800,000 to over 1,000,000.
Despite the importance of leading individual newspapers in these countries, extensive concentrations of newspaper publishers, cartels, etc., have come about. Fortunately we can see that the confusing picture of 4,500 German newspapers having miniscule circulations has slowly but surely led to changes during the past two decades that were at first only under the surface, but which will eventually force unification. To a growing degree, press concentrations have developed in our country. The bravely upheld editorial policy of objective nonpartisan church steeple horizons is still a negative trait, but it no longer is the entire picture.
To ensure that these harsh but entirely justified criticisms of the daily press are not falsely understood or maliciously misinterpreted, it is necessary to praise another, as yet unmentioned, part of the German press. That is the German technical, academic, and professional journals.
Like the general press, they look back upon a four hundred year tradition, and have every reason to be proud of that tradition.
The German scientific press is unrivalled in the entire world, and will remain so. Technical genius has been joined with precise expression, exactness, scrupulousness, and a perfection of description which has become a model for the international scientific press, for the intellectual elite of foreign countries, and for science and education throughout the entire world.
The journals of the German mathematical associations, engineering and chemical societies, and of the natural science, geographic, and physical associations, as well as our anthropological, literary, and linguistic publications are read by scientists and experts in every country. Our geographical works and maps (Perthes, Gotha) are used by the geographers, army general staffs, navies, and mariners of the entire world.
The German artistic journals are on the same high level. Their tasteful and excellent selection, the excellence of their color plates, their photographic and colored reproductions are representative documents of a highly developed culture. Their layout, binding, general appearance, and artistic content are far superior to American magazines, French revues, or English artistic journals. In most cases, they are free of the tasteless kitsch of the day, and have nothing whatever to do with the false sentimentality both characterized by their obtrusive and unpleasant sugar-coated advertising centered layout.
It is deplorable that the frightful difficulties which the German nation is under today are wreaking havoc on even the oldest and most respected journals, forcing them to reduce their staffs as well as their size and appearance.
In contrast to the scientific press, the semi-technical magazines dealing with associations or areas of common or limited interest to the masses have become lucrative. This has been at the cost, one my note of the daily press (fashion, sports, film, and radio magazines).
The illustrated magazines and the radio magazines deserve special mention here. The circulation figures of daily newspapers do not equal the Berliner Illustrierte’s 1,800,000, the Funkwoche’s and Sendung’s 400,000 each, or the Illustrierter Beobachter’s 180,000.
One would probably be correct in assuming that the increase in such magazines, especially the illustrated ones, is not entirely due to technical advances in picture printing and reporting, etc.
The enormous development of illustrated magazines in the last few years leads one to suspect that they are in some way bound up with the development of radio. The radio has taken on a part of the significance of the daily press, although the newspapers have discovered how artificially to paralyze radio’s topicality.
Nevertheless, the rapidity of the electronic medium as well the urgency and familiarity of the spoken word have contributed to the formation of a broad popular audience (It is estimated that there are twenty million radio listeners in Germany and four and a half million receivers) that relies more on the radio than the daily newspapers. Since the pure word prevails on radio, it was natural that the public sought to balance the verbal with visuals. The publisher could meet his need if he were able to provide the large initial investment necessary to produce an illustrated magazine. He then created an instrument almost independent of economic or political fluctuations that returned a secure profit.
The development of radio has been central for another type of illustrated magazine, namely the approximately eighty German radio magazines that have a weekly circulation total of five million. The radio magazines have combined some degree of artistic or cultural criticism and advance notice of radio programs with technical advice and illustrations stemming less from the needs of the radio than from the magazine needs of the reader. They have quickly established a broad audience.
The effect of the radio on the press, to the disadvantage of the daily newspaper and the benefit of the illustrated magazine, is by no means at an end. It has, however, been artificially neutralized by the tactics of the large press organizations. Until the reorganization of the radio in summer 1932, its whole communication was centered in the so-called Dradag (Wireless Service Company). This company, however, was half controlled by the Federation of the German Press, and furthermore by the Mosse, Scherl, Wolff Telegraph Agency, and Telegraph Union firms. The representatives of the remaining shares were government officials who had neither substantial influence with the press nor a knowledge of the immense topical and political possibilities of the radio that they controlled. Thus, the influence of the press trust was absolute.
The result was that, while the news service of the Dradag was gathering the day’s news, the Berlin sensationalist papers could appear in the early afternoon with headlines shouting the day’s sensation. All the radio listener got for his money was a boring and yawn provoking academic lecture at 10 p.m. that gave the same news he had been fed by the press, and this in a German that should have been sufficient to send the announcer back to school.
Today, the news service is reorganized within the Reich Propaganda Ministry, and is in the hands of Fritzsche, the former Telegraph Union editor. Whether the influence of the press is definitely abolished and whether the radio, which works with the speed of light, will under their leadership make use of the full extent of its topicality remains to be seen. It would be good if the press had to put an end to its sensationalism and replace it with an increase in illustrateds and magazines. This would give radio its necessary supplement through pictures, and would be better than the not too impressive topicality of articles on radio.
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