Syria and Libya: The fairytale of investigative journalism

Posted: January 20, 2012 in Sideviews
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

There already have been claims and accusations, that journalists are no more in line with the proper sense of journalism. One was able to recognize these bad days of “journalism” already with the events in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya (and so on) in recent years, but also with the coverage about the situation within Syria since last March.

It became more and more obvious, that there is a lack of objectivity, investigation and confirmation – also, sadly enough, a lack of evidence, within a lot of reports about important events in recent years. Some independent blogs and networks already go so far to call some journalists the useful tools for propaganda machinery.

It`s clearly an accusation, but also a pain in the stomach for the few journalists who are still in line with the dogmas of real journalism – because some of these accusations are not really hard to understand, considering the worse coverage, the lost objectivity and the problem with the truth of some so-called journalists.

Some already know that journalism is just another business and if it does not run well, a lot people lose their jobs. This counts for the entire world and every business and its sector. If you are not able to sell news, you finally have to close your doors. Of course, it is easier to sell stupid headlines than real objective and factual reports and articles.

This article is not really on the topic Syria, but it also counts for the coverage of Western press on the situation in this country of the Middle East. This short article is about a meeting with a German freelance journalist, who works for the German state television ARD. We won`t publish more information about this journalist.

This interesting and also intense meeting with this journalist lasted over an hour and was almost mainly about the discussion was mainly about the topic “Arab spring“. Within this discussion, this German journalist made some interesting key statements about journalism in Germany. Not to mention that these statements are also pertain other countries.

Of course, some of these statements were no real surprise anymore. For example, it was obvious that there is a shortage of money in the media – because of several reasons. Less money means few staff and less or even totally worse apprenticeship within editorial offices and so on.

Newspapers have to produce headlines, because the readers, the buyers, are “fetched” with the headlines (and images). It is also commonly believed that those headlines increase the sale. No surprise that every newspaper cares about “good” headlines.

But in the end, these “good” headlines are just seem good if they are concise, potentially scandalous and often even apart from the content or message of the following article. The more scandalous, the more benefit for newspapers? For sure.

We also should mention that the online business is a bit different to the print business. It`s about money and benefits, too. But also about time. The faster you publish headlines, the more visitors might visit your official website. There is also a huge challenge between the online businesses of newspapers, not only because such an internet presence should also care about the revenues of money.

The German journalist also said that he wanted to produce a radio show on the topic Libya and “What comes after Gaddafi (Qaddafi)?”. He also had a meeting with Heiner Geißler to invite him to this radio show on Libya and Gaddafi. Heiner Geißler is a known German politician and a member of the CDU party (Christian Democratic Union). Geißler is also a member of the attac network and a former German minister. He finally agreed to take part at this radio show about Libya and what comes after Gaddafi is gone.

But this interesting radio show with the very interesting guest, Heiner Geißler, was rejected by the editorial office. The reason for this rejection? The journalist was told that there are “already experienced people on this topic”. So the German freelance journalist had to cancel the show and to cancel the invitation of Heiner Geißler. Instead this radio show, the journalist was urged to produce a short documentary about the planned construction of a regional airport.

In this meeting, the German journalist also spoke about the German journalist Joerg Armbruster (Jörg Armbruster). Armbruster is also known to work as correspondent for the Middle East for the German state television ARD.

Some also know him because of his questionable and strange reports about the recent situation and events (mainly last year) within Libya. Some also would say that Joerg Armbruster (Jörg Armbruster) is one of the journalists who already lost his credibility in recent years.

But not only some. Considering the discussion with this journalist it seems, that even colleagues at ARD share the opinion about Armbruster, that he is a careerist and lobbyist.

He is also said to be certainly unpopular in the circles of journalists in Germany. No surprise, because real journalist, in line with the truth and dogmas of journalism, should be really pissed considering the way Armbruster makes his “career journalism”.

The German journalist was also asked why German media clearly reports sided and wrong about actual events in the Middle East, e.g. Syria and Iran. The freelance journalist explained that you cannot present jazz and soul music to an audience which is accustomed to listen to easily digestible pop music.

The journalist also mentioned investigative journalism. Considering the situation of journalism and the pressure to care about revenues and headlines, it is finally no surprise that this journalist said, that investigative journalism is only a legend nowadays. As a dawn of hope, he also mentioned that there are perhaps still some investigative journalists out there… the one or two.

But if there are some investigative journalists, they have truly harsh conditions. It often seems that the journalist, who we consider as investigative journalists, are powerless against the huge amount of colleagues who are finally no more in line with the definitions of real journalism.

These few investigative journalists and political activists have a hard fight against the mainstream and the common ways of propaganda by international press – it is not only about the propaganda against political systems and leaders (or governments) in the Middle East and Africa, it is also about the propaganda against organizations, companies and even the image of persons. There are a lot of examples about the misbehavior of journalism when it is about persons and potentially scandalous “stories”.

The investigative journalism with its kind of research and investigation requires a lot of time and nerves. Finally there is always the financial risk that these investigative journalists might end up footing the bill and to sit on the costs for investigations. Finally, it is also hard nowadays to find “buyers” for these stories – that’s more and more a risk for investigative journalism.

This German journalist also stated that it is well known at the German editorial offices, that their reporting is more and more one-sided and no more objective.

Maybe as a small excuse, the journalist also said that hardly a German journalist is really familiar with the politics, mentality and even the language of the Middle East. But that`s not really an excuse for bad journalism and one-sided reports without objectivity, without confirmations and even without evidence and investigation.

He also mentioned the sad fact, that everything, what comes out of the known ticker, is printed. Sometimes even without activating the brains of the responsible “journalist”, who processes further these ticker bulletins.

This freelance journalist also said, that it struck her personally in the recent years, that “demonstrating” is considered as “good deed” in Germany. Without asking about the backgrounds, details, solutions or whatever in media.

Whether these demonstrations are in the Arab countries, part of the Occupy-movements, in Stuttgart, at the airport of the German city of Frankfurt or just in the remotest village in Germany because of a planned expansion of a street. Everything has two sides, but if there are demonstrations, it seems that this rule is not in force and even forgotten.

The protesters are basically the “zealots of the law” and the targets are the “bunch” / “trash can”… and so on.

As stated in the beginning of this short article, we will not publish the name of this German journalist. But we are convinced that he spoke about the true situation within editorial offices and the way journalism works nowadays. As we mentioned already, the everyday journalism reached bad days – already years ago. In the end, this journalist was not the only journalist with such statements.

We already knew other German journalists who spoke about the same “grievances” behind the curtains.

Image: Stuart Miles /


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