For my M.A. in Communications and Media Studies (Freie UniversitÃ¤t Berlin) I did research on how political journalists in Germany use weblogs. The thesis is available in (German) full text here: “The Relevance Of Weblogs For The Work Of Political Journalists” (PDF, 1MB). (More info about the thesis here.)
As the masters thesis is available in German only, I’d like to share a number of key findings as well as some points that struck me as particularly relevant. To respect your time, I’ll try to keep this very brief and as concise as possible, but please feel free to get in touch if you’d like to discuss any of those points. Also, please share your insights and feedback in the comments.
Key finding: Weblogs are hardly relevant for political journalists in Germany
The main insight is that weblogs are hardly relevant for the day-to-day work of political journalists in Germany. I found it rather surprising how clearly this picture emerged. (Even if you take into account that the research is based on only a small number of interviews with journalists.)
There is a number of factors which influence the blogs’ relevance, and I’ll elaborate on a few in one of the next posts. At least for those journalists who cover German domestic politics, the interviews indicated that weblogs hardly bear any relevance.
This is in stark contrast to what seems to be true in the U.S., where there’s a number of very influential bloggers who (judged by their reach and influence) can compare with regular media outlets. As for the reasons, we can only speculate. There are some theories, mostly cultural ones, dealing with the differences between the U.S. and Germany.
Most notable are the following two, although I’m not sure any of them hold up. (More research, anyone?) First, but also quite weak, is the assumption that there is a cultural bias in Germany towards thinking that grassroots (i.e. non-official) information is not as valid as top-down, official information. In other words: If an article wasn’t officially written by professional journalists and checked by professional editors, it’s not a credible, quotable source. Second, and I’d say much more sound: The German media landscape is much more diverse than the American one. Where there are many more (independent) media outlets and a more diverse media landscape, there is not as strong a need for alternative media as there is in the U.S., where there are far fewer outlets and those are less independent particularly from media conglomerates and political parties.
If any of those theories are true or not I cannot say. If you happen to have good information, sources or background on this topic, please share in the comments!