Skip to content

How Good or Bad is the US Media Coverage of Germany?

"Ever since reading the New York Times, I've always wondered how simple Germany is portrayed." complains Gerd at Anglofritz:
When you look at the recent stories in both CNN and the NYT about Germany this past week, you’ll find the following: weather in europe, jewish property returned, dax earnings, holocaust survivors, merkel on the eu constitution, some soccer news, holocaust archive and more sports briefings, oh wait another one on nazi germany. I could bet that you’ll find some news of the weird in there too, more of those funky orgelplayers and cannibals. The point is that the American media paints such a simple/negative image of Germany that you’ll rarely find positive news - never mind a diverse picture.
Such press coverage would explain why quite a few Americans associate Germany primarily with Nationalsocialism according to one survey, see the end of this Atlantic Review post.
Another "
favorite theme in foreign coverage of Germany" is, according to the American blogger Andrew Hammel: "The nation's calcified bureaucracy is driving all the clever, ambitious Germans to Britain and the U.S.."

Moreover, foreign affairs coverage in general has been on a decline in the US, according to a Harvard working paper by Jill Carroll:
Coverage of foreign affairs dropped from 27% in 1987 to 14% by 2004, according to a month-long study of 16 newspapers’ front pages by the Project for Excellence in Journalism. The same study found the nightly broadcast news devoted 19% of all stories to foreign affairs in 1987, slowly dropping off to 10% by 2002 then spiking to 25% in 2003 before dropping again to 14% in 2004.
Related post in the Atlantic Review: Media Coverage and our Understanding of International Politics.

Personal opinion: I think the US coverage of Germany could be better, but in my humble opinion the NY Times and CNN are not as bad as Gerd claims. I guess, he was exaggerating a bit on purpose to make his point.  Read his entire post at Anglofritz and please come back and let us know what you think.

Endnote: For some examples for postive US coverage of Germany, see the latest Atlantic Review post about environmentalism.


Atlantic Review on : Positive US Media Coverage of Environmentalism in Germany

Show preview
The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting article about "New German community models car-free living:" It's pickup time at the Vauban kindergarten here at the edge of the Black Forest, but there's not a single minivan waiting for the ki

Erkan's field diary on : Belgian courts give Google a bloody nose

Show preview
California-based internet giant Google may have to rethink its popular service after Belgian courts on Tuesday said it is illegal to publish summaries of news stories and links without newspapers' consent. * Belgian court rules against Google over copyright...


Display comments as Linear | Threaded

VinceTN on :

This is primarily a dysfunction of American reporting overall. They portray the South and most ethnic groups much the same way. Its a very trivial industry over here.

David on :

Google News shows that 350 US newspapers picked up the story of Brigitte Mohnhaupt's parole, including my local paper. So perhaps the coverage is not as bad as Gerd says. The Boston Globe has very good coverage of Germany, often with front-page features. Unfortunately, this will change due to cost-cutting efforts as its parent company (the NYTimes!) prepares to sell the daily.

Markus on :

Gerd has not criticized the number of articles about Germany, but the choice of topics and the quality. Sure, Americans are quite interested in terrorism. That's why US newpapers write about Mohnhaupt. What is the line of argument? "Germany is soft on terror and lets a terrorist free, while America fights a global war on terrorism"? A sample: "Freeing people such as Mohnhaupt is simply asking for trouble — inviting them, in league with even more deadly terrorists than they worked with previously, to kill again." Definitely. The first thing Mohnhaupt will do after her release is dialing Bin Laden's phone number. Do US newspapers write that previously pardoned RAF terrorists did not commit crimes again? Do US newspapers write that the RAF terrorists saw themselves as being political prisoners and that by treating them as ordinary murderers (who get parole), Germany is dealing a blow to their ideology? Do US newspapers write that more than 2/3 of Germans are opposed to releasing Mohnhaupt? Do US newspapers write that Mohnhaupt was imprisoned longer than many Nazi war criminals?

David on :

I have not read one article in the US press that used this to beat Germany. I've also heard interviews on the US radio with Schleyer's son (who speaks perfect English) who condemned the release since Mohnhaupt has not expressed remorse. The coverage has been quite balanced, and is viewed as a curious relic of the past.

Don S on :

"Do US newspapers write that Mohnhaupt was imprisoned longer than many Nazi war criminals?" This is very true of course - many Nazi war criminals were not imprisoned at all. So via this kind of reasoning we can conclude that a vast injustice has been done to poor Mohnhaupt - he/she/it should never have been imprisoned at all!

Don S on :

Joerg, I think you may be laboring undeer a mistaken assumption here. To wit, that the only problem that Americans have with Germans is a communication problem; that any hostility exists only because the US media so imperfectly covers German stories. I ahve an alternate hypothesis for you to consider: Ignorance is bliss. That is, that the more that people hear from Germans about German's feelings toward the US the more alienated the Americans become. Reading about the striking similarities between the neocons and the National Socialists (and how the end results will be precisely similar) can be quite amusing the first time. Reading about it 20 or 30 times can be very tiring and might lead to severe misunderstandings; it has in my case. Similarly, explanations that a really true allies will fail to stand by their ally when the ally is 'wrong' is funny the first time - but not when it is ponderously repeated hundreds of times. By that measure Germany is the true ally (though not the only one) and Canada, the UK, and Australia are very poor allies. Take that analogy even further and apply it to the situation circa June 1941 when the Third Reich attacked the USSR - thus proving to be the best ally Russia ever had! Even more true that Germany has been to the US since 2003!

David on :

Don, Funny, but I scan a number of German media resources each day and I haven't run across one piece (much less 20 or 30) that compare neocons with Nazis. I have read a number of articles in the US press that find neocons DELUSIONAL - and with good reason: check out this slide show from the neocon war planners of the Iraq invasion, which shows that by the end of 2006 there would be only 5,000 US troops in Iraq. [url][/url]

Trobert on :

"Such press coverage would explain why quite a few Americans associate Germany primarily with Nationalsocialism according to one survey," So would six million dead jews and 20 million dead Russians.... But I'm not writing here to harp on that point, rather I just want to point out that the Nazis are the main association that pretty much everybody has with the Germans, in all countries. Sorry but it's true. You can't just say that's an America thing.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Thanks for your comment. "I just want to point out that the Nazis are the main association that pretty much everybody has with the Germans, in all countries." Is that really the case? I thought in many countries, Beer, Beckenbauer, BMW or Boris Becker come first to mind? I wrote what I did after reading a survey about Germany's image in Russia and the US, which is only available in German: [url],,1275458,00.pdf[/url] I found it surprising that more Americans than Russians associate Germany with the Nazi regime although Russia suffered much more under Nazi Germany than the United States. Here is a graphic from that report. I have translated it into English partly. "DW Nutzer" refers to the users of Germany's international TV and radio station: [url][/url] To be absolutely clear: It is certainly NOT my intention to portray the Nazi era as any less horrible than it actually was. It is okay with me that some people associate Germany first with Nationalsocialism. I just found the US-Russian differences in the above mentioned graphic interesting.

Trobert on :

An experience in class today made me think of this thread once again. Right now I am in China where I have been learning Chinese for the past couple of months. In today's lesson one of the new words was mingqi 名气, which means "(big)reputation/fame". In order to help us learn how to use the word, the teacher went around the class asking people what kind of things have a large amount of fame in various places. She started off by saying that in Beijing, Peking Duck has a lot of fame. Next came the Japanese guy who said that In Japan, Manga comics have a lot of fame. The teacher then asked the German guy next to me about what "has fame" in Germany. His answer was "Benz", but then one of the Korean guys spoke up and answered 希特勒在德国有名气, which means "In Germany, Hitler has fame". All of the class snickered. I think you could also take this to mean "Germany is famous for Hitler". I'll rule out exposure to American media as a cause for this since he doesn't seem to speak any English.

Anonymous on :

Just to be clear, that's not a bash agains you guys (okay maybe a little). I'm just saying that I hear lots of Nazi jokes from a lot of people all around the world when I am traveling and I mention that I lived there four almost five years.

Zyme on :

That DW-survey about Germany´s image in Russia and the USA is quite interesting. Especially one point is striking: While 63% of the americans consider Germany trustworthy, only 9% of the russians do. My guess is that this reflects the difference of political culture between North America and Europe: While the americans seem to be rather idealistic about international relations, the russians are more realistic. Throughout european history alliances and partnerships only worked as long as they served a function for both sides. This leaves little room for trust.

Don S on :

"While 63% of the americans consider Germany trustworthy, only 9% of the russians do." Never fear, Zyme. If current trends keep going the same way soon the figures will be equal, with Russians and Yanks each trusting germany at the same 9% level. Whether this comprises an improvement in the situation depends upon one's viewpoint, I suppose....

Add Comment

E-Mail addresses will not be displayed and will only be used for E-Mail notifications.

To prevent automated Bots from commentspamming, please enter the string you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.

Form options