Talking journalism at the Goethe

Since the 1960s, Ulrich Wickert has amassed an impressive amount of journalistic experience. In Germany, his home country, he is extremely well known, not only thanks to his television appearances, but because he belongs to a group of journalists who think, professionals who don’t simply reproduce news. Wickert is currently in Athens presenting his most recent book, «Gauner muss man Gauner nennen,» which loosely means «call a rascal by his name.» At the Goethe Institute tonight, the acclaimed journalist will participate in an open discussion with Tassos Telloglou. Their subject? The responsibility of those who shape public opinion. How have changes in the last few years influenced the nature of journalism? A great deal. New technology has had a tremendous influence on television, since news now travels automatically. Think of the attack on the Twin Towers. In my view, the journalistic filter ought to come between the fact and the audience. On September 11, I was presenting the news and my fear was that the cameras were going to show dismembered bodies. Speed doesn’t go hand in hand with credibility. You have a deep understanding of French affairs – you were honored by the French state for this. Do you think that specialization is a plus for a journalist? My special knowledge of France has been a great asset in my work. My ability to judge a political development depends, to a large extent, on the relationship we all have with history and the nature of a specific culture, among other things. Very few journalists are able to analyze a story in more than 2,000 words. Is an average journalist’s knowledge rather superficial? Television journalists use very few words. In Germany we say, «You might be a know-it-all but we will not be needing you for more than one-and-a-half minutes.» You must know a lot in order to say very little. What is the future of television? The influence of the Internet is absolute. But neither television nor newspapers will change their appearance. I do think, however, that texts will become shorter, giving in to the dominance of the image. As a journalist, you have experienced radical changes in Germany. How would you describe German society today? There have been tremendous changes since the country was split into two as punishment for the Third Reich and the extermination of millions of Jews. Gerhard Schroeder became the first elected chancellor who didn’t personally experience the war, even though his father had died as a soldier in Romania. During the World Cup last year, people realized that Germans can gather under one flag and one country. Of course, there’s the issue of the gap between East and West. The financial situation in the East was far from being positive, but people were on state welfare. In the West, on the other hand, you had to fight for your job. Now, residents in the East have to learn to live with unfamiliar fears and forget the familiar fear of totalitarianism. Goethe Institute, 14-16 Omirou, Kolonaki, tel 210.366.1000. At 7.30 p. m.