Essay on the History of Journalism in Germany


Newspapers started apparing in Germany in the late 17th century but they were only of minor importance with censorship and other political devices throttling their development for over a century.

Among the first newspapers was Zeitung. State control in that period suppressed the development of popular journalism although it encouraged the peculiar institution of the Tntelligenzblatt, a paper consisting Originally entirely of advertisements.

In 1727 when King Frederick William I of Prussia made advertising a state monopoly, he ordered the setting up in all major cities of the country advertisement-oriented newspaper entitled Intelligenzwang. This newspaper elicited obligatory subscrip­tion from professional and trading classes. Meanwhile, the intelli- genzblatt became the medium not only for advertisements but also for all official and legal announcements.


It was only in the 19th century that political and other news and informative and entertaining articles found their way in Intelli- genzblatter. In the early 19th century, a few magazines, officially classed as books and therefore not subject to censorship, came into being.

These journals which began largely as enthologies of book reviews embracing all areas of academic scholarship became steadily more specialised as the world of learning broke up into a narrower discipline.

A wider audience was reached by a different type of publication including historico-political periodicals which pre­sented, analysed and commented on the events of the months. These periodicals were popular among the bourgeoisie as it mirrored the ideals of bourgeois society. These were styled on the presti­gious English journal called Tatler or Spectator.

18th Century Literary Life of West Germany


Mention should be made here of the important titles published by leading figures in the 18th century German literary life : the best known moral weekly Der Patriot, founded in Hamburg in 1724 by Barthold Heinrich ” Brockes and Michael Richey; Die Discourse der Mahler n, published by Johann Jakob Bodmer and Johann Jakob Braitinger in Zurich.

In Leipzig Johann Christoph Gottsched published his Biedermann (1727 to 1729). A contemporaiy of this journal was a magazine specially meant for women readers, which subsequently developed into one of the most successful journals. In the later period of the 18th century grew a few theatre periodicals.

The steady growth in the number of magazines published in Germany in the 18th century was attributed to three factors : the legal restraints on their potential rival-the newspapers; the rise of the bourgeoisie and comparatively leisured classes.

It was in Switzerland in 1780 that a new type of paper was founded in the form of Neue Zurcher Zeitung to be followed 8 years later by the similar London Times. These were the first of the modern quality newspapers to unite the hitherto largely separated realms of information, comment, entertainment and advertisement. Inspired by these publications, the Germen bookseller Johann Cotta founded his Allgeimeine Zeitung in Tubingen in 1797.


The suppres­sion of the authorities forced the paper to change its place of publication a number of times but its prestige grew steadily during the 19th century and it came to be recognised as a quality paper of international stature.

19th Century Atmosphere of West Germany

In the second half of the 19th century the German press started enjoying greater freedom although it fell far short of condi­tions in the English-speaking world.

Bismarck particularly kept the German newspaper on a very tight rein by means cf such devices as government control, press bureaus and the pass:r.j U the Reichspres- segestz of 1874. This law continued its sway until the early years of the present post-war Federal Republic regime.


However, in spite of the unfavourable political climate, the German newspaper industry developed rapidly in the 19th century aided by a steady growth of literacy, acceleration of communications by rail, telegraph and telephone, the development oflarge urban communities and the invention of new, more rapid and efficient printing techniques. By the end of the 19th century and in the last autocratic regime of emperor William II, about 3500 newspapers started appearing in the country with a few dailies springii g up in all the main cities.

Emergence of the Mass Press

In 1870s there arose in Germany a new type of newspaper that became subsequently one of the most powerful force in 20th century politics. This was the so-called popular or mass press, whose antecedents lay in America in the foundation of the New York Sun.

The aim of this press was to attract as large an audience as possible through the publication at a very low price of wholesome entertain­ment or sensational human interest stories. This press financed


primarily by advertisers who naturally wished to reach as wide an audience as possible. Also the press law in Germany was a bit relaxed in 1874, facilitating thie growth of provincial advertising press. One of the successful papers founded during the period was the Berliner Lokal Anzeiger, founded by August Schere who had exper- * ience of the American Penny Press.

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