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A correspondent (of French correspondre ; originally Latin cor-respondere correspond ',' associated ') is a journalist , the permanent or as a freelancer for print media , radio , television , news agencies or online editors outside an editorial permanently or reports on a country, region or special event for a specific period of time. There are correspondents at home and abroad, although the permanent employees generally have their own office and staff.

Domestic correspondent

Domestic correspondents work either in the federal or state capital, otherwise they are special correspondents (see below). The main focus of their job is political reporting, which is not just about conveying news, but above all about background reports and comments . They follow the debates in parliament , attend press conferences and “press circles” and take part in official meetings.

The major national print media and television stations with their own news programs have their own correspondents in the federal capital. Only the regional media are constantly represented in the state capitals. There are also a large number of freelance journalists.

Problems and criticism

In general, heads of government and ministers regularly invite informal press briefings, whereby they determine who is on the “guest list”. In order to get background information, the domestic correspondents have to maintain contact with politicians and government officials. This closeness to the people they report on can lead to a loss of journalistic objectivity and independence. Correspondents can consciously or unconsciously become the mouthpiece of the government or a party. In the event of critical reporting, they must also expect not to be invited to background discussions.

The Spiegel correspondent Jürgen Leinemann wrote critically and self-critically about this problem in 1995 (at that time about Bonn ):

“I went to Bonn with this noble idea: you would have to be a foreign correspondent in your own country. Keep your distance. As the citizen's lawyer, watch the mighty on the fingers. […] In the beginning it was still possible, say my friends out in the country. [...] But soon I would have sounded as if Bonn were my team. [...] The official arena for this short-circuited political communication is the federal press conference. This is the stage that around 800 accredited German journalists in Bonn have created in order to be able to invite politicians to ritualized questioning three times a week. [...] Semi-officially, the intimate dialogue is condensed into almost a hundred 'circles' and 'circles' in which politicians are invited to chat without wanting to say anything. "

- Jürgen Leinemann : "Ritchie and Rita and I", in: Spiegel special, Die Journalisten , 1995

Hans-Ulrich Jörges , deputy editor-in-chief of Stern and head of the capital city office, speaks of “chum,” between politicians and journalists. He attaches importance to the statement that he does not belong to a politician or a background group. In a taz article, he recalls that at the beginning of the 1980s “aspiring politicians and aspiring journalists” sat together in a Bonn pub and “experienced the 1998 election victory as a joint rise to power”.

Foreign correspondent

Of foreign correspondents is when a domestic employee from abroad for his country or region reported. You necessarily have a command of the language of the host country and have thorough prior knowledge of the political situation and culture. These correspondents cover the entire spectrum of topics, from politics to culture, and play the role of explanatory interpreter for the domestic audience. The purely informational reporting is mostly left to the agencies, background reports and comments as well as reports are in demand . Since the contributions often contain evaluations for a better understanding of events, correspondent reports are identified by name in the print media.

ARD maintains the largest network of foreign studios for German television stations . National newspapers and larger TV stations have their own foreign correspondents in countries and regions that are considered important, while smaller publishers often participate in "correspondent pools", with one correspondent supplying all newspapers in a pool. There are also a great many freelance correspondents who offer their articles and take orders. The permanent correspondents are often not only responsible for one country, but for an entire region or even a continent. There are foreign offices for Eastern Europe , the Middle East and Latin America . In these cases, the correspondents are dependent on reliable local staff and informants . You research topics, establish contacts and prepare television productions.

Most permanent foreign correspondents work at one location for three to seven years and then return to their home office or move to another country. This is to prevent too tight integration in the structures of the reporting country and too much routine - analogous to a similar practice with diplomats abroad.

Problems and criticism

In countries with no or limited freedom of the press , the foreign correspondents have to deal with state censorship ; they cannot move around in an uncontrolled manner, turn around or conduct interviews without permission . Information they receive could be falsified or manipulated. Sometimes unpopular correspondents are also expelled.

Foreign correspondents often complain that the media's interest is limited to a few topics that are considered to be effective for the public and that other topics are rejected. This creates a distorted picture of the reality of the reporting countries. Reporting on Africa is so often limited to wars, disasters and famines. Matthias Matussek writes:

“Everyone knows that Africa is more than hunger and disease, the Far East more than industry and uniforms, Russia more than icons and poverty, America more than glamor and decay. But everyone also knows that it is these stories that get stuck in the crude assortments of the domestic market: There is nothing one likes to read at home than what one has always thought. And nothing, it can be assumed with a certain degree of certainty, ends up in the magazine or on a broadcasting slot faster than confirmation of a prejudice. "

- Matthias Matussek : "The truth about America", in: Spiegel special, Die Journalisten , 1995

A problem that should not be underestimated is the fact that a correspondent is often responsible for more than a dozen countries and that he gets his essential information from the media there. These are often only translated and sent back home without further research . The foreign correspondent Susanne Gelhard was responsible for reporting on twelve countries in Central and Southeastern Europe in the ZDF studio in Vienna from 1992. Correspondent Peter Puhlmann said in an interview: “We serve more than 20 countries, including Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and northern South America. Actually, we are more of a travel agency because we are always on the move. ”(Source see web links)

Thorough research almost inevitably falls by the wayside. “The journalistic jet set, which for economic reasons (lower personnel costs) seems to be displacing the old-fashioned foreign correspondents more and more, is particularly problematic. These journalists, who rush from one crisis to the next and from capital to capital, do not have the time for in-depth research ”, complains Michael Kunczik in his article on international reporting on television (source see web links).

The increasing speed of news transmission and the pressure to be up-to-date due to competition from the media - above all from television broadcasters - are additional factors. “In the meantime, often only a few minutes pass between an event and the first pictures. Or the event will be presented live straight away. [...] At ZDF and ARD, the 'message-free' time only lasts about five hours at night ”, criticizes Susanne Gelhard (source see web links).

Special correspondent

A special correspondent reports on a specific event such as B. the election of the Pope, the consequences of an earthquake, a sporting event like the Olympic Games or even from a crisis area. The duration of the assignment can range from a few days to several months.

War correspondent

War correspondent ( English war correspondent ) are basically special correspondent reporting from a war zone. Often these are foreign correspondents who are familiar with the region in question. Your task is to describe the situation on site to the readers or viewers as eyewitnesses as realistically and objectively as possible; for radio reporters, this now also includes live reporting.

The first war reporter is William Howard Russell, who reported on the Crimean War for the Times in 1854 . Previously, officers were assigned the task of preparing written reports for the press, which were sent through the mail. As a result of this new realistic account, the British Commander in Chief, General William John Codrington, instituted censorship in February 1856 .

See also


  • Sylvia Breckl: Foreign reporting on German television about the Third World using the example of Weltspiegel and Auslandsjournal (= international and intercultural communication. Vol. 2). Frank & Timme, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-86596-025-1 .
  • Claudia Cippitelli, Axel Schwanebeck (ed.): Only crises, wars, catastrophes? Foreign reporting on German television. Documentation of the 21st Tutzinger Media Days. Fischer, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-88927-323-8 .
  • Ute Daniel (Ed.): Eyewitnesses. War reporting from the 18th to the 21st century. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2006, ISBN 3-525-36737-6 .
  • Angela Dressler: News Worlds. Behind the scenes of the reporting. An ethnography (= media worlds. Vol. 2). Transcript, Bielefeld 2008, ISBN 978-3-89942-961-9 .
  • Alexander Foggensteiner: Reporter at War. What you think, what you feel, how you work. Picus-Verlag, Vienna 1993, ISBN 3-85452-241-X (interviews with war correspondents).
  • Christoph Maria Fröhder , Peter Graf: A picture of the war. My days in Baghdad. Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-455-09419-8 .
  • Oliver Hahn , Julia Lönnendonker, Roland Schröder (eds.): German foreign correspondents. A manual. UVK-Verlag, Konstanz 2008, ISBN 978-3-86764-091-6 .
  • Ulf Hannerz : Foreign News. Exploring the World of Foreign Correspondents (= The Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures. 2000). The University of Chicago Press, Chicago IL et al. 2004, ISBN 0-226-31575-4 .
  • Stefan Hartwig: Conflict and Communication. Reporting, media work and propaganda in international conflicts from the Crimean War to Kosovo (= journalism. Vol. 4). Lit, Münster et al. 1999, ISBN 3-8258-4513-3 .
  • Martin Herzer: Foreign correspondents and foreign press policy in the Third Reich (= media in the past and present. Vol. 27). Böhlau, Cologne et al. 2012, ISBN 978-3-412-20859-2 .
  • Lars Klein, Andreas Steinsieck: History of War Reporting in the 20th Century. Structures and contexts of experience from the actor-centered perspective (= German Foundation for Peace Research. Research. No. 4, ISSN  2193-7931 ). German Peace Research Foundation, Osnabrück 2006.
  • Antonia Rados : Live from Baghdad. The diary of a war reporter (= Heyne-Bücher. 19, Heyne-Sachbuch. 898). Heyne, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-453-87724-1 .
  • Martin Wagner: Foreign correspondent for press, radio, television and news agencies. List, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-471-79168-X .
  • Oliver Zöllner (Red.): “Tell the truth: They'll kill us!” On the role of the media in crises and wars (= Deutsche Welle. DW series. 3). Vistas-Verlag, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-89158-318-4 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Correspondent  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Correspondents  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Jens König : Big Populists & Small Elites . In: The daily newspaper . April 2, 2004 ( ).
  2. Course unit F010 International reporting at the Deutsches Journalistenkolleg