Ethics and the media : a study of journalists in Eastern Germany before and after reunification
This thesis examines the working conditions and practices of Eastern German journalists before and after the reunification of the two post-war German states. It explores the development of the press in both the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany and the strengths and weaknesses of both systems. Building on this work, the thesis then examines the experiences of the journalists after 1989. It looks at the problems which have arisen in particular for the journalists, and the way in which these problems have been dealt with. The approach of the journalists to these problems demonstrates the way in which they view their profession and the responsibility associated with their work. The reasons the journalists had for complying with the political instructions they received in the GDR are very complex and diverse. Some are the result of their upbringing and experiences, while others are very practical and relate to the conditions in which citizens of the GDR found themselves. The reasons each journalist had are never exactly the same. The fact that the journalists did generally comply does not, however, mean that they were unaffected by the compromises they had to make with their own principles. They were often troubled by their consciences, but in time, they learned to live with this as the price which had to be paid for their decision to stay in a career which did afford them some pleasures, and their consciences became desensitised towards the expectations which were placed upon them. When, in 1989, they suddenly found themselves in a situation in which they had tremendous professional freedom, their consciences were reawakened, and they realised that they had the opportunity to remain true to some of their personal values in a way which had not been the case in the GDR. However, they soon learned that this freedom was being compromised by III the economic demands of the free market. Initially, they reacted strongly against the new pressures which they experienced, but in time, they grew accustomed to the new situation, and, as in the GDR, their consciences became a less significant factor in the decisions they had to make in their professional lives. The way in which the journalists view the new challenges they face in their work is examined using interview material. This provides insights into the way in which the journalists regard the new experiences they have had since 1989, and the way in which they would like to deal with the new way of working. At the same time, the practical limitations which they face in their new working conditions are seen, and the similarities and differences between their work in the GDR and in the new Federal Republic become clear. Despite all the less positive developments since 1989, none of them wishes to return to the old system.