There is a way we all speak and write, it reflects upon origins, education, the environment a person lives in and of course a state of mind. Only few people know, that there was a time when I refused to speak or write German which went on for several years… I found out recently that it can be a often found feature of German Jewish people who or whose parents were shoa survivors or refugees and who live outside of Germany. Luckily I came out early enough from this period and still managed to write for a national paper, but it has taken away a little bit of the former freshness of my German. This is thus not just rustiness (by which I mean I can’t throw around with cool terms like my fellow colleagues and sometimes have to think a little longer how to put something) but also result of a very deliberate emotional temporal disconnection with German and Germany. Writing for a German newspaper for me came as part of my own personal ability to cope with Germany and the German language again, but also I fear to say with my disillusionment that the British would judge me precisely on grounds of the German tone of language. Given that there was no escaping the fact that I was born and raised in Germany, I began to look at the positives of that circumstance rather than the negatives alone. I still prefer English, my fourth language, and would call my relationship to German language as still “in rehabilitation modus.” But the patient is getting better thanks through the life support infusion by the German paper I write most for, TAZ, the largest left of centre German daily with a traditional strong anti-racist stance, where I know some editors seem to have a feeling of comprehension and duty to Germany’s past and how it translates itself today. I like to take claim to especially the spirit of the 1970s, and the legacy of the 1960s in Germany amongst some progressive educators and thinkers, a period itself I hear is no longer what defines Germany today. Hence it is important that those of us who carry the legacy of the shoa as part of our family constellation remain conscientious writers and speakers and in German and to Germans and beyond in the way that only we can.
Daniel Zylbersztajn Taz: Bei der BBC gab es nichts zu feiern. Ich schaue ein bischen hinter die Kulissen.
German Taz Die Tageszeiting main feature: Nothing to celebrate at the BBC after 90 years!
For my English language readers who do not speak or read German
My article in the Taz about the BBC Newsnight Lord McAlpine debacle of the BBC in the last weeks gives some background on the amount of change its employees were so far subjected to. Not that it was already enough, Helen Boaden‘s QF speech to staff meant that the BBC had more axings planned: about 800 jobs are to go until 2016, along with the merger of the world service and BBC News. Staff, who wanted to keep anonymous, told me about discrepancies in pay, with managers highly paid, those making programs usually low paid. Another editor complaint that her language service was no longer being measured by quality, but by quantity of hits. She said that only if she reports the “heartbreaking story of the donkey with his prosthesis” will she survive. It is not to be forgotten that this is a member of staff who already witnessed cuts, the loss of funding from the foreign office, and the final departure from Bush House. My article then shifts to a brilliant documentary made by the BBC, one of those we ill see probably less of in the future and produced by James Cook and presented by Mike Thompson (online version is here www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20267659). It puts the current affair headed by the mistake of falsely accusing one politician into perspective. According to BBCs research about 20.000 Jewish people less could have died in 1944, had the BBC not withheld the truth.
Nevertheless things look difficult at the BBC. I have heartfelt feelings for some of my colleagues and friends who work there, and have told those I conversed with personally that there is no better alternative than take to Doris Day‘s ce sera.
However on a serious note, I do believe the course leader of the highly regarded MA Radio at Goldsmiths, Tim Crook, who works closely with the BBC, was right when he told me that he sees the integrity of journalism under threat. It is important that everyone understands that every time we take a free newspaper in our hand, or read news only online, that is without paying for it, we are contributing to the decline of journalism. This is not to say free stuff and blogs are not sometimes brilliant. They do an excellent service at times. But we need a reliable and in deed trustworthy network of newspapers and media outlets to counter the barrage of spin, political intrigues and corporate chauvinism. At the taz.de they have a nice system of providing the articles free of charge but enabling readers to pay even as little as 5 Pence for any one article voluntarily. It is easily done online and rewards the paper and the journalist.
When it concerns big corporates like the BBC, which receive the main part of their funding from the tax payer, I think it is right to ask why the management gets more than those who physically produce the news. A management which has been accused now of partially not really being in charge, nor having a clue. It is impossible to say to what extend this is right, but what is certain is that far less news will be produced in the future by BBC, for example party conferences will no longer have dedicated teams. Some of the midday news slots will also disappear and there will be more repetition. The merger of the WS bilingual section and BBC news in foreign affairs will also change the way the BBC has traditionally reported, namely through well skilled journalists who are sent to different regions for some time. It is questionable given already huge cuts and redundancies since Hutton, if the same tools of cuts ought to be applied to the BBC as anywhere else because of the government’s austerity brief.
- Boaden ‘steps aside’ as head of BBC News (guardian.co.uk)
- BBC boss’s deal done during Strictly Come Dancing’ (express.co.uk)
- BBC head of news ‘steps aside’ (bbc.co.uk)
- BBC turmoil deepens as news director and deputy quit (scotsman.com)
- BBC crisis: Two more heads roll over botched Newsnight report (mirror.co.uk)
Article on thinking about Jewish-Polish, Jewish-German relations and simply on the issue of being a neighbour, or not! Leading Feature Open Democracy 4/11/2011
Special thanks to the editors of Open Democracy, above all R.B., and front page ed., for your interest as well as choosing this as your leading weekend feature-story. Thanks also to Ben Gidley, James Renton and Agnieszka Piśkiewicz for their respective input and Kei Kulp for one of the pictures.