[FOUNTAIN]German media stand together

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[FOUNTAIN]German media stand together

"Put your Bild down on the table when you read it, because if you hold it in your hands, blood might pour down on the table." Perhaps nothing reveals the opinion on this German daily newspaper more than this popular joke traded among Germans.

The paper, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is an icon of yellow journalism. The German word bild, which translates to "pictures" in English, suggests the gaudiness on display from page one. With grand headlines covering almost half of its pages, Bild is full of bizarre stories. A photo of a half-naked women is a fixture. The editorial tone is conservative and reactionary.

So the question is: "Is Bild a low-quality paper?" Well no. For one reason, the paper has the largest number of readers in Germany. Its daily printing is well above 4 million.

The articles in Bild are simple but filling. They also print many exclusives. With a quick glance a reader can get a clear sense of what the most important subject is for that day. That is why many opinion leaders in Germany, politicians and corporate chiefs read Bild. Interestingly, the paper is also very popular among foreign correspondents based in Germany. In a sense, Bild faithfully lives up to the paper's motto: "The paper that touches the readers' heart while maintaining its dignity."

Recently, the paper was engaged in a battle against the German government. Germany's Social Democratic Party, which leads the government in coalition with the Green Party, filed a lawsuit against the paper over a story about "a mileage scandal," involving leftist lawmakers of the ruling coalition. The ruling party said that printing a story involving the two main leftist parties was an apparent attempt to bash the leftist regime.

But editors of 11 mainstream news outlets, including newspapers, broadcasting companies and weekly magazines, signed a petition supporting the paper.

Even Stefan Aust, the chief editor of Der Spiegel, the leading leftist magazine in Germany, supported Bild, comparing the government's suit with "a legal random gunshot." Mr. Aust argued that the freedom of the press guaranteed by the constitution is more sacred than any decisions made by the government. The Social Democratic Party withdrew the lawsuit.

The victory for Bild suggests the maturity of the German media. The case also raises a significant issue for Korean media, which are often separated into left against right and progressive against conservative.

The writer is the Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yu Jae-sik

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