Dresden news review
After discussing some national newspapers in previous countries along my way, I thought of today as a suitable occasion to pick a regional newspaper instead. Germany has many of those. My stay in Dresden made me opt for the local S?chsische Zeitung, which has quite some controversial topics on offer today, most of which seem to focus on procedures, procedures and even more procedures.
The most exciting of today`s articles are not on the front page. The rainy start of this year`s film festival is awarded the cover photo, while further attention is given to a Russian kickbox-trainer getting kicked out of the country after the Russian administrations had made a typing mistake on his visa. The consequences as the paper specifies them: The coach spent some time behind bars, the Russian team did not manage to become European champion and, most important of all, the German police received a thank-you message from the Russian Embassy.
`The discussion about the Waldschl?sschen Bridge keeps reappearing in the press, even though the preparation for its construction has already been completed`
More exciting, although also focusing on procedures, is the case of the to-be-built Waldschl?sschen Bridge. For the last ten years or so, Dresden has been having problems to decide about the necessity of another crossing over the Elbe River next to the four existing bridges. Carsten (27, photo), who happens to work as a journalist for the newspaper I am reading, explains that the bridge issue serves as an unlimited source of inspiration for local media. `This issue has been discussed at length and there has even been a referendum which decided that the bridge should be built. Some opponents of the plan have been able to draw the attention of UNESCO, which is threatening to take Dresden off the list of protected world heritage sites if the bridge is finally built. Construction has already started and it would take years of time and lots of money to change the plans. Think of all the new planning, expropriation of land, licenses required? `
`Opponents of the bridge say that it will damage the view on the Elbe valley, and that the bridge is not necessary because the number of river crossings by car is decreasing anyway. The public transportation network in Dresden is the second best in Germany. Apart from that, many people cycle as an alternative to using the car. I personally don`t really know what to think about this whole bridge issue anymore. I do think that the planned bridge is bigger than what is actually required. I am also surprised by the strong opinions people have about the project. OK, so we have got a subject that we can write articles about everyday. But we know that each line we spent on it will lead to massive reactions about the newspaper being partial. The decision of UNESCO is expected within a week`s time, so we will soon have another reason to write about the case.`
One of the main current subjects of discussion in Germany is about euthanasia and whether it should be legalized or not. Today`s S?chsische Zeitung happens not to report about the case. Instead, it pays attention to a change in family law that will allow couples to marry in church without being legally married in front of a representative of the local government.
Nobody I speak to is able to explain me the purpose of this measure. The columnist who is allowed three paragraphs of comments on the first page of the paper is puzzled. Carsten is equally surprised: `I don`t remember any debate about this and I don`t really see what purpose the new rule serves. Couples can marry in church which confirms the fact that they are together but they are not legally married. Maybe it serves some people on social welfare, who would lose their advantages if they got married.` The churches themselves don`t seem to agree with the measure, as reads from their declaration: `We see the conclusion of a marriage in church as an bless over a marriage that was concluded.`
The first page of the `Culture` part of the newspaper features a more juicy debate. The opening of the new Madame Tussauds museum at Berlin`s Unter den Linden will be attended by a wax version of Adolf Hitler. It is not the first time that a German museum is trying to exhibit a representation of the nazi-leader. The Checkpoint Charlie Museum tried the same in 2005, exhibiting Hitler alongside with Lenin and Stalin. Public reactions were so strong that the manager of the museum was forced to decide that `Hitler be sent back to Russia at once`, referring to the Russian-based manufacturer of the statue.
Pia (22) thinks it`s difficult to decide whether a person as controversial as Hitler deserves a statue: `I didn`t know about this one. I have once seen a statue of Hitler in a museum in Prague, but it was a very poor copy. I could only recognise him from the uniform. This one seems to be a lot more realistic. Hm, it`s hard to say.. Some neo-nazis may used it to pay tribute to their cause. But they seem to have taken proper measures to prevent that to happen, so I think it`s OK for that statue to be there. It depends on the context though. If he is surrounded by politicians, it makes more sense. If he is surrounded by pop stars, I would suspect that Madame Tussauds is just trying to get some attention by raising a scandal. I think they should also be very careful about what kind of audience the statue will attract, and what image of Germany it will show to tourists. After all, I think it will be mostly tourists going there, not Germans.`
Thorsten (22) expects that many older people will be very disturbed by seeing a realistic representation of Hitler, but he still thinks that the statue is worth exhibiting. Stefan (25) agrees: `Hitler is an important person in history, unfortunately in an extremely negative way. But when the exhibition is related to our country`s past, I think that it would be a mistake to leave him out. It`s good to keep the discussion about our past alive, although it`s a subject that needs to be treated with respect and good taste. Everything depends on the context, the atmosphere. But there will be a fierce debate about this, for sure.`
When I ask Stefan which international news files have dominated the German press in the last year, he thinks the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the primaries in the USA were given most attention: `As a result of German history, we are almost forced to support the Israeli case rather than the Palestinian one, although nobody is turning a blind eye to the responsibilities of Israel in this conflict. For the US elections, I would say that most Germans including myself would be satisfied if Barack Obama became the next president of the USA. The happy end in the kidnapping case with Ingrid B?tancourt was making big headlines in the past couple of days. Much more than it did when she was initially kidnapped, or throughout here time in custody by the FARC rebels.`
Some other major issues that frequently emerge in the German press include the greenhouse effect, the oil reserves and the negative development of the German economy. The construction of the new American Embassy in Berlin has also been granted quite some attention, mainly for how negatively impressed people are by its fortress-like appearance.
Beside political stuff, Stefan also points to the vast amounts of sports that will mark the summer of 2008: `The Euro 2008 football tournament was a good start. The focus is now on Wimbledon, and on Tour de France which is about to start. I used to watch the all of it but both tournaments are less exciting than they were in the past. I liked the times of Michael Stick and Boris Becker. We have this one guy in the quarter finals now, but even he himself knows that he won`t get any further than that.`
`The Tour de France used to be very popular in Germany, but the competition has lost a lot of respect in recent years. The whole case around Ulrich is also annoying people. I think he should just admit that he took stuff, just like everybody else did or does. I actually don`t understand why. If they all take it, they may as well decide that all of them do not take it. Even if they all cycled 10% slower, it would still be just as interesting to watch.`
Like Stefan, Frank (26) had a good time following Euro 2008 on television. Also like Stefan, he is complaining about another big sports event. `I don`t know if I will follow the Summer Olympics very closely. I think I should not. I don`t like the political situation in China at the moment, and I feel like I am supporting it if I chose to watch the Summer Olympics. Well, it would already be difficult from a practical point of view. I don`t have a TV at home. By the way, I think young people in Germany don`t really need TV`s anymore, and neither do they need printed newspapers. Everything is available online, whatever you want, whenever you want to access it.`
When I ask Frank about the independence of the German press, he is not so sure about it. Linking back to the earlier discussion about the Summer Olympics, all he wishes to state about German press independence: `It`s probably more independent than in China.` The general impression Germans seem to have about their newspapers is that they are quite independent. With the exception of the screaming `Bild`, most German dailies can at least count on being taken for a serious source of information.
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