By Lisa Urlbauer
Daniel Bax, born in Brazil and raised in Freiburg and Berlin, has studied journalism and Islamic studies in Berlin. For 15 years, he has been working as a journalist for the taz, writing about migration, integration and Islam. Besides, he is a board member of the New German Media Professionals (Neue Deutsche Medienmacher). Founded in 2009, New German Media Professionals are an alliance of journalists with and without migration background from all over Germany. In 2014, the organization had 160 club members and 670 network members.
What is the aim of your organization?
New German Media Professionals are an association that advocates for diversity in media, and we involve journalists with and without migration background. The team fosters media diversity in two different ways; firstly, we take a stand for more journalists with migration background to be included in German newsrooms. Secondly, we promote expertise regarding the topics of diversity and migration society.
How big is migration background in German journalism?
A few years ago, the number of journalists with a migration background was about two percent. This number increased. Already ten years ago, state channels realized the need of role models to depict the German society and reach target groups in migrant communities. Especially news anchors and hosts are important for the image the channels want to share with the public. Newspapers have realized that as well. For example, “Die Zeit” did not only introduce a female quota a few years ago, but has developed their editorial team to reach the readers with migration background.
What are the reasons for underrepresentation of journalists with migration background?
There are different reasons for migrants being underrepresented in German media. Other groups are underrepresented as well, like working-class children. A middle-class intellectual background is always helpful in a domain, where one works a lot with languages and where knowledge is important – as well as contacts. Being born into the milieu is giving one a small advantage. This is not the case for many migrants, especially for the descendants of Gastarbeiter. At the same time, media outlets are establishments that follow existing tendencies. Every newspaper has its own political profile and just recently, they come to realize their shortcomings and thus have opened themselves. They have been satisfied for a long time and many of them still are today, thinking they do not need more diversity – since they have their readers anyway. Only when you realize you have a shortcoming, you will start doing something against it. One thing we do is promoting that diversity is a good thing. It is something, that is not going to hurt the media, but eventually benefits them.
How does your organization impart more expertise?
We promote more objectivity in the debate about migration. Not every migrant is automatically an expert on migration topics. Everyone has a right as a journalist to write about those topics one personally prefers. Journalists with migration background are rumored to be experts on that topic, sometimes they are made to experts involuntarily. What we want is for journalists without migration background to acquire more expertise in this area.
We promote this by spreading information like through glossary where we question established terms related to migrants and integration, and we try to replace them by words that are more suitable. For instance, people do not realize the false concept of a “foreign person with a German passport.” You are either German or a foreigner. You cannot be a foreigner with a German passport because having the passport makes you German. We need to question how those terms find their way into media coverage, and we must beware of politically motivated definitions. Certain catchwords are politically charged; and as New German Media Professionals, we go to newsrooms to discuss this. Exchange is important, and in certain ways, we do lobby work.
Do the New German Media Professionals have approaches for the youth and refugees?
We do work with the youth. We have a mentoring program aimed at job starters with migration background; we offer them reference names because contacts are important in the field of journalism. We also run projects for refugees. One example is a program for journalists who have fled their countries to establish themselves in the German media system.