The United States of America dominates the news in Germany like no other country. On any given day, German newspapers will report several stories from the US and the interest German audiences take in America’s internal affairs is extraordinary. The influence goes beyond mere curiosity about what’s happening in the country that could be called the leader of the free world, the hegemon, or the empire; choose the label that fits your political convictions.
A great way to satisfy this interest is to actually watch the news from the United States rather than relying on the choices made by German newspaper editors and TV producers. The best choice for a German audience is probably the „Top US & World Headlines“ segment from the independent news broadcaster „Democracy Now!.“ It airs every weekday at 8 AM Eastern Standard Time and is available on “YouTube” in the afternoon of the same day.
A familiar look and feel
The format of the „Democracy Now!“ news briefing is ideal for a German audience accustomed to the “Tagesschau” format. (The “Tagesschau” has been leading the ratings of daily news digests in Germany since its inception in 1952.) Like the “Tagesschau”, the “Democracy Now! Headlines ”segment has a strong focus on the anchor, acclaimed veteran journalist Amy Goodman, it lasts 15 minutes and is much less visually aggressive than the average US cable news show. In other words: the look and feel of the segment will be comfortable and familiar to an audience used to watching the serious and conservative “Tagesschau”.
Since „Democracy Now!“ targets an audience beyond the US and is broadcasted on TV and radio at the same time, the anchor speaks clearly and is good to understand for non-native viewers. The advantage of watching the show on „YouTube“ is the possibility of using the fairly accurate automated subtitles and being able to stop the video. To maximize the language acquisition value, you should make watching it a habit. Ideally, watch it every weekday.
Like the “Tagesschau”, “Democracy Now!” is publically funded, the difference being that the German news briefing is produced by the German state television channel “ARD”, while “Democracy Now!” is funded through grants and donations. „Democracy Now!“ launched in 1996, airing on nine radio stations. More than two decades later, the program has become one of the leading independent daily news broadcasts in the world.
Goodman describes „Democracy Now!“ as „trickle-up journalism“ because the stories it runs are frequently taken up by the mainstream media and her interviewees are often interviewed by other channels after they’ve appeared on „Democracy Now!“. The show is produced by seven producers, 20 full-time and 15 paid part-time staff as well as many volunteers. While seen as a “progressive” show in the United States, the political slant will seem rather centrist to a German audience.
To a certain extent, „Democracy Now!“ has become a victim of its own success and is regarded as part of the establishment media by new progressive American outlets like Max Blumenthal’s “Grayzone”. Blumenthal, one of the most influential independent English language journalists, has criticized Amy Goodman and „Democracy Now!“ for being complicit in “Russiagate”, the demonization of Russia as a kind of super villain on the global stage.
The Crystal Ball
The rule of thumb is: whatever trend dominates in the United States will come to play an important role in Germany. Sometimes it happens almost immediately, as seen by the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in several German cities. Sometimes it takes a few years, like how social media has become ubiquitous and influential.
Observing the cultural and political scene in the United States is almost like looking into a crystal ball, allowing you an educated guess about what trend might dominate the discourse in Germany in the foreseeable future. Knowing this, it’s curious that it’s still not common for Germans to follow American media. I recommend adding the „Top US & World Headlines“ segment to your daily news round up.
Check out some episodes of „Democracy Now!“ here: