Skip to Content
Uncategorized

German Press Corps Can’t Handle Government’s Switch to Announcements via Twitter

The German government’s official spokesman is using Twitter to rapidly disseminate information directly to its citizens, and the staid German press is freaking out about it.

Last week the German government’s official spokesman found himself forced to defend his decision to announce official government business via Twitter. The problem wasn’t so much that he’d made an announcement – that Chancellor Angela Merkel was visiting the U.S. – via Twitter: It was that he had not first announced it at a press conference, and this had caught the German press corps flat-footed.

The German government’s press secretary dares speak to anyone with internet access

On the 25th of March, the controversy led to this hilarious or merely unfortunate interchange between a member of the press and Herr Christoph Steegmans, a representative for Germany’s equivalent of the White House press secretary:

QUESTION [from a member of the press corps]: Dr.Steegmans, as an older man, who is not so skilled with these newfangled forms of communication, a basic question: has there been an announcement from the Press Office, that now important information is also broadcast over Twitter, and one possibly has to register as client, customer or follower - I do not know, what that means?

(helpfully translated by Tim Skellett)

It also doesn’t help that, according to Skellett, “a standby government spokesman [made] fun of the reporters’s problems with coming to terms with Twitter.”

This switch to rapid dissemination via Twitter was, according to the Twitter account of Steffen Seibert, the German government’s official spokesperson, authorized by none other than Angela Merkel herself. Here’s the Google machine translation of his disclosing tweet:

@Neuwerth After many governments worldwide to do it, I found it [useful] for us to [#tweet] at the time. #Chancellor agreed.

More than a week later, he’s still having to defend the decision. Here’s a Tweet from April 2:

.@blogdiscourse [I] had no idea that [our decision would make] such waves. My Twitter is not a circumvention of the journalists, but an outreach to other[s]

And that, in a nutshell, is the sturm und drang that has accompanied the disintermediating effects of social media. If the German government’s official spokesman can deliver news straight to the people, any time he feels like it, how are the German press to keep up? Are they not gatekeepers whose priority access to information helps justify their role in the media ecosystem?

Not, apparently, any longer. Here’s how one member of the press corps responded to that development:

“Is that safe?”

Follow Mims on Twitter or contact him via email.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Workers disinfect the street outside Shijiazhuang Railway Station
Workers disinfect the street outside Shijiazhuang Railway Station

Why China is still obsessed with disinfecting everything

Most public health bodies dealing with covid have long since moved on from the idea of surface transmission. China’s didn’t—and that helps it control the narrative about the disease’s origins and danger.

individual aging affects covid outcomes concept
individual aging affects covid outcomes concept

Anti-aging drugs are being tested as a way to treat covid

Drugs that rejuvenate our immune systems and make us biologically younger could help protect us from the disease’s worst effects.

Europe's AI Act concept
Europe's AI Act concept

A quick guide to the most important AI law you’ve never heard of

The European Union is planning new legislation aimed at curbing the worst harms associated with artificial intelligence.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.