Guardian Retrospectively Altered Bild Editor’s Quotes to Water Down Merkel Criticism

Back in July the Guardian published a deep dive piece about German tabloid Bild and its attitude to Angela Merkel and the culture wars. It prominently featured an interview with Bild’s editor Julian Reichelt. Yet curiously, the version originally published (and helpfully archived here) does not match the version currently online. The amended article claims it has been altered to fix “mis-transcriptions“. Curious how the edit led to criticism of Angela Merkel mysteriously disappearing, along with a watering down of strong support for the US and Israel…

Original quote:

“Take Merkel,” he said. “Here you have this completely mediocre mind, and the press has created this elaborate mythology around her. That she’s some sort of savage wit in private – which is not true, by the way – and that she’s fantastically clever – which is not true either. She’s just capable of identifying the direction of prevailing winds.”

Amended quote:

He gave the example of Merkel, around whom he said the press had created an “elaborate mythology” that she has such natural wit and is extremely clever, whereas her skill lay in identifying the direction of the prevailing winds.

Original quote:

“You must understand that Bild was right about the three major questions of post-war German life,” Reichelt said. “We backed Israel to the hilt, which you can hardly say for the international left. We backed the USA to the hilt, which the student protesters didn’t want.”

Amended quote:

“You must understand that Bild was right about the three major questions of postwar German life,” Reichelt said. “We backed Israel … , which you can hardly say for the international left. We backed the USA … , which the student protesters didn’t want.”

Guido is told the way interviews take place in Germany is very different to what goes on in the UK. Journalists in the UK tend to interview their subject, then go away and write up a piece and publish it. In Germany there is a third step, where standard practice dictates the interviewee looks over the copy and approve it before publication. Now it’s gone back and significantly watered down the words. Guido suspects what went on here was beyond innocent mis-transcription…

Hat tip: Peter Littger

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