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Teilnehmer podiumsdiskussion mit redaktionsleiter jens sikeler mittelbadische presse

“Write down what is”

“Write down what is”

For Dominik Fehringer, it is “a nice occasion, but also a serious one”, to which he welcomed around 70 invited guests from the regional economy and local politics on Tuesday in the Nectanet Lounge in Offenburg. For the first time in the history of the Nectanet business development organization, formerly Wirtschaftsregion Ortenau (WRO), a company, Mittelbadische Presse, gives an insight into its structural orientation during a panel discussion.

The digital age poses challenges for the media. According to Nectanet Managing Director Fehringer, publishers are even being talked to death. However, he is convinced that they have a future and hopes so, “because an editorial team is a filter, sometimes an ideologically filtered one, of course. But we are usually spared the total madness of the unfiltered platform. After all, anyone can now create their own publicity on social media. “That is both a blessing and a curse.” At best, the posts are successful self-marketing, “at worst, they are hate and agitation”, emphasizes Fehringer. He describes the current situation as a “communicative primal state” in which many particles of information fly through the universe in a disorderly manner. The consequence: information overload.

“Articles must be well-researched and the reporting must be balanced.”

The 40 or so editors at Mittelbadische Presse are also feeling the effects of this development. “Our credibility is called into question time and again. People sometimes find it difficult to accept facts,” says Editorial Director Jens Sikeler in an interview with presenter Markus Knoll. He therefore wants to make the work of the editorial offices more transparent and make it clear “what standards we use for writing and research”. At the end of the day, journalism is a craft. “Articles have to be well researched and the reporting has to be balanced. We write about what’s happening.” Sikeler rejects the type of journalism in which the editor’s opinion is included in articles. “That’s what we have the comments for.”

Wolfgang Kollmer (64), who handed over the editorship to Sikeler in June and has been publisher of Mittelbadische Presse since then, has experienced how the digital age has changed journalism over the past 15 years. And he knows that the availability of artificial intelligence (AI) will accelerate this development even further.

“We are taking a close look at where the advantages and usability of AI lie in the editorial field,” announces Sikeler. He sees it as positive that newspaper publishers are currently “at the forefront of a technological revolution”. Reiff-Verlag is already in contact with a provider that offers promising approaches to simplifying newspaper layout and troubleshooting with the help of AI. The new freedom should free up more time for editors to research good articles. Artificial intelligence cannot take on this task.

Sikeler and his deputy Christian Wagner, who is also head of the Offenburger Tageblatt’s local editorial team, also want to do more to find out what interests readers. “We will look at the usage behavior of our readers,” announces Sikeler. It is already clear that articles with utility value will become more important. The evaluation of the most-read articles on the Mittelbadische Presse online portal is already an indicator.

“Especially in challenging times, we need orientation in society.”

Unlike many of its competitors, Reiff-Verlag, which was founded over 200 years ago, has no intention of withdrawing from the market. Because a local newspaper is also a piece of home, emphasizes the editorial director. To ensure this, additional staff will be hired, investigative journalism will be practiced and editorial processes will be improved so that readers benefit. For Sikeler, this is a matter of self-image: “Because anyone who resigns themselves to a decline also does the corresponding journalism”.

For Nectanet Managing Director Dominik Fehringer, the media are an important authority in the information structure, bringing some order to the chaos. “Especially in challenging times, we need orientation in society.” This is dependent on institutions such as newspapers that unite rather than divide. “The media have a huge responsibility,” emphasizes Fehringer.

The Mayor of Oberkirch, Gregor Bühler, also noted that evening: “We live in a society that is becoming increasingly divided.” He criticizes the Mittelbadische Presse for encouraging this division with its self-image of being a “controller of the powerful”. “Each of us tries our best and then gets a stick between our legs.”

“We are aware of our responsibility in dealing with local politics,” replies Sikeler. However, he has always found it difficult “when there is a strange agreement between editors and local politicians”. If something is not going well in a town or municipality, the Mittelbadische Presse therefore reports on it just as much as when something is going well. “However, you can rely on us to meet certain journalistic standards. This includes listening to all those involved before publishing an article,” he assures Bühler.

Kappelrodeck’s mayor Stefan Hattenbach defends Sikeler’s journalistic stance: “Don’t do court reporting for local authorities, but don’t just look for the fly in the ointment either.” He considers the credibility of Reiff Medien to be high. “There are great people at work. But where there are people, mistakes happen.” He praises the pages “From clubs, schools and kindergartens”, on which people in the Ortenau district can regularly find themselves.”

Background – Focus on the regional economy

Wolfgang Kollmer appealed to the assembled representatives of the regional economy to communicate company developments and to actively approach the Mittelbadische Presse. “We have a lot of companies here that do a really good job but don’t have a press department and therefore no connection to the media,” said the publisher.

Regional business reporting is to be further expanded at the Mittelbadische Presse. “We report on everything that is relevant,” emphasized Kollmer. And that is the economy, as it is about jobs and purchasing power in the region. And Editorial Director Jens Sikeler added: “We are delighted when we can report not only on insolvencies, but also on success stories.”

An article by the Mittelbadische Presse / Simon Allgeier.