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Der Spiegel Mirrors Itself in English

English-speaking news hounds interested in a German point of view from the country's most-respected newsmagazine now have a new source for information -- the New York Times online.


NYTimes.com readers can access Spiegel stories like this one, 'The Battle for Baghdad.'

With little fanfare, the content of Germany's most-respected newsweekly, Der Spiegel, recently began appearing on the Web site of America's national newspaper of record, The New York Times.

The Internet outposts of both publishers -- Spiegel Online and NYTimes.com -- began sharing stories a few weeks ago in a cross-pollination effort after controversy surrounding U.S. policy in Iraq became a shared interest for Germans and Americans. English speakers interested in the German point of view and Germans whose English is good enough to read a New York Times editorial can now be brought up to date at the click of a mouse.

"We said, 'Why not translate at least the cover story in English and then put it on our site,'" said Matthias Müller von Blumencrone, editor in chief of Spiegel Online. "Then we had a second idea of finding a partner to trade this story with."

That partner turned out to be NYTimes.com. About five weeks ago, the story-sharing began. There is no financial aspect to the agreement.

International appeal is key

Titelbild Spiegel Die Bush Krieger

The Bush Warriors

Spiegel Online sends the New York Times the magazine's translated cover story, or whichever story is of broadest international appeal. In return, Spiegel Online runs two or three general-interest stories from the Times, but the lion's share so far has been opinion pieces.

The latest Spiegel stories featured on the New York Times' Web site are an interview with former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and a feature on Arabs from other nations who have volunteered to fight for Iraq. On the Spiegel site, readers can find Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Maureen Dowd admonishing the Bush administration not to turn the United States into another Sparta or reminding Congress, which recently rechristened french fries as "freedom fries," that the capital city was designed by Pierre-Charles L'Enfant, a Frenchman.

The German publication doesn't just pick what it thinks Germans will like to read, however.

"The Times editorial board is very mixed," von Blumencrone said. "Sometimes you read a piece and think, 'Wow, how can they argue that?' But then, you know, it's a widely made argument. So let's present it to our readers."

Another interesting aspect for Germans is that "often the articles are very critical of Bush. Then you know that the U.S. public is not 100 percent behind Bush. That's something that is sometimes not very clear here," von Blumencrone says.

Reader reaction is positive

For the NYTimes.com as well as Spiegel Online, the agreement is the latest of many. Epecially in the area of online news, content swapping is becoming ever more commonplace.

Martin Nisenholtz, NYTimes.com CEO, notes that his company started first working with the Financial Times, then the British Broadcasting Corp. and now Der Spiegel. "I hope we can continue to expand," he adds.

The Spiegel stories have gotten "a positive reaction," Nisenholtz said, but they also point up a limitation inherent in online media -- and possibly a difference in the way Germans and Americans are used to digesting information.

"The Spiegel articles are very long, written for magazine format, so the practical idea of reading them from a screen has its limitations, " he said.

New focus on Germany?

Nonetheless, von Blumencrone notes that there has been a good deal of interest in the German view. Spiegel stories on the Times site have logged "up to 60,000 hits, which isn't much for a Times story, but for us it's a big number," considering that the Spiegel only has a small button on the right side of the screen in the International section of NYTimes.com. "But even then, people find it and appreciate it," he said.

The agreement came into being based around the Iraq conflict, "but who knows how long it will continue," von Blumencrone said. "Americans have an interest in the European position now, at least more than they did two years ago. When it goes back to normal -- normal being that most people in the U.S. aren't very interested in the German or European point of view -- then we'll see."

But Nisenholtz suggested that the deal should not be seen as a representation of a sudden leap in interest in the German point of view.

"Speaking for the Web site only, I do not think there has been a particular increased interest in German issues in recent months. ... The diplomacy surrounding the war (in Iraq), which of course involves Germany, is an important part of the coverage. But it would be wrong to say there is a particular focus on Germany," he said.

Readers interested in the exchange can find articles at the following Internet addresses: www.spiegel.de/spiegel/english and www.nytimes.com/pages/world/index.html.

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