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Top German tabloid 'Bild' gets first female editor-in-chief

Germany's highest-circulation newspaper, the "Bild" tabloid, has a new editor-in-chief: Tanit Koch. It's the first time the center-right tabloid, aimed at less-educated readers, has a woman in the role.

"Bild" announced Thursday in Berlin that its new editor-in-chief was to be Tanit Koch, 38, who previously worked at the conservative "Die Welt" newspaper. Both publications are part of the Axel Springer corporate group, one of the biggest media companies in Europe with about 14,000 employees and an annual turnover of about 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion).

Ms. Koch will take over the reins at "Bild" from the current editor-in-chief, Kai Diekmann, on January 1, 2016.

Diekmann, who has been editor-in-chief since 2001, will be Ms. Koch's boss. Diekmann will carry on as the publisher of the Bild Group, which includes the print newspaper version of "Bild," the online version Bild.de, the Sunday weekly "Bild am Sonntag," and a special Berlin regional version of "Bild." Diekmann, according to a company statement, intends to focus on growing the Bild group, the further development of its sub-brands, and its overall journalistic orientation.

The paper version of the "Bild" tabloid sold 2.203 million copies on average in the third quarter of 2015. That was down slightly from 2.435 million copies a year earlier - an indication of readers' continuing migration online. Bild claimes that the paper actually reaches about 10 million readers, since a single paper copy may have more than one reader.

Conservative opinion-leading stance

Bild Group's overall journalistic orientation has received a good deal of attention over the years. The tabloid has a reputation for aggressive reporting that blurs the line between reporting and editorializing. There are blogs such as "Bildblog.de" that specialise in criticising the tabloid, which is seen by many as being in the business of opinion management rather than news reporting.

During the past couple of years, Bild has engaged in hefty campaigns aimed at turning public opinion against Russia's foreign policy and its President, Vladimir Putin, particularly over events in Ukraine; it has fostered rage amongst German voters against Greece's left-wing Syriza government and Syriza's stance in economic policy and budget negotiations with its European creditors; and it has promoted contempt for welfare recipients by highlighting individual case histories of welfare fraud - among other pet crusades.

Cover story of BILD

The cover of Bild tabloid from 26.2.2015 shrieks: "NO! to more billions [in European bailout funds] for the greedy Greeks!"

In July, the German Journalists' Union (Deutscher Journalistenverband, DJV) called on Bild's editors to stop their media campaign against a new "bailout" of Greece - the provision of fresh loans by European Union member countries to Greece's effectively bankrupt government. Bild went to far as to sponsor a "reader referendum" opposing the bailout.

DJV's chief, Michael Konken, published a statement saying that Bild editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann "is distancing himself once again, as so often, from his mandate as a journalist and is himself driving policy. That isn't his proper role. Journalists are supposed to provide information, put it into context" and help readers understand events, Konken said.

"The way the "Bild" tabloid has for months been trying to generate a particular political climate" by crossing the line between journalism and political activism is "not acceptable," the DJV chief added.

Tanit Koch started working at "Bild" in the politics and business news department in 2005. In 2007, she became Diekmann's office manager. No changes to Bild's editorial stance are expected with her appointment to the editor-in-chief role of the print version of the tabloid.

nz/hg (DPA, AFP)

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