Tweeting German Politics

Some of my research attention over the past several years has turned to “digital diplomacy”, that is the use of the internet, of social media, and of other communication tools for foreign policy purposes. Curious, see the Direct Diplomacy blog which I joined earlier this year.

In terms of this interest, I am very much looking forward to a year based in a capital where there are embassies, a foreign ministry, think tanks, etc. to be able to interact with some digital diplomacy players in person rather than online. Yes, there’s an irony in there.

But never mind, my research interest in things digital and in social media means that this focus also creeps into daily life.

Twitter as a Source for Journalists

Here, it is very clear that Twitter has become an important source for German journalists when reporting on current domestic political events.

There are few articles in the front section of the Berliner Zeitung which I am reading most regularly that don’t include a quote of a tweet by a German politician. This is much more the case than with the Globe & Mail, the paper I read regularly in Vancouver. In the Globe, my sense is that there are occasional tweets that are referred to, but this is not very common. Not so in the Berliner Zeitung.

In my mind, this poses an immediate question: is politics in Germany changing to the more social media-based, direct interaction with the public? Hm… somehow I don’t think so. It seems more likely that tweets are a very convenient quote for journalists. They obviously have just the right length to be plugged into a newspaper article. They are easily attributable and because they are public have a built-in permission to be quoted. They don’t require direct contact with the person quoted and the associated wait on the phone/for a callback, etc.

However, it is also clear that only a minority of German politicians are active “on the line”. Yes, as my kids will remind me, “Twitter is for old people”, but since I don’t see quotes from Facebook in articles, nor snaps, many journalists must be old people, and thus Twitter seems to dominate this particular way to write articles. I will start following some of the German politicians who are either prominent or frequently quoted to begin to get a better sense of who they are and what they’re using Twitter for. This is also a convenient way for me to find my way back into some German political debates that still seem slightly foreign now.

Interestingly, German journalists don’t seem to be that active on Twitter, or perhaps I haven’t found them yet. One columnist of the Berliner Zeitung which has had several good columns in the paper over the past two weeks, Daniela Vates, for example, is not to be found online as far as I can tell.

Follow Me!

Oh, and if you’re old or old-at-heart, follow me @jdierkes or read Mongolia Focus for mostly Mongolian content, @Schaumkroenchen for more personal tweets with a bit of a sports/soccer focus, or @DirectDiplo for the above-mentioned interest in digital diplomacy.


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