Media Covering Religion — How Is That?

By Back to Religion Editor

Artur Vogel
Artur Vogel

Artur Vogel was born in Lucerne in 1953, and he studied law and business administration at Zurich University and has worked as a professional journalist since 1978.

Among other activities, Vogel was a Middle East correspondent of the Zurich-based daily Tages-Anzeiger and Der Standard in Vienna, from 1988 to 1996.

He was chief foreign editor in Tages-Anzeiger, from 1996 to 1998, and later in the weekly Die Weltwoche. Vogel has been chief editor in Der Bund newspaper for four years.

OI: Can we start with giving the readers more information about the history of Der Bund as a leading Swiss media outlet?

Vogel: Der Bund is a traditional daily newspaper founded in 1850 to defend the then young Swiss nation-state against conservative forces, mainly in catholic and rural areas of Switzerland. It is still a liberal paper that tries to give its readers a broad view of international and national politics, culture, economy, and, of course, local events.

Daily circulation is about 52,000 copies, and it is read mainly in the city and suburbs of Berne and in the Swiss government and administration bureaus.

OI: After long years of working in journalism, how do you map journalism in Switzerland? What kinds of media have managed to find their way to the Swiss people?

Vogel: Switzerland has a very long tradition of newspapers, with a large readership. In the past years, however, a lot of them had to merge or to close. There is fierce competition from all sides: the Internet, free daily papers, local radio and TV stations, and so on.

The number of staff has been drastically reduced, too, which means that there are a lot less positions for journalists available than before. Investigative journalism has suffered, too, for the lack of funds and of staff.

OI: Can we describe Der Bund as "everybody's newspaper", based on the fact that Der Bund is open for all backgrounds to come up and state their opinions — starting from the so extreme to the very liberal? And how do you find the newspaper's experience?

Vogel: Der Bund is not everybody's newspaper, because it requires minimal education and knowledge to read it. I'd say that Der Bund is a newspaper for somebody who is of high interest to follow the news of politics, economy, and culture (but we have a good sports section, too).

OI: Der Bund had been issued since 1850. It is well ancient print media in Switzerland. How was that?

Vogel: There are only five or six papers in Switzerland left that are older than Der Bund. This means that we have a very long tradition, that our readers have a certain image of our paper, and that we have to try to keep up with their high expectations.

"The original message of Der Bund was: Swiss! Unite! The message today is: Swiss! Find your place in the world!"- Vogel.

OI: And how far do globalization and modernism affect the original message for which Der Bund was founded?

Vogel: When Der Bund was founded, Switzerland was a new national entity that had to establish itself among much bigger nations surrounding it. Nowadays, Switzerland's existence is well established, but it still has to define its role in modern Europe, which is difficult because there is a majority against a membership in the European Union (EU).

The original message of Der Bund was: Swiss! Unite! The message today is: Swiss! Find your place in the world!

OI: In your point of view, what are the most outstanding challenges that journalists across the globe face?

Vogel: Speed is the biggest challenge: The Internet is capable of publishing everything immediately, and radios, television, and newspapers have to follow suit if they do not want to be outpaced completely.

And the second challenge: The world has become ever more complicated, and for an individual journalist, it is not easy to stay in touch with the developments.

OI: What do you think about the social media and citizen journalism trend that has become popular in some countries?

Vogel: Social media is a new and interesting addition to our ways of communication. For my newspaper, however, I'd like to stick to "traditional," professional journalism.

OI: Finally, it is about the restrictions of press. What if you have got once an op-ed that criticizes Der Bund's role and effect in a so serious tune? Will you publish it or instead turn offline the discussion with the writer of such opinion?

Vogel: We publish criticisms of our own paper all the time: in the reader's mail, on our opinion pages, and so on. No problem about that.

The original message of Der Bund was: Swiss! Unite! The message today is: Swiss! Find your place in the world!

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