Media biographies of the Chancellors of the German Federal Republic (KaMeBi)

Time span November 2017 – October 2019
Funding DFG - Sachbeihilfe/Einzelförderung
Keywords Kommunikationswissenschaft; Politische Kommunikation; Bundeskanzler; Medienbiografien; Medialisierung; Mediensozialisation


The project aims to analyze the role of the media in the life of the chancellors, i.e., to reconstruct their media biographies. A comprehensive understanding of media biographies includes life and professional experience before and during office as well as the interplay with media actors during the career.In addition to their high formal and informal power in the chancellor democracy, the persons under investigation particularly symbolize politics and the social and cultural change of their time and in their generation. They were required to develop strategies to present their decisions in public and represent them with their acquired personal style. Furthermore, experiences related to the media also played a constitutive role in the biographies of some of the chancellors and possibly also for their later relationship with the media as they were actively involved in journalism.Certainly, biographical accounts on the persons we are interested in exist, but they only mention the media among many other topics, if at all. There are also a number of studies specifically related to the media, but the state of research is rather sketchy. We have largely reviewed the existing literature and we would now like to pass from these secondary sources to an analysis of primary evidence. In addition, we can draw on our own preliminary theoretical works.

The study proposed here then combines several methods and sources of data and strives for methodologically and theoretically reflected biographical research that always refers to the historical and structural context and media change. This approach complements the often cross-sectional research on the relationship between politics and the media and, at the same time, goes beyond naïve person-centered historiography.The empirical and historical analysis will move along the following topics: the formation of basic attitudes toward the media until the beginning of the period in office (e.g., in the course of media use, possible work in media production or public relations, or due to contacts in journalism), the interplay with the media while in office (e.g., the changing attitudes towards the media, the strategies of public communication), as well as the reactions to media change and its political regulation (for example, as a part of media policy).Our investigations will center around documents from private archives, archives of political parties or affiliated with parties (e.g., Adenauer-Stiftung and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung), public archives (e.g., on the Bundespresseamt) as well as archives of media organizations (e.g., correspondence with journalists, press packs, press releases, strategy papers and plans, protocols and notes, etc.). We will also lead qualitative interviews with journalists and companions of the chancellors.