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New DFG-project regarding Media Biographies of German Chancellors started at the IfK

(29.11.2017) Led by Dr. Thomas Birkner (WWU) and Dr. Benjamin Krämer (LMU), the new DFG-project “Media Biographies of German Chancellors” aims to explore the significance of the media in the chancellors’ biographies. Sebastian Mallek (IfK Muenster) and Katharina Schmidt (IfKW Muenchen) will be research assistants in the two-year project, funded with 250.000 Euro from the DFG.

In western democracies media and politics are almost inseparably intertwined. The German Chancellors as the central figures on the political floor also act as personifications of German politics in the German media. Looking at the chancellors from Adenauer to Merkel, the circumstances of their upbringing and their experiences with the media differ vastly, certainly partly due to the changes of the media system surrounding them.

The DFG-project “Media Biographies of German Chancellors” is trying to answer questions such as “What kind of media did they encounter in their parental home?” “Did the chancellors work as journalists themselves before becoming the heads of government and did these experiences influence their attitude towards the media?” “How did the chancellors react to the changes in the media system and how did their media policy influence or maybe even initiate these changes?”

The project will combine established methods from political science, media science and historical science in order to analyse different sources. With Mediatisation-theory and (media) socialisation as a theoretical framework the interplay between the chancellors and the media will be analysed. The key sources to do so will be (auto)biographies, archive files, speeches, media pieces as well as interviews with contemporary witnesses.

The overall aim of this project is to reconstruct the significance of the media in the chancellors’ biographies. Therefore, this project takes a biographical and historical angle to analyze the nature of these experiences, circumstances and interactions and how they affected the chancellors’ relationship with as well as their strategies towards the media. This includes the analysis of the chancellors’ early media-related personal and professional experiences before they were in office, as well as interactions with the media throughout their political career.

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