Following the dismissal of Bild’s editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt after the New York Times and other media came out with more details from the compliance investigations against him, Axel Springer’s CEO Mathias Doepfner addressed his employees in an internal meeting on Friday, October 22. He also apologized for the first time for the stress and strain of the past months — also to those affected by Reichelt’s abuse of power.
Medieninsider documents the speech of the Springer CEO. For international audience we have translated it from German into English. Click here for the German version.
Döpfner’s speech followed two internal appearances in recent days that were poorly received by Springer’s staff. According to the staff, the Springer CEO had talked too much about Julian Reichelt, his merits and Döpfner’s personal feelings. In the process, he had not said a word about the stress and strain of the past months to the people who were affected by the editor-in-chief’s abuse of power (Döpfner on the Reichelt case: “Nothing in my professional career has ever shaken me so much and made me personally so sad”).
He has now attempted to make up for this and apologized for the events of the past few weeks, and seems to be noticeably affected. For the first time, he also admitted that he and the Springer board had outright accepted Reichelt’s lies. The CEO accused himself of having allowed himself to be lied to. He admitted: He should have parted with Reichelt earlier.
Here is Mr. Doepfners full speech, in which he also addresses his controversial GDR quote as well as the role of whistleblowers in the compliance investigations.
“I would like to take this opportunity to speak to you again briefly before the weekend to tell you how sorry I am for what has occurred here in recent months. I am deeply sorry for what you have all had to experience — first and foremost and in particular those directly affected by the misconduct of their former editor-in-chief. Those are the main ones affected. But I am also concerned about the many indirectly affected, all the staff at Bild who actually only want to do their best for this wonderful brand and who have been experiencing uncertainty and fear, attacks and accusations for months. Yes, it is absolutely clear: From today’s point of view, with all of what we know today and what is now beyond doubt, we should have parted company with Julian Reichelt six months ago. He lied to us and we accepted his lies.
That’s what I blame myself for.
We would have spared you and all of us a lot of suffering, humiliation and uncertainty, but we were convinced that we have to distinguish between rumours, which ought to be ignored; between indications, which have to be followed up on; and between evidence, which ought to lead to immediate actions. In spite of acting we recognize that from today’s perspective we did not act strongly enough.
In addition, we have to treat every case in such a way that it represents a benchmark for every future case as well. Therefore, the reality of assessing such cases is sometimes very complicated and seems like an unreasonable demand to many. I deeply regret this and I would also like to thank all those who have contributed to the resolution of this case with their help. Many of those who spoke up genuinely wanted to help protect those affected and bring to light injustices . Others had less noble intentions. But — honestly — in the light of what we know today , that does not matter. Whistleblowers are indispensable in their highlighting of misconduct.
On top of that, I regret that in connection with this case, a private conversation of mine via text message described a large part of German journalists as uncritical — keyword propaganda assistants — even compared the Federal Republic of Germany with the GDR. That was, of course, pure, sharp irony.
Anyone who knows me knows that neither of these views are mine, of course. On the contrary: I love and admire the profession of journalism like little else. And I fight every day to ensure that journalism continues to play a major role in our society. I appreciate living in such a powerful constitutional state every day. But everyone who knows me also knows: I am emotional and I love to exaggerate — a little bit in public dialogue, and sometimes a lot in private dialogue. I also like, I admit it, to provoke with relish or perhaps react in a pointed way. In public there are limits to this, in private these limits are wider. But of course, in this case too, I am sorry if colleagues felt criticised as a result. That was, I assure you, not my intention. It would also be quite absurd, to be honest, because I live of and for journalism.
Let us now learn from these bitter experiences, the culture of cooperation at Bild must change urgently and even faster and even more fundamentally in some fields. Here too, as in the whole company, we need a fear-free and respectful way of dealing with each other. The current culture project has already brought progress, but we now need to get better faster. We want to talk about this with you in a large group on Monday. Now just try to rest a little over the weekend, recover and with the same passion with which you work every day to make the best possible picture, we must now also manage to become a model of a modern culture of respectful cooperation. Thank you. And have a good weekend.”