Press

   Today’s Wiener Zeitung (Vienna Journal), the country’s official newspaper of record, is among the oldest dailies in the world. Founded in 1703 as a court journal called the Wiener Diarium (Vienna Daily), it changed its title following a merger with another paper in 1724.
   The content of 18th-century newspapers in the Habsburg seat, particularly the Wiener Zeitung, could be quite wide ranging. Several articles from the 1770s, for example, covered the crumbling Ottoman Empire and the rebellion of Great Britain’s North American colonies. What these publications lacked was a place for editorial opinion, a concession to government and church censorship that only intermittently relaxed. Emperor Joseph II encouraged free circulation of opinion at the outset of his reign in 1780, but as dissidence with some of his other policies flared up in some of his lands, he became as restrictive as his predecessors.
   The end of the Napoleonic Wars reinstalled intellectual conservatism throughout the Austrian lands, but serious periodical literature did survive. The Wiener Jahrbücher der Literatur (Vienna Literary Yearbooks) and the Archiv für Geschichte, Statistik, Literatur und Kunst (Archive for History, State Affairs, Literature and Art) were both informative and open to a diverse group of writers and intellectuals. It was only after the Revolutions of 1848, however, that newspapers became genuine organs of public opinion and criticism. A golden age of Austrian journalism unfolded after 1867, when the constitution for the Austrian half of the Dual Monarchy made freedom of the press a protected civil right. Censorship still took place: the press bureau of the Austrian Ministry of the Interior watched newspapers and magazines regularly, though not always with equal intensity. Some papers were ideologically better positioned to influence government thinking than others. By the beginning of the 20th century, Friedrich Funder (1872–1959), editor of the Reichspost (Imperial Post), the voice of the Christian Social Party, belonged to the circle of men who advised Archduke Franz Ferdinand. But even the Reichspost carried articles read throughout Europe, as were stories and reportage in other partisan dailies such as the Social Democratic Arbeiter Zeitung (Workers’ Journal), which began publishing in July 1889. The generally liberal Neue Freie Presse (New Free Press) was even more widely respected, both domestically and abroad.
   Austrian reporters and editors from several political camps were co-opted into government propaganda efforts during World War I, sacrificing both their independence and their credibility in the process. Nevertheless, journalism in Vienna revived quickly after 1918; what the city lacked in material well-being, it made up for, to a certain extent, with the lively array of local publications. The first tabloid in the city, Die Stunde (The Hour), appeared in 1923. Combining readability with a smattering of hard content, the format remained an enduring part of the Austrian newspaper scene. Any independent press had vanished by 1940 in Nazi-run Austria. Not until 21 September 1945 did the Wiener Zeitung resume operation, as the paper of record for the Austrian provisional government. The occupation powers restored the guarantee to publish freely in the country later that year. By 1954, the American-influenced Wiener Kurier (Vienna Courier) had become the Neuer Kurier (New Courier). Combining boulevard irreverence with often probing investigative reporting, it would be postwar Austria’s first journalistic success story.
   Competition for readership, however, was keen. The thoughtful Neues Österreich (New Austria) closed. Audiences deserted papers published by political parties, such as the communist Volksstimme (People’s Voice) and the Arbeiterzeitung. Some readers shifted to the serious national dailies that emerged, Die Presse, for one, then in 1988 Der Standard, along with the Salzburger Nachrichten (Salzburg News). Despite the regional ring to its title, the Salzburg daily has covered world events and the arts consistently and independently. National news weeklies also appeared; among the first was profil, a venture of Standard publisher Oskar Bronner (1943–). The largest readership, however, was, and is, of tabloids, such as the Vienna Neue Kronen Zeitung (One-Crown Journal), whose origins go back to 2 January 1900, the day after the crown became the basic unit of currency in the Habsburg Empire, where one crown bought a monthly subscription to the paper. Its combination of celebrity-watching and soft porn with little-guy conservative indignation and folksiness have made it enduringly popular. The most widely read of these papers nationally has, for many years, been Die Kleine Zeitung (The Little Journal), based in Graz, but sold throughout much of the country, with special sections devoted to local provincial news. A new entry into the Austrian tabloid scene since 2006 is Österreich. Produced by one of Austria’s most powerful media companies, the Fellner group, its tone and layout was designed, like all of the organization’s publications, for specific audiences, generally the young, more affluent, and lifestyle conscious, without wholly abandoning significant investigative reporting. Österreich has forced many of Austria’s leading dailies to rethink their format, content, and pricing policies. The Austrian press is characterized by considerable concentration of ownership. The Kurier and the Kronen Zeitung are holdings of the Mediaprint organization. The Fellner group now controls the country’s three major news magazines, News, Format, and profil.
   The publication and editing of Österreich, however, no longer has any connection with the three weeklies. The government itself has often subsidized papers in the interest of keeping the public informed and maintaining some diversity of opinion in the print media.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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