The German newsmagazine ‘Der Spiegel‘, or in English, “The Mirror” was established after World War II in 1947 as a commercial magazine.  The style of Der Spiegel is noticeable for being a cross between a newspaper like the New York Times (NYT) and Newsweek magazine;  Each edition is published weekly in magazine format, with article content similar to the NYT.  The advertisement to content ratio is usually two to one, low for magazines.   Der Spiegel is owned by the German magazine company Spiegel-Verlag; Spiegel-Verlag expanded the bran with SpiegelTV and spinoff magazines.  Der Spiegel is the most widely read news publication in Germany, circulation about a million.   Widely regarded as Germany’s premier newsmagazine since 1950  for uncovering a bribery scandal that may have influenced the location of the West German capital.

Since Der Spiegel was published weekly they were quickly put into a bind to provide timely news coverage out of news cycle.  The previous edition of Der Spiegel was published on September 10, 2001, the day before the attack; as a result, Der Spiegel rushed to publish a September 15, 2001 edition that remains a special issue.  According to Joachim W. H. Hoas “The first 20 pages were completely devoted to the events.”  The edition is also notable because it is one of the largest, quickest, and most widely printed (1.5 million copies) edition that Der Spiegel had ever published.

The editors also felt the need to write an article addressing their reader while anthropomorphizing the magazine because of events (eg: ‘Der Spiegel‘ is concerned…”).  In the next few weeks September 24, October 1, and October 8 there continued to be coverage in the aftermath of the World Trade Center’s destruction but at a lesser pace.

September 15, 2001 Cover Der Spiegel

The covers of Der Spiegel went through a radical transformation.   Before the special edition, there was nearly no covers related to terrorism.  Starting from the September 15 editions, there were no less than 9 out of 10 covers that were related to terrorism.  Similar to Germany, my penpal in Greece pointed out “Greeks were under the impression that terrorism was an domestic issue. 9/11 media coverage gave a new framework to terrorism.” The events of September 11, 2001 transformed terrorism from a local framing to international framing.

A number of people have believed the myth that the United States was immune to terrorism in the continental states despite Oklahoma City, Atlanta Olympic Games, and various abortion clinic bombings.  Terrorism also raised the profile of American coverage, “After 9/11 more generic people and media people became pre-occupied about the US and their foreign policy.” The American news media become more identifiable and gained attention by Greek news media.”  The raised profile is explainable by a lack of journalists from Europe with terrorism expertise at the time.

When reading the magazine, one should notice a subtle formatting difference; the author credit in Der Spiegel is always placed at the end of the article.  In contrast, no American paper of record places the author last.  The effect is based on the idea that some journalists are famous or occasionally infamous be reputation and experience.  By placing the author last Der Spiegel draws attention to the article before knowing the author. This practice prevents the reader from prejudging the article based on the author’s past writings.

Der Spiegel immediately labeled the World Trade Center’s destruction a terrorist act and its perpetrators as terrorists.  The magazine published a history of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda with the headline “Der Prinz und die Terror” (tran. The Prince of Terror) and his organization trained in “Terroristencamp” (tran. terrorist camps).  In addition, the same article labeled bin Laden’s previous attacks at the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania terrorism.

One of the smaller, but more important articles, in the September 24 edition, was the Reuters article that they will no longer use the word terrorist “has das Wort ‘Terrorist’ aus dem Sprachschatz verbant” (tran. the word terrorist is not allowed).  By using the word terrorism repeatedly and publishing an article of Reuters new policy Der Spiegel makes it clear that they will continue to use the word terrorist as they see fit.  However, no official policy on the word “terrorism” could be found.  This is in direct contrast to Susan D. Moeller in Packaging Terrorism that after a number of weeks that various news organization such as the BBC, Reuters, and the New York Times among others decided that they will no longer use the word when possible.  The Jerusalem Post, Der Spiegel, and a few other press organizations oppose not using the term “terrorist” as they fell is necessary.

One criticisms of Susan D. Moeller in Packaging Terrorism makes of the press is the lack of personal stories about the victims of terror in American media especially in regard to Iraq.  Few press organizations were of the NYT series called Portraits of Grief which were the personal history of almost all of the victims of the World Trade Centers’ destruction.  Like the American media, Der Spiegel deserves criticism for not publishing any personal stories.

There were several stories of survivors with quotes – but not victims – despite the presence of three Der Spiegel reporters at the site of the attack.  Most Americans quoted were national politicians such as President George Bush, Vice-President Richard Cheney – and Woody Allen in an interview.  That interview also contained the inappropriate question that if security is tightened, across the country, will the United States become a “Polizeistaat” (tran. police state).  Not surprisingly Allen’s response is complete denial (approx. translation), “…living normal lives again. Really!”

While Der Spiegel was not a good place to go for human interest stories the paper had extensive coverage of the political and economic fallout albeit with a German framing.  There were multiple articles in which German politicians declare their solidarity, support, and sympathy with the American people.  In addition, there were articles explaining the potential political ramifications in German politics.  One of Der Spiegel‘s political

September 24 2001 Cover Der Spiegel

columnists believed that if the United States retaliated against Afghanistan the (approx. translation) “Red-Green” alliance between Premier Gerhard Schroeder’s party theSocial Democratic Party of Germany (SJP) and The Greens would collapse.  The columnist suspected the Greens would not approve of a military response.

Other policy debates included whether there should be new rules in German airports and airplanes to prevent a terrorist attack from hijacking airplanes. Der Spiegel was not above inserting some humor, quoting a security officer that some people were so clueless as to bring “Säbel, Sensen und Armbrust”(tran. sword, dagger?, and crossbow) and knives into the Frankfurt airport.

In addition, the German press became aware that the 20 radical Islamist organizations and their 31,000 members were a danger to peace.  Last, Germany was extremely embarrassed that one of the primary terrorist cells had planned the attack in Hamburg.  Based on all of the above reporting it is quite clear there is German framing by Der Spiegel – the importance of national interest above any other.  In addition, the overall context minimized the victims while exemplifying the political and economic aspects.

Economically, Der Spiegel‘s coverage was less intense than the political side of things.  There were fewer articles, but again, framed with a German interest.  One of the major economic articles was the cost of insuring the attack by German Re and their German-Swiss rival Swiss Re that paid for the loss of the World Trade Center.  Other articles included what affect would the terrorist attack have on the market, a consensus of short-term only; and Der Spiegel also published how various investment banks were affected as many employees of various firms were killed on September 11.

Der Spiegel hired columnists to examine the motivations of bin Laden and the terrorists.  This is the type of coverage that a number of American editorials characterized as either insensitive, obscene, or both.

In actuality Der Spiegel only printed exactly one editorial with this kind of coverage out of the original twenty on September 15.  In this case, the editorial was poorly written; written by Matthias Matussek “Stimmung gegen de Cowboy” (tran. Disapproval? of the Cowboy) insinuates that Latin Americans were secretly pleased with the attack on the United States  – without an actual damning quote from any Latin American – because they wanted revenge for the United States’ support for dictators during the Cold War.  The editorial garnered a rebuke from the Brazilian Envoy to Germany in a October 1 special edition of Letters to the Editor named “Neue Dimension des Boesen” (tran. New Dimension of Evil.  Der Spiegel was not nearly as “anti-American” those columnists made the foreign press out to be.

By far the most thought provoking coverage of the World Trade Center destruction by Der Spiegel were a pair of interviews with a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the father of Mohammad Ata, one of the conspirators of the attack.  The PFLP is condemned as a terrorist organization outside of the Middle East and Africa due to repeated hijackings of airplanes and killing Israeli civilians on purpose.

The interviewee, Leila Khalid, was part of the 1969 hijacking of TWA Flight 840 and the failed hijacking of El Al Flight 219.  She declares the world trade center destruction as bad?, illegal? (“Verbrechen”).  She also asks about the unclear definition of terrorism.  From the interview, it appears that she does not consider herself a terrorist because she did not kill anybody during her hijackings despite the fear she imposed on them and potential flyers.  (You’ll have to trust me on this for the translation, this part was October 1 2001 Cover Der Spiegelreally difficult.)

The interview with Mohammed Atta Sr., father of Mohammed Atta the World Trade Center attack conspirator is one of the most intriguing human interest stories I have ever read.  He has been interviewed a number of times, an English interview is available at Egypt Today, most of his points are still the same.  It is quite clear that Atta Sr. cannot believe what his son did and has not come to terms with it.

In the phases of grief, Atta Sr. is still in denial and it expresses itself through latent anti-Semitism, “Die Juden waren’s” (tran. The Jews did it.).  He rigorously states his belief that the destruction of the World Trade Center was done by the Mossad and Jews knew about the attack beforehand – which Der Spiegel points out as nonsense with numbers on how many Israelis were missing.  According to Peter Knight this conspiracy theory “originated from an anti-Zionist website…widely accepted as fact in the Arab world.”

Interestingly, there have never been any follow up interviews years later to see if he has ever come to terms with World Trade Center events.  This is a journalistic mistake, as clearly Atta Sr.’s role in the World Trade Center attack is important – he refused to notice his son’s increasingly radical tendencies.  As a human interest story, a follow-up interview to see if he has ever accepted what his son did and moving on would either display the resilience of the human spirit or the folly of hatred.

Both of the above interviews express a level of journalistic quality beyond what most of the American press achieved.  This is in stark contrast to the failure of Der Spiegel to highlight the stories of the victims of the World Trade Center destruction.  Rarely does a news organization have the resources to devote journalists to all sides of a story.  A convicted terrorist and the father of one are both interviewed, each of which contribute a new level of perspective not seen in American discourse.

Dr. Bill mentioned in class that he suspected that not all terrorists are alike like any other group; this suspicion is exemplified by Leila Khalid who drew the line at civilian casualties.  In contrast, in no other coverage have I ever read an interview by the parents of a bomber by a reputable outlet.  Hamas has interviewed parents of suicide bombers, but only if they were happy at what their child had done, which is rare.  Clearly, the effect of having a known terrorist as a son is absolutely heart wrenching and impossible to believe.

In conclusion, the coverage by Der Spiegel of destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 is par for the course politically but with some unique human interest stories that other papers could not match.  Nonetheless, it continued the common media problem of very little interest in the victims of terrorist activities.  Not surprisingly, Der Spiegel looked at coverage from a German interest framing while having the insight to do some exemplary interviews.

Also, my penpal provided video samples of Greek coverage of terrorist attacks.  One can hear clear similarities in coverage, especially the usage of stock terrorism footage.  The split screen is also unusual since that was the narrator’s photograph rather than a video of the speaker.

The other one shown to me not completely related, unless you consider the mess between Georgia-Russia to be terrorism. On the other hand, Georgia is apparently one of the few places in the world one can name a stret George W. Bush street and not have it defaced from political activists.


Balzli, Beat; Fleischhauer, Jan; Herbermann, Jan Dirk; Jung, Alexander; Reuter, Wolfgang; Schäfer,            Ulrich; Schießl, Michaela; Steingart, Gabor. “Keine Panik!?” Der Spiegel. 15 September (2001).       31 Jan. 2010.

Beste, Ralf; Hogrefe, Jürgen; Knaup, Horand; Leber, Fabian; Leinemann, Jürgen; Stark, Holger; Szandar,    Alexander. “Wir sind eine Welt.” Der Spiegel. 15 September (2001). 31 Jan 2010.

Brinkbäumer, Klaus; Cziesche, Dominik; Elias, Adel S.; Windfuhr, Volkhard. “Das kann nur der     Mossad.” Der Spiegel. October 1 (2001). 31 Jan. 2010

Geyer, Matthias; Holm, Karsten; Jaeger, Ulrich; Knauer, Sebastian. “Jagd auf Nagelscheren.” Der     Spiegel. 24 September (2001). 31 Jan. 2010.

Gross, Tom. “The BBC Discovers “Terrorism,” Briefly.” Jerusalem Post. July 12, (2005). 2 Feb. 2010.

Haes, Joachim W. H.. “Catching the Wave: German Media on September 11” Prometheus: Critical            Studies in Innovation. Vol 20.3 (2002). 03 Feb. 2010

Herbermann, Jan Dirk; Martens, Heiko; Pauly, Christoph. “Rechnung mit Unbekannten.” Der Spiegel. 24    September (2001). 31 Jan. 2010.

Khattab, Azza. “The “Conspiracy”: Mohammed Atta, Sr., still claims there is no evidence linking his son      to 9/11.” Egypt Today. October 2004. 03 Feb 2010.      <>

Knight, Peter. “Outrageous Conspiracy Theories: Popular and Official Responses to 9/11 in Germany and              the United States.” New German Critique 103, Vol 35.1 Spring (2008). 03 Feb. 2010

Matussek, Matthias. “Stimmung gegen den Cowboy.” Der Spiegel. 15 September (2001). 31 Jan. 2010.

“Neue Dimension des Boesen.” Der Spiegel. 1 October (2001). 31 Jan. 2010.

Moeller, Susan D. Packaging Terrorism: co-opting the news for politics and profit. Jon Wiley & Sons           Ltd: Malden, MA. (2009). 03 Feb. 2010

Der Spiegel . “September 2001 Betr.: Titel.” Der Spiegel. 24 September (2001). 31 Jan. 2010.

Steingart, Gabor. “Ein herber Schlag.” Der Spiegel. 15 September (2001). 31 Jan. 2010.

“Stephen Jukes.” Der Spiegel. 1 October (2001). 31 Jan. 2010.

Wellershoff, Marianne; Wolf, Martin. “Wir wazen zu sorglos.” Der Spiegel. September 24 (2001). 31 Jan.   2010.

Wiedemann, Erich; Windfuhr, Volkhar. “Israels Besatzung ist Terror.” Der Spiegel. October 1 (2001). 31    Jan.  2010.