Blog Post

Talking about Europe: Die Zeit and Der Spiegel 1940s-2010s

An on-going research project is seeking to quantify and analyse printed media discourses about Europe over the decades since the end of the Second World War. A first snapshot screened more than 2.8 million articles in Le Monde between 1944 and 2018. In this second instalment we carry out an analogous exercise on a dataset of more the 500 thousand articles from two German weekly magazines: Die Zeit and Der Spiegel. We also report on the on-going work to refine the quantitative methodology.

By: , , and Date: July 18, 2019 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

Introduction

Our ongoing research focuses on how, over the decades since the end of the Second World War, media coverage of European issues has changed, arguably corresponding to the changing interest of their readership. The research is progressing in steps; a more advanced analysis, could also give indications about divergence or convergence patterns between national media.

Printed press is the only possible source of data for the long period to be covered by the analysis, so only newspaper and magazine articles are considered as a proxy for measuring the level of European public debate. The desire to cover a very long period of time also dictates the choice to target the analysis only at the six founding members of the EU. Furthermore, in order to limit the heavy data-collection burden, the analysis concentrates – for the time being – on the three largest founding members: Germany, France and Italy.

Results

More in the hope of provoking a discussion than of providing conclusive results, we presented in a previous post preliminary estimates of the ratio of “European” news versus the total number of news pieces (E/T) for the French newspaper Le Monde between 1944 and 2018 (https://bruegel.org/2019/03/talking-about-europe-le-monde-1944-2018/). In this post we carry out a similar exercise for two German weekly magazines, Die Zeit and Der Spiegel.

The methodology has evolved with respect to the one used for Le Monde and thus the results are not directly comparable. The on going effort aims at reducing the occurrences in which an article could be qualified as European, just because a “European” term is included, even if the subject matter is not European at all[1] (in statistics parlance this would be a type 1 error, concluding that the hypothesis is right while it is in reality wrong) or, vice versa, not including an article that indeed talks about Europe (this would be a type 2 error). Basically the issue is to find a good balance between the two kinds of errors. The method used in this post to establish this balance is explained in the second section, but work is on-going to further improve it.

There are thus important caveats to be taken into account in looking at the results reported in Figure 1 with the frequency of European news to total news, what was called above E/T, in the two weekly magazines. Basically the most solid message is the behaviour over time of the two lines, not their level.

Figure 1: Ratio of European news to total news (E/T) in Der Spiegel archive (1947-2016) and in Die Zeit archive (1946-2016)

While a full comparison between the results obtained from looking at different newspapers will be carried out in subsequent pieces reporting on our on-going research, with improved methodology, an obvious and important remark is that, as observed for Le Monde, also in the German magazines there is a strong positive trend of the E/T ratio: this starts in the second half of the 1940s just below 5 per cent for Die Zeit and at around 2 per cent for Der Spiegel, while reaching in both magazines around 12-15 per cent per cent since the beginning of the 2010s.

Three additional phenomena stand out from a visual inspection of the figures.

First, one noteworthy increase in the E/T ratio is visible in both magazines at the turn between 2009 and 2010, when the financial crisis transformed itself into a European sovereign crisis, following the revelation of a much higher than communicated fiscal deficit in Greece.

Second, the dates of some important events, where we could have expected an increase of the ratio, show instead only a relatively modest reaction. This includes, for instance, the Hague summit of heads of governments that took place in 1969, and the European Monetary System in 1978. European elections, indicated by the white vertical bars, instead highlight the expected spikes, which appear more clearly in Die Zeit than for Der Spiegel.

Finally, there are some examples of significant differences of reaction between the two weeklies with respect to the same events. One case stands out: the EMS crisis originated by the Danish and French referendums on the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 is very visible in an increase in the E/T ratio for Die Zeit, but not for Der Spiegel.

Methodology

The analysis of the two selected newsgroups is still at an early, exploratory stage. We constructed a set of keywords (see below) that can be a proxy for the concept of “European news”. Before moving to topic modelling approaches, we decided to explore the corpus by constructing a score based on the number of matches of keywords in the articles’ body. In the post published with the results from Le Monde, any article containing one of the keywords was considered as European. This is clearly an upward biased estimate of the E variable: including one of the European keywords is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to qualify an article as European. Some method is needed to avoid a large number of Type 1 errors. In estimating E/T in this post on the German weeklies, to deflate the importance of common words such as “euro” or “europäisch” (and its various cases), we weigh the score of these two terms at only 0.5. The articles forming our “E” variable, are then those that score more than 3 points, given our set of keywords.

This procedure was run on a dataset of 310 thousand and 220 thousand articles for Spiegel and Zeit, respectively. The matched articles are almost 24 thousand for Die Zeit, and 22 thousand in Der Spiegel.

Clearly this methodology represents only a preliminary attempt to classify and recognize “European” news, and suffer from a number of drawbacks. First, the analysis was run on the raw data, which has not been pre-processed via the typical text-mining techniques (stop-words removal, stemming, and lemmatization).  Sections that might be a source of noise, as for Le Monde, were not recognized and excluded from our measure of “E” (e.g. sport),

In general, the keyword-scoring methodology helps us quickly and simply explore what is the intensity of these keywords across a very long time span, but it’s far from ideal, as the probability of an article belonging to a topic is not being modelled in a sophisticated way. In further steps of the project we will implement and test, following a more scientific approach, different topic modelling techniques.

 

Keywords list

“Europaisch”, “Euro”, Europäische Gemeinschaften”, “Europäische Gemeinschaft für Kohle und Stahl”, “Montan-Union”, “Montanunion”, “Europäische Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft”, “Europäische Atomgemeinschaft”, “Europäische Gemeinschaft”, “Europäische Union”, “Hohe Behörde”, “Kommission der Europäischen Gemeinschaften”, “Europäische Kommission”, “Besonderer Ministerrat”, “Rat der Europäischen Union”, “Europäischer Rat”, “Gemeinsame Versammlung”, “Europäisches Parlament”, “Europäischer Gerichtshof”, “Gerichtshof der Europäischen Union”, “Gerichtshof der EU”, “Europäischer Rechnungshof”, “Europäische Politische Zusammenarbeit”, “Gemeinsame Aussen- und Sicherheitspolitik”, “Justiz und Inneres”, “Polizeiliche und justizielle Zusammenarbeit in Strafsachen”, “Europäisches Polizeiamt”, ” Einheit für justizielle Zusammenarbeit der Europäischen Union”,”Wirtschafts- und Währungsunion”, “Europäische Wirtschafts- und Währungsunion”, “Europäische Währungsunion”, “Europäischer Wechselkursverbund”, “Europäisches Währungssystem”, “Europäische Währungseinheit”,  “Einheitswährung”, “Gemeinschaftswährung”, “Eurozone”, “Eurokratie”, “Euroland”, “Euroraum”, “Europäisches Währungsinstitut”, “Europäische Zentralbank”, “Europäisches System der Zentralbanken”, “Europäische Währungsschlange” ,”European External Action Service”, “Common Foreign and Security Policy”, “Common Security and Defence Policy”, “European Political Cooperation”, “Schengener”, “Römische Verträge”, “Vertrag von Maastricht”, “Einheitliche Europäische Akte”, “Einheitliche Akte”, “Vertrag von Lissabon”, “EG”, “EGKS”, “EWG”, “EURATOM”, “EG”, “EU”,”EPZ”, “GASP”, “PJZS”, “Europol”, “Eurojust”, “WWU”, “EWI”, “EZB”, “EEAS”, “CFSP”, “CSDP”, “EPC”.

[1] An example may illustrate the problem: in an article published in Der Spiegel in April 1960 (Der Riese räkelt sich – The giant lolls)  about the then President of Brasil, Juscelino Kubitschek, and the new capital of Brasil, Brasilia, one can read the sentence: “Etwa 60 Prozent der brasilianischen Bevölkerung sind europäischer Abstammung”, i.e. circa 60 per cent of the Brazilian population is of European origin. Here the adjective European does not indicate that the subject of the article is Europe. The problem is of course more acute after the introduction of the euro, where the term euro can just indicate the measurement unit of value as in: The car costs 20.000 euro.


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint. Anyone is free to republish and/or quote this post without prior consent. Please provide a full reference, clearly stating Bruegel and the relevant author as the source, and include a prominent hyperlink to the original post.

View comments
Read article More on this topic More by this author

External Publication

La Banca centrale europea

This external publication delves into the new responsibility given to the European Central Bank: supervision on banks in the euro-area. It tells its history and illustrates its functions, structure and responsibilities and the exceptional answers to respond to the "perfect storm" of the crisis.

By: Francesco Papadia Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 31, 2019
Read article Download PDF More on this topic More by this author

External Publication

An Effective Regime for Non-viable Banks: US Experience and Considerations for EU Reform

The US regime for non-viable banks has maintained a high degree of stability and public confidence by protecting deposits, while working to minimise the public cost of that protection. EU reformers can draw valuable insights from the US experience. A review of the US regime supports arguments in favour of harmonisation and centralisation of bank insolvency proceedings and deposit insurance in Europe’s banking union.

By: Nicolas Véron Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: July 22, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

The EU needs a bold climate strategy

Scientists report that global temperature increases must be limited to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. With global greenhouse gas emissions continuing to increase and rising temperatures driving up the frequency of extreme weather events, the world needs a greater commitment to climate policy.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Energy & Climate Date: July 19, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Croatia’s path into the banking union

Croatia seems a suitable candidate for euro area accession: there is a tight peg to the euro, high public debt is coming down, and the banking sector is already dominated by euro area banks. But the Eurogroup has rightly targeted reforms of the state’s role in the economy as a precondition for participation in ERM II and the banking union. None of the announced reform plans are new or easily concluded within the timeframe that has now been agreed.

By: Alexander Lehmann Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 18, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

How should the relationship between competition policy and industrial policy evolve in the European Union?

Competition policy aims to ensure that market practices and strategies do not reduce consumer welfare. Industrial policy, meanwhile, aims at securing framework conditions that are favourable to industrial competitiveness, and deals with (sector-specific) production rules as well as the direction of public funds and tax measures. But, how should competition policy and industrial policy interact? Is industrial policy contradicting the aims of competition policy by promoting specific industrial interests?

By: Georgios Petropoulos Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Date: July 15, 2019
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

The 4th industrial revolution: opportunities and challenges for Europe and China

What is the current status of EU-China relations concerning innovation, and what might their future look like?

Speakers: Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Chen Dongxiao, Patrick Child, Eric Cornuel, Maria Demertzis, Ding Yuan, Luigi Gambardella, Jiang Jianqing, Frank Kirchner, Pascal Lamy, Li Mingjun, Gwenn Sonck, Gerard Van Schaik, Reinhilde Veugelers, Wang Hongjian, Guntram B. Wolff, Xu Bin, Zhang Hongjun and Zhou Snow Topic: Global Economics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: July 12, 2019
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Policy Brief

The European Union energy transition: key priorities for the next five years

The new members of the European Parliament and European Commission who start their mandates in 2019 should put in place major policy elements to unleash the energy transition. It is becoming economically and technically feasible, with most of the necessary technologies now available and technology costs declining. The cost of the transition would be similar to that of maintaining the existing system, if appropriate policies and regulations are put in place.

By: Simone Tagliapietra, Georg Zachmann, Ottmar Edenhofer, Jean-Michel Glachant, Pedro Linares and Andreas Loeschel Topic: Energy & Climate Date: July 9, 2019
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

‘Lo spread’: The collateral damage of Italy’s confrontation with the EU

The authors assess whether the European Commission's actions towards Italy since September 2018 have had a visible impact on the spread between Italian sovereign-bond yields and those of Germany, and particularly whether the Commission’s warnings have acted as a ‘signalling device’ for bond-market participants that it might be difficult for Italy to obtain the support of the ESM or the ECB’s OMT programme if needed.

By: Grégory Claeys and Jan Mazza Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 8, 2019
Read article More by this author

Blog Post

It’s hard to live in the city: Berlin’s rent freeze and the economics of rent control

A proposal in Berlin to ban increases in rent for the next five years sparked intense debate in Germany. Similar policies to the Mietendeckel are currently being discussed in London and NYC. All three proposals reflect and raise similar concerns – the increase in per-capita incomes is not keeping pace with increases in rents, but will a cap do more harm than good? We review recent views on the matter.

By: Inês Goncalves Raposo Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 8, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Director's Cut: Priorities for the new ECB president

In this Director's Cut of 'The Sound of Economics', Guntram Wolff talks to two of the authors of Bruegel's memo to the new ECB president, Maria Demertzis and Grégory Claeys, to specify the most important issues at the beginning of this eight-year cycle and to clarify the parameters within which the new incumbent will have to work.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 4, 2019
Read article Download PDF

Policy Brief

The threats to the European Union’s economic sovereignty

Memo to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The authors describe the current context and the increasing interlinkages between economics and power politics and the role to play in reinforcing and defending Europe’s economic sovereignty.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Global Economics & Governance Date: July 4, 2019
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Policy Brief

Preparing for uncertainty

Memo to the president of the European Central Bank. Grégory Claeys, Maria Demertzis and Francesco Papadia present the challenges that the next ECB president will face during the upcoming mandate, reinventing monetary policy in a system riddled with uncertainties.

By: Grégory Claeys, Maria Demertzis and Francesco Papadia Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 3, 2019
Load more posts