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Mass Media and the Generation of Conflict: West Germany's Long Sixties and the Formation of a Critical Public Sphere

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 July 2006

Department of History, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS, United Kingdom;


From the 1950s to 1970s the West German public sphere underwent a rapid politicisation which was part of the ongoing socio-cultural democratisation of the Federal Republic. This article examines the role of the mass media and journalistic elites in bringing about this change. It analyses how and when political coverage in the media evolved from an instrument of consensus to a forum of conflict. Arguing that generational shifts in journalism were crucial to this process, two generations, termed the ‘45ers’ and the ‘68ers’, are described in regard to their professional ethos and their attitudes toward democracy, mass culture, German traditions and Western models.

Research Article
Cambridge University Press 2006

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This article grew out of a research project whose findings are published in more detail in my book Konsens und Krise: Eine Geschichte der Medienöffentlichkeit in Westdeutschland, 1945–1973 (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2006). My thanks go to Ulrich Herbert, A. Dirk Moses, W. Daniel Wilson, Mark Sawchuk, and the two anonymous reviewers.
Christina von Hodenberg is Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at Queen Mary, University of London. Her main lines of research have been the social history of nineteenth-century Prussia and the political culture of postwar Germany. She has recently worked on an overview study of political journalism in West Germany between 1945 and 1973, Konsens und Krise: Eine Geschichte der westdeutschen Medienöffentlichkeit (2006).