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Stereotypes and the media
PODCAST: India’s image in German news

© Goethe-Institut / Mohit Jindal

We learn about people from faraway places and their culture primarily from the media. It particularly shapes our image of places we have not been to. For the majority of Germans, India is one such place. So how is the country represented in German media? In this podcast, journalists talk about the role of stereotypes in the news.

By Pia Behme

Even if we cannot make our own direct experiences with a place and its people, we have rough ideas about life in other countries. Germans only eat this, Indians are like that, in Mexico are things this way. Most of the times, these associations are limited to a few traits, characteristics, behaviours, and attitudes. In other words, national stereotypes.
Whether media coverage contributes to the construction of stereotypes is not necessarily a question of misinformation or ‘fake-news’. The selection of news stories in the first place has a strong impact on what we associate with another country.

What do German media report about when they cover India? 

According to one study, the coverage about India in 2018 was dominated by stories about sexual violence, celebrities, animals and odd incidents. The study analysed 400 articles by Spiegel Online, Deutsche Welle, Bild.de and Express Online. Odd incidents included bizarre, unexpected and mostly negative events of individual Indians, like a story about someone who died while taking a selfie. Stories about animals featured mainly ‘exotic’ animals that are not native to Germany.
This selection of news stories shapes a rather narrow, stereotypical image of India.
What is the reason behind this? How do news become news? And is stereotypical content what the readers want?
In this podcast, Indian journalist Sunaina Kumar, German correspondent Nick Kaiser, and Pradnya Bivalkar from the University of Tübingen talk about the role of stereotypes in the selection of news.