The drama surrounding the deputy editor of the newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung” should be a lesson for the media in how not to deal with suspicions.

A shark as a finger puppet

How much baseness, no matter how hidden, is there in us? Photo: Lubitz + Dorner/plainpicture

Actually, this weekly review column was going to be about, among other things, plagiarism, with a smile and irony. Alexandra Föderl-Schmid, deputy editor-in-chief of Süddeutsche Zeitung, She is accused of cheating on her doctoral thesis and copying other texts for articles.

Things aren't particularly scandalous. As a professional newspaper reader, I constantly encounter pseudo-source information like “it is said” or buttery softenings like “Person XY is considered…”. Translated: You read it somewhere, but now you don't bother to check it yourself. A real campaign was started with malicious overtones, with the disastrous ex-Image-Editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt, who paid extra for it to a supposed plagiarism hunter. You can finally show it to a hated left-liberal elite journalist!

Alexandra Föderl-Schmid disappeared this Thursday and Friday; Police were looking for a woman in an inn between Bavaria and Austria for “suicide risk.” Finally the journalist was found under a bridge; “cold” but alive. How can a person hide and no longer want to have anything to do with the world because he has been accused of technical errors in his work? The temporal connection with the campaign against them is obvious. Where is the responsibility of the media that, well, reported on this?

He size checked the contact information of its employees to find among its ranks the complainant of the accusations that were initially kept internally, and thereby aggravated the matter even more. The newspaper announced an external review of the allegations and wrote: “Until then, he wants to withdraw from the operating business.” No, she was definitely forced to do it: the usual lying jargon of corporate communications. The pressure on Alexandra Föderl-Schmid must have been inhumane.

David Foster Wallace's great speech

The writer David Foster Wallace once gave a great speech to the graduates of an Ohio university, which was published as a small book. Wallace, who suffered from severe depression and committed suicide in 2008, confronted students about their “default settings”: the way they judge people. He recommended looking at people who are annoying or who you can easily make fun of in a completely different way; For example, seeing with different eyes the “cheeky woman” in the supermarket queue who “just yelled at her son” – perhaps she would not be like that otherwise; Maybe she just didn't sleep for three nights because she was holding hands with her husband, who was dying of bone cancer; Maybe this same woman also has a low-paying job in the traffic department and yesterday she helped her husband put an end to a nightmare procedure through a small act of bureaucratic kindness.”

It would be nice if Alexandra Föderl-Schmid went beyond the default settings. What could have motivated her to copy and paste, if the allegations are true? Is the pressure too great to perform? And the media in charge of this matter should do a little inspection on “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Are we always role models?

This week and last week the semi-annual reports were handed out to schools and we, parents and adults, casually criticized or praised them. Do you have a B in ethics? Excellent! But why don't we adults take the time to study the excellent material our children are taught? The complete program of ethics: What is right and what is wrong? What is ratio, what is proportion? How do we treat each other? Are we really always a role model for children? How much baseness, no matter how hidden, is there in us?

One of the last sentences of David Foster Wallace's speech, three years before his death, was: It is unimaginably difficult to live consciously and adultly day after day.