After alleged Schumacher interview: Funke fires editor-in-chief

Since his serious skiing accident ten years ago, Michael Schumacher has lived a very secluded life and little is known about his state of health. But you can see him all the more often on the shelves of magazines: out of every detail, no matter how small, that gets to the public, rainbow papers condense headlines and cover stories with a lot of imagination that have little or nothing in common with journalistic claims. In recent years, Schumacher’s family has already taken legal action against many publications that violate personal rights. Still, there’s hardly a week that doesn’t have old photos of the racer on at least one, if not more, tabloid covers.

Publishers such as the Funke Mediengruppe, Bauer, Burda and Klambt still make a lot of money with these colorful booklets – especially in retail sales at kiosks and in supermarkets. Apparently enough to fill their coffers for the numerous legal disputes with German celebrity media lawyers, that’s the impression of the past few years. However, the fact that a publisher apologizes to the family of a celebrity in a press release is a novelty. This is what happened late on Friday evening, prime time for PR departments to swept a bad report under the carpet as far as possible.

An “incredible” interview was promised, “with answers from him!”

At 9:04 p.m., the Funke media group from Essen sent an email asking “the Schumacher family to apologize for the reporting in the latest issue of The actual”. The magazine, which describes itself as “Germany’s fastest people magazine with reports on VIPs, show stars and lifestyle”, had no less than a “World Sensation!” on the cover of issue no. 16 of April 15th. promised. “Michael Schumacher: The first interview!” Was the headline in yellow letters in front of a smiling racing driver photo. Subline: “++ It sounds deceptively real ++ What’s behind it ++ the actual went in search of clues”.

According to the publisher, the magazine reaches around 1.37 million people with a circulation of more than 268,000 copies. Most of them (81 percent) are female and on average 64 years old. And what these “trendy” women who remained young at heart found on pages eight and nine of the magazine was a supposed quote from Schumacher in the title, lots of pictures of the family and a short, single-column body of text. In the very first paragraph, they were again promised an “incredible” interview, “with answers from him!”, Of course, to “the most burning questions that the whole world has been asking for so long”. Namely: how he is doing, whether he follows the careers of his children and whether he wants to appear publicly again in the future. However, as the reader only found out in the last third of the text, the sentimental answers came from an artificial intelligence and by no means from Michael Schumacher himself.

Described how the AI ​​interview came about The actual a bit nebulous: “The interview was on the Internet. On a page that has to do with artificial intelligence, or AI for short.” And: “The actual went in search of clues.” A Funke spokesman explained this supposedly investigative work more specifically when asked about it by SZ: “(…) two journalists fed an AI tool with questions.”

DJV spokesman calls the case “Schumacher fake”

The case drew criticism from the industry. The spokesman for the German Association of Journalists said in a comment from the “Schumacher Fake” and criticized the lurid title. According to Hendrik Zörner, all media users “have the right not to be led around the spruce tree”. “The editors don’t seem to care much, at least in this case.” Apparently there are concerns there about AI content – at least when it comes to the content other publish: Right next to the alleged Schumacher interview, “lying images” generated by AI were printed from Twitter: the Pope in a down jacket and alleged arrests of Donald Trump or Markus Lanz. The editors judged: “Highly dangerous, because many people believe the pictures!”

The publisher, Funke Mediengruppe, has also recognized that criteria are needed for dealing with artificial intelligence. The company is one of the largest publishers in Germany and produces alongside the current not only numerous other rainbow titles (The Golden Leaf, New world, echo of the woman and others), but also twelve daily newspapers with journalistic quality standards in five federal states (among others Berlin morning post, Hamburg evening paper, Thuringian General and WAZ). A regulation for dealing with artificial intelligence has already been drawn up, it is said when asked by the SZ. “The implementation is currently being prepared,” was the brief answer.

The editor-in-chief is kicked out – but does that cause a rethink?

The publisher draws a much more wordy personal conclusion: Anne Hoffmann, editor-in-chief of since 2009 The actual, lost her post on Friday. “She will no longer work at and for Funke,” says the SZ. Funke Magazine Managing Director Bianca Pohlmann explains in the statement: “This tasteless and misleading article should never have appeared. It in no way meets the standards of journalismas we – and our readers – expect from a publisher like Funke.”

So has Funke started to think differently? Anyone who thinks that the publisher’s rainbow magazines are now printing fewer covers with Schumacher headlines will be disappointed for the time being. The new editions were already being delivered while the managing director was still apologizing on Friday evening. This time it is golden leaf by Funke, which advertises with Michael Schumacher and his wife Corinna on the cover. The title: “Happiness Cheers.” The subtitle: “Nobody expected that.”

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