Niggemeier and the fifth estate

So, the fifth estate (the People; citizen’s journalism, social media) is to function as a check on the fourth estate (our beloved corporate news media; ‘the guardians of democracy, defenders of the public interest’). And Stefan Niggemeier has once again shown how it should be done (blog post in German, summarised here).

News story broken by news agency dpp: ‘Criminal investigators: Significantly more children killed in violent way’.

Evidence in dpp story: Statistics recently announced by the Bund Deutscher Kriminalbeamter (BDK; Confederation of German Criminal Investigators; like the British CID) that in 2007, 173 boys and girls under 6 years old met violent deaths. Compared to UNICEF ‘estimates’ from 10 years ago, suggesting that about 100 children met violent deaths that year.

  • Problem 1: Dodgy comparitive data. The dpp journalists writes that ‘Children’s killings are not listed separately in the official criminal statistics’. Niggemeier doesn’t have to look further than the official website to find very explicit listings (produced annually) of not only the number of children killed, but also the various kinds of offense (pdf) and changes since 1987 (pdf).
  • Problem 2: The data released by the BDK for 2007 included attempted killings, even if the children did not die. This is the only year for which unsuccessful attempted killings were included. This could perhaps potentially suggest that the 2007 figure may be higher than previous years.

Nevertheless, Niggemeier tracks the story in a range of German news outlets: Zeit Online, Tagesspiegel, Kölner Stadtanzeiger, RP-Online, Welt and Spiegel Online. (Attesting again to the power of news agencies to set the news agenda).

He then does the investigative journalism required to argue that the number has not actually risen, it is at the very least stable, if not actually falling. (Details available on his website).


(Key: Gesamt = total; fahrl. Tötung = involuntary manslaughter; Totschlag = manslaughter; Mord = murder)

This kind of reporting exemplifies what the fifth estate (or even the fourth estate) can do on its best days. Abating, rather than intensifying, ‘moral panics‘.


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