I'm curious to know what are the preeminent German newspapers? In the US they are undoubtedly the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post. Which newspapers are the most widely read in Germany, and what are their political leanings? I'm only interested in ones that are freely available online.

I ask because I think that reading the news would be a good way to practice German.

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    Curious where you got your list of US Papers...this will, of course, be quite subjective. You include the Chicago Tribune but no Wall Street Journal or say, LA Times, Financial Times, etc...? I don't doubt that those three are prominent papers, but I hesitate to say they're the prominent papers.
    – BruceWayne
    Sep 16 '17 at 5:46
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    Please note that the English Wikipedia collection is extremely incomplete, and many newspapers are not mentioned. This is better in the German counterpart but still newspapers from Austria or Switzerland are listed in their own pages. "Preeminence" is quite opinion based. Look at circulation numbers in the lists linked above to reveal many important newspapers that have not yet been mentioned.
    – Takkat
    Sep 16 '17 at 7:57
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    "Preeminent" needs some clarification, I think, as does "most widely read". After all, the "Apothekenumschau" has the highest circulation, AFAIK, but wasn't even mentioned so far. Sep 16 '17 at 8:00
  • Since the Apothekenumschau is given away for free, circulation does not prove any intend to read it - whereas, when a newspaper is bought, there is either an intend to read it or to wrap some stinky fish in it. Sep 17 '17 at 12:20

Judging newspapers on their political affiliation may be highly subjective, but I'll just give my thoughts on those I have experience with.


Bild: Germany's leading tabloid. Similar to Britain's Sun, but more moderate in comparison. Has been staunchly conservative in the past, but I can't make out a certain political affiliation today. Being a tabloid, it does have a tendency towards populist simplification and sensationalist misinformation though. Trademark style is very short sentences that "everyone can understand".

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ): probably Germany's most reputable daily newspaper. Leans centre-right, but it does a good enough job of keeping news and commentary separate to be respected even by political opponents. Fairly intellectually demanding by newspapers standards.

Frankfurter Rundschau (FR): Was once the centre-left alternative to the FAZ, but has suffered severe economic trouble and is sadly only a shadow of its former self.

Die Tageszeitung (Taz): very left-leaning, shunned by some for its political tendencies, but still somewhat respected not only in the left camp.

Weekly newspapers/magazines:

Der Spiegel: Germany's leading weekly magazine, similar to America's Time Magazine. It is controversial, often polarising, somewhat leans left but without catering to leftist parties. No matter your political preferences, Der Spiegel is highly influential, one of the most important opinion-forming publications in Germany.

Stern: another weekly magazine but lighter on content and heavier on images, clearly less important than Der Spiegel.

Focus: The third of Germany's big three weekly magazines. Has a mixed reputation, certainly below that of Der Spiegel. Affiliation is centre-right.

Die ZEIT: Weekly newspaper that mostly consists of opinion pieces, is mostly well respected and has a reputation of providing intellectual debate. While it gives anyone a voice who isn't extremist, I have a feeling it leans centre-left.

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    This list is missing two most reputable titles that can only compare to the FAZ, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
    – mach
    Sep 16 '17 at 6:50
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    I cannot agree that Der Spiegel or Die Zeit are leaning towards the "left" spectrum. Particularly Die Zeit. Maybe that was the case years ago, but I don't perceive them as such anymore. I'm not judging their influence, though.
    – Philipp
    Sep 16 '17 at 8:27
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    Seconded for Süddeutsche, which I would put on a similar reputational level as FAZ, with slightly more original journalism (often gets cited by other news as the original source) and slightly fewer commentaries. Sep 16 '17 at 12:07
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    @Takkat: Please tell us what other most reputable titles you are thinking of.
    – mach
    Sep 16 '17 at 12:37
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    Since the question is tagged as "online-resources" also I'd like to add that many of the online articles of most of the mentioned papers are IMO neither especially suitable for learning the language nor can be praised for their content. Sep 16 '17 at 13:00

In addition to those mentioned by Jimi Jackson, I would add at least those three to the daily list because they're deemed important enough to be available for passengers in 1st class ICE trains throughout Germany (as well as Bild):

  • Die Welt: higher quality than Bild, but same publisher (Axel Springer SE). Leans towards conservative/right
  • Handelsblatt: business / finance newspaper, contains several pages of nothing but commodity and stock exchange charts
  • Süddeutsche Zeitung: The name literally means South German newspaper and it's most prominent there, but it's also read in other regions. Leans towards center-left. Was involved in last year's publishing of the Panama Papers, which perhaps justifies a comparison to The Guardian.

I'd also like to add that Der Spiegel is known for their investigative journalism. The most famous recent one was the involvement in publishing Edward Snowden's NSA documents.

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    So you suggest that "several pages of nothing but commodity and stock exchange charts" is a good place to start practicing German?
    – pipe
    Sep 16 '17 at 17:49
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    Those pages are just one part of the paper, there are a lot more with normal content. And in any case, the main question is "what are the preeminent papers" and Handelsblatt is an answer, regardless of how suitable it is for learning German.
    – helm
    Sep 17 '17 at 13:15

I would like to address the part of the question that deals with reading German newspapers as a way to practice one's German.

I started reading German newspapers back in February 2014 as a way to LEARN German. Since then I have been reading various major German newspapers, including Der Spiegel, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, die Tageszeitung (taz.de) and many others.

Currently, it does not matter to me what newspaper to read: each one has both easy and difficult articles. Most are quite manageable. A year and a half ago, however, I could have been telling you that Der Spiegel is relatively easy to read, while the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and die Tageszeitung are relatively hard to read (and understand).

German newspapers are an excellent source of building one's German vocabulary. Beware, however, of underestimating the task at hand! Back in 2014, I started reading German newspapers with the idea that learning at the most 10000 German words would make me fluent in reading newspapers. Forty-one months later my German word list stands at over 26000 words and I still keep on adding new words to the list daily.

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    There are some wrong words to be found in german newspapers, for instance "Kilowatt pro Stunde" is wrong, it should be "Kilowattstunden". Or "Silikontransistoren" instead of "Siliziumtransistoren". When they write about Scuba diving they often use "Sauerstoffflasche" when a tank of compressed air is used, "Pressluftflasche" is correct. More than sixty years ago, pure oxygen was used by Hans Hass, but the newspapers keep on using the wrong word. I hope you did not add to much wrong words to your list influenced by incompetent journalists.
    – Uwe
    Sep 16 '17 at 19:54
  • @Uwe Thanks for the words of caution! Notice, however, that dict.cc, the first of four dictionaries I use to look up words unknown to me, does not have entries for "Kilowatt pro Stunde" or "Silikontransistoren". It also correctly identifies "Pressluftflasche" as "compressed air tank"; while "Sauerstoffflasche" is translated as "oxygen bottle" or "oxygen tank", which, I guess, is correct. So, online dictionaries serve as a pretty good filter. This notwithstanding, in the list with more than 26000 words, there surely must be a few wrong word entries, for whatever reasons. Sep 16 '17 at 20:20
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    The tank translations are correct. I recommend leo.org as another online dictionary.
    – Uwe
    Sep 16 '17 at 20:26
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    Another example of wrong words in a sunday-newspaper: "Ionen-Litium-Akku", "Lithium-Ionen-Akku" is correct. We write "Natriumionen", not "Ionen-Natrium". Always the metall is followed by the word ion.
    – Uwe
    Sep 17 '17 at 20:04

The "most widely read" (as you put it) newspaper in Germany is the "Bildzeitung". I would not recommend it as language teaching material. The best written German-language newspaper is probably the "Neue Zürcher Zeitung”, especially the culture section.

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    Wouldn't you find some Swiss German vocabulary in the "Neue Zürcher Zeitung"? Also, reading Bild to learn the language can have some advantages - easier vocabulary, learning colloquialisms, etc. (Note that I'm not claiming that their language or journalism is sophisticated, but certainly easy to read.)
    – Arminius
    Sep 16 '17 at 1:59
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    @Arminius: No, the NZZ is obviously written in standard German and contains no more regionalisms than any of the most reputable German newspapers. Its style is sometimes said to be clearer and more understandable than the FAZ’s, avoiding unncessarily convoluted sentences.
    – mach
    Sep 16 '17 at 6:56
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    You do find some special Swiss German words in the newspapers from Switzerland. They write "parkieren" but in Germany "parken" is used for parking a car. Or "Bibeli" instead of "Pickel" for pimpels or spots. In Austria they write "Paradeiser" when a german use "Tomaten" for tomatos. But more than 95 % of the words in the NZZ are standard German.
    – Uwe
    Sep 16 '17 at 20:02
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    @mach But NZZ does not fully adhere to the "new" orthography. That's certainly something to keep in mind for someone who's new to German.
    – Arminius
    Sep 16 '17 at 23:00
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    The "neue deutsche Rechtschreibung" (new orthography) was introduced in 1996 and led to a lot of confusion. Some newspapers adopted it, other (for example FAZ, Bild, Spiegel) refused. After "reforming the reform" in 2006 more or less all newpapers changed from old to new, although there may be still some indivudual features ("Hausorthographie", de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hausorthographie). Concerning Swiss orthography (as in NZZ) you should know that "ß" is never used, you will always find it replaced by "ss".
    – Paul Frost
    Aug 30 '18 at 10:45

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