I'd like to know if there's any relevant distinction among German newspapers with respect to the sophistication of the use of language (both syntax- and vocabulary-wise). I've seen in numerous websites that FAZ, ZEIT and SZ are the most renownd German newspapers and I've seen numerous comments on their respective political tendencies, but I've yet to see someone comment on the quality of the use of the German language in each of these.

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    Are really asking for "most demanding" (i.e. difficult), or are you interested in something else? E.g. most attention to good style, or whatever? Feb 26, 2019 at 20:46
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    Geht es um deutsche Zeitungen oder um deutschsprachige? Die NZZ gilt als von gewisser Qualität, erst mit Abstand folgt die FAZ, bei anderen Produkten ist die Qualität bestenfalls durchwachsen. Oft ist der Zustand mit beklagenswert noch geschönt beschrieben. Feb 26, 2019 at 21:12
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    Not really meant serious: "Der Postillion" is a online-newspaper which is very fastidious with it's humor, irony, sarcasm but most of all its creative play on words and language. ;-)
    – IQV
    Feb 27, 2019 at 6:49
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    Your question is not suitable. There is no metric for this. Where are you from? In your origin are there newspapers rated like this in any way?
    – Thomas
    Feb 27, 2019 at 13:32
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    @Beneficium You will maybe find such categorization in a more scientific context but without to be claimed as a generic reference. If someone publishes such a categorization she/he should always publish a disclaimer which exlpains this. This forum here is not the right place to give such a recommendation because it is rather opinion based. By the way there are complex cultural reasons why such a metric does not exist. But this is a big discussion too complex to dicuss here. If you want to know more I recommend to start a discussion in Meta.
    – Thomas
    Feb 27, 2019 at 14:24

4 Answers 4


The originality of the die Tageszeitung (die taz) would make it a little bit more demanding than the average.


The weekly news magazine Der Spiegel has recently reaffirmed its reputation for delivering beautifully written inventive pieces.

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    ... whereas over decades it was ill-renouned for its variuos mannerisms. Feb 26, 2019 at 20:46
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    which led to some problems with the factual basis of some too “inventive” texts. (Sorry, off-topic, I know.)
    – rugk
    Feb 27, 2019 at 0:55
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    @npst The answer is probably referring to the affair around their journalist Claas Relotius.
    – Philipp
    Feb 27, 2019 at 14:04
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    @npst ... the public outcry about which is, in my eyes, rather hypocritical, as Relotius' creative handling of pesonnel in his stories was simply an answer to a strong demand for exactly such stories. Had he been given time enough for research, he would have found those testimonials he - economically - invented. Feb 27, 2019 at 15:27
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    @npst Another very famous case was that of Tom Kummer, a Swiss journalist who sent absolutely brilliant interviews from New York, Holywood etc. with top-celebrities. These interviews were very well written and got published in the most prestiguous places, e.g. as cover stories of Süddeutsche Magazin. Actually, right when I read the first interviews I personally became aware of (with Liv Taylor) I thought: "Wow! How did he make that girl talk such interesting things!" - That was about in 2000. Exactly in that year it was revealed that all these interviews were simply invented. :-) Feb 27, 2019 at 17:10

If you are looking for extremes - and "most demanding" suggests you are - than try reviews of classical concerts in any of the big papers, and (IMHO) in particular in the FAZ. But don't take them as examples. It is a special style that would sound outright ridiculuous in any other context. Sometimes it feels just like a competition in inventing words and phrases.

The ZEIT and the Süddeutsche Magazin both have crosswords that are largely based on play of words. Probably quite demanding for a non-native speaker, too.

As for the "normal" texts, in my opinion the differences among good and bad texts (from a language perspective) in any one of the papers you mentioned (plus WELT and SPIEGEL) are bigger than the differences of the average level (whatever this should be) of these papers. So you can safely select them by their quality of journalism (which is out of scope here) and will get more or less the same language level.


If you want to read well-written pieces (both in terms of style and journalistic genre), I recommend having a look at Page 3 (Die Seite Drei) of the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily.

There you find (not every day but very often) true masterpieces of journalism. Not standard stuff from the journalistic word mill, rather things that focus on background and are written to last as literature; things that can be amusing and enlightening to read even if you are not interested in the actual topic of the narrative.

Some of the authors have also published books with their "Seite 3" pieces. My favourite was always the old master of ironic reporting, Herbert Riehl-Heyse, who unfortunately died, much too young, in 2003. I recommend especially:

Herbert Riehl-Heyse: Die Weihe des Ersatzkaisers und andere Geschichten. Basel 1986.

You find this book currently at prieces starting from 1 euro at many second hand book traders. And here is a link to one of the pieces from the book: http://reporter-forum.de/fileadmin/pdf/Gern_Gelesen/riehl-heise_wortgekringel.pdf (link checked 2019-02-26).


Herbert Riehl-Heyse: Das tägliche Gegengift. Reportagen und Essays 1972 - 2003. München 2008.

Herbert Riehl-Heyse: Bestellte Wahrheiten. Anmerkungen zur Freiheit eines Journalistenmenschen. München 1989 (Kindler).

PS: I read the article about the Klagenfurt journalist award right now again. Yes, this is indeed demanding. You need, I believe, a very high level of understanding of German, including text genres, and various registers of speech, in order to feel the irony in it. It sometimes hides in nothing else but the way a sentence is built.

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