Criminal Law, Murder, Police and Prosecutors, Self-Promotion, Soering

The “One Article to Read” About Jens Söring

My long piece about Jens Söring1 in the FAZ has fortunately produced no shitstorms, but instead favorable commentary, for which I’m grateful. In fact, a columnist for the German media website Meedia titled a weekly roundup of media news: “If you read just one article about the Jens Söring case, please make it this one in the FAZ“. The author, Stephan Winterbauer, wrote (g):

Hammel concludes that Söring is indisputably guilty, and he pronounces harsh judgment on the occasionally suggestive methods and preconceptions of the German media, in particular. By chance, it was announced shortly after the FAZ article that Söring and his former girlfriend (she was also sentenced to life in prison) would be freed. The release, however, did not affect the previous guilty verdicts, which remain fully valid. On the occasion of the release, the [German public television channel] SWR has again made the documentary [about Söring] available in its media section. It is very exciting and informative, first to watch the film and then to read Hammel’s article. Nowadays, I seem to find pieces like this only in the “FAZ”.

Winterbauer and Welt media editor Christian Meier also discuss my article at length in their weekly media-news podcast (starting at 27:46):

They look at the case primarily in terms of the genre of true-crime series and podcasts, citing famous examples such as Making of a Murderer and Serial. The producers of these shows, Winterbauer and Meier note, are under pressure to make the stories “rund” — to fit them neatly into a black/white template of “innocents railroaded by the justice system”. They also need to plan “mini-reveals” within the narrative to sustain dramatic tension (“We tried to reach him for months and he never responded. But then we got through, and we could hardly believe what he had to tell us.”). This can lead directors to artificially inflate the importance of minor details. They also point to the beginning scenes of “Das Versprechen”, which are accompanied by the song “I Put a Spell on You”, basically signaling the directors’ acceptance of Söring’s version of events before the film even begins.

I’ll shortly be writing some more in German — not so much directly about the Söring case, but about the way German journalists cover American criminal cases. I’ll let you know when that’s published.

  1. A brief refresher: Söring is a German national convicted in 1990 for the double-murder of his then-girlfriend’s parents. Many Germans think he is innocent. I believe he was fairly convicted and guilty; and wrote a long article (g) in the FAZ newspaper explaining why.

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