The crew has established a connection. “One minute, 35 seconds to go,” says the voice in Charlotte’s earpiece. On the screen in front of her, the TV feature is displayed. It’s about new forms of financial relief available to German citizens in 2023. A coworker counts her in, “Ten ... five ... you’re live.” Charlotte appears on screen, together with “SAT.1 Nachrichten” news presenter Claudia von Brauchitsch. “Joining us live from Berlin is our chief reporter Charlotte Potts,” says Claudia, welcoming her to the show. Claudia asks for Charlotte’s take on the newly approved relief package. Charlotte takes up the full screen as she gives her estimation. Behind her, the audience can see a live view of Berlin at night, including the Reichstag’s brightly lit glass dome. Her segment is over in just under a minute and a half. And with it, Charlotte’s first appearance on camera in her new role as Seven.One Entertainment Group’s chief political reporter comes to an end.
As a journalist, she has always been motivated by a desire to provide the public with a better insight into political processes. After an eight-year stint working for ARD and ZDF in Washington D.C., Charlotte served as a correspondent for Deutsche Welle in Berlin and London. For over five years, she hosted ZDF’s breakfast show “Morgenmagazin”. Then she was eager to make a change and get back into political reporting. In October 2022, she stepped up as chief political reporter at ProSiebenSat.1. “You have to remember that what we’re getting off the ground here is actually Germany's biggest news project at the moment,” she says. “Contributing to this project is about more than just building new structures and processes from the ground up, it’s about rethinking news programs.”
As Charlotte is well aware that this has attracted a lot of interest in political circles. “I talk to many politicians, and they have all welcomed this endeavor from the outset. After all, we provide a way for them to reach a much younger target group than through other news formats.” This is also an opportunity for the team to set itself apart by narrating content in innovative ways that add value, while maintaining journalistic integrity. “With inflation, the war in Ukraine and the energy price cap, there are a lot of unfamiliar terms and ideas floating around the political arena at the moment. It’s not enough just to explain them, we must also help our viewers understand how they impact their lives as individuals,” says Charlotte. That said, a significant proportion of the news agenda is “non-negotiable,” she adds. “But we can decide how to approach those stories and what angle is most relevant to our audience.”
That’s exactly what Charlotte and the Berlin team strive to do. Under the leadership of Heiko Paluschka, who heads up the political news department in Berlin, the team of 15 including a reporter, the chief of staff, head of planning, eight editors and two trainees work two shifts in the political newsroom on the Potsdamer Platz. The office on the 17th floor, which includes a small studio that coworkers in Munich operate remotely, offers a panoramic view of the capital that takes in the TV tower and Berlin Cathedral as well as the Reichstag parliamentary building rising behind the Deutsche Bahn tower on the right. A fixed camera points out of the window to continually capture live footage of the Reichstag, which is used as a backdrop when the news crosses live to Berlin. As Charlotte explains, this location on the government district’s doorstep offers a distinct advantage: “We’re on the political pulse and can quickly get to where the action is. What’s more, it’s not far for politicians when they are invited for interviews.” Charlotte often starts her day doing background interviews or research. “And if we’re planning to cover a political story, it goes without saying that I keep track of developments throughout the day. Our editors work in parallel on reports, which they also edit and score themselves. This is how we work toward the broadcasts, starting with ‘Kabel Eins News’ at 4 pm, ‘ProSieben NEWSTIME’ at 6 pm and ‘SAT.1 Nachrichten’ at 7.55 pm.” Afterwards, the team gets together to discuss what went well and what didn’t.
The all-important meeting is scheduled several hours earlier: The 12 pm conference call with coworkers in Unterföhring is dedicated to selecting what items to cover. That said, Charlotte’s coworker and editor in chief for news, Arne Teetz, is quick to tell you that what has been discussed during the call often takes a different turn by the end of it: “Every day is marked by new developments. And that’s true seven days a week, 365 days a year. Our job is to keep assessing both, the overall state of play and every individual story. That puts us in a position to drill down into the heart of a story so we can do it justice. The process takes the form of an ongoing dialog,” he explains. Shortly before the ‘SAT.1 Nachrichten’ goes on air, Arne stops by to check on things in the Unterföhring studio. He has a word with the presenters and greets the team in the control room. Arne stands in what is known as the green box. Covered wall to wall in green, this virtual studio allows the producers project a show’s set onto the space.
But the news team can soon look forward to something different. A studio with adjoining editorial offices is currently under construction at the newly built campus in Unterföhring: “The move will be a major milestone for us – not only because we will finally get our new studio up and running, but also because it will be one of the most cutting-edge news facilities in Europe, thanks to its fully automated processes and a 20-meter-long LED wall where we can display content flexibly. What’s more, the editorial office right next door will further streamline our workflows,” says Arne. If all goes to schedule, he and his coworkers are expected to move into the new premises by fall and will be among the first residents of the new building.
The new news studio on the new campus in Unterföhring.
Although Arne’s position at ProSiebenSat.1 is new for him, it is, if anything, a homecoming. He started out as a trainee at SAT.1 in Berlin before going on to spend eleven years as editor in chief at the N24 and WELT news stations. He, too, has a special relationship with news: “9/11 happened just days after I started work at N24. While those terrorist attacks sent ripples around the world and continue to impact us all to this day, that September day brought sharply into focus for me that the news is my calling.” In his previous roles, Arne was responsible for providing the news that the WELT TV station, owned by the Axel Springer group, supplied to ProSiebenSat.1 as subproducer up to the end of 2022. When it became clear that this arrangement was ending, he chose to join ProSiebenSat.1. Together with managing editor for news Hendrik Niederhoff, Seven.One Entertainment Group editor in chief Sven Pietsch and Vice President for Information & Politics Heiko Paluschka, he helped set up the newsdesk. To put it in Arne’s own words, it was a “real privilege.” At the same time, he is quick to emphasize that “Television is always a team effort. Part of that is working closely with regional studios, such as Bavaria’s SAT.1 Bayern. Going forward, we intend to step up the exchange of information with various in-house editorial teams. Plus, we can tap into an extensive network of freelancers around the world.”
Arne and the team have had their work cut out for them over the past few months: Alongside building up the editorial department, they also had to put together a production team with technical skills spanning camerawork to directing. “Without the incredible support we received from all corners of the company, it wouldn’t have been possible,” says Arne. All the careful preparation paid off and things went smoothly right from the very first day on air. The team put together three customized news programs – each one tailored to a different station’s target audience. “It was important that we literally spotlighted who we are from the beginning. That’s why we crossed to our chief political reporter, Charlotte, that day,” Arne explains. “We also brought in our U.S. correspondent Axel Storm and added a brief report about New Year’s Eve in Berlin. We had already predicted that it might turn wild, which is why we made sure to have a colleague on the ground who captured events perfectly. That way, we clearly showed audiences from day one how our news coverage will look.”
Arne believes that by expanding its information offerings, ProSiebenSat.1 is shouldering its social responsibility as a media company: “In recent years, the world has undergone a fundamental social and geopolitical shift. With increasingly radical changes, high-caliber, objective news reporting only becomes all the more vital in elevating public debate, which is the lifeblood of our democracy. For us, that means we not only take our viewers and users seriously but also want them to be able to form their own opinions. The need for relevant, professionally written, fact-checked content for all of our stations and platforms is more urgent than ever before.”
Vice President Buzzroom & Digital Newsroom, Maren Langbehn, and her team of ten, who publish news across all platforms likewise share this responsibility. At the same time, Maren manages the Digital Buzzroom, which has been delivering up-to-the-minute web-only clips and copy to match since 2016. Maren’s passion for the fast-paced, digital world quickly becomes apparent. She and her team share an open-plan office with the editorial staff. Two of the four walls are fitted with screens that feature news from around the world at all hours of the day. This makes the newsroom in Unterföhring the heart of the editorial office. With both departments sharing a single space, everyone is in the know the moment anything happens. So, it is easy to make quick, joint decisions about how to tailor the news for the linear and digital channels.
“We have treated digital and TV as equally important from the get-go. As both teams attend all meetings and work together in one office, we can quickly get a fix on what’s needed for digital,” says Maren, describing the collaboration between the two areas within the editorial team. When a decision is made to cover a story on one of the news programs, Maren’s team considers which online platform and format lends itself to the subject: “Sure, our digital editors adapt TV material for digital use. But they also produce content independently where it’s needed or brief coworkers on its creation. That’s why our team is made up of dedicated platform specialists who keep an eye on specific needs and trends.” At the moment, the digital staff publish on the station websites and streaming platform Joyn as well as social media channels including Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. The plan is to add TikTok and LinkedIn further down the line.
For Maren’s team, the new studio also promises to unlock new opportunities. That’s because the blueprints show a special online studio right next to the large TV studio. “This will take things to a whole new level,” says Maren excitedly. “Since the two studios were designed as a pair, our relationship to the TV news will be obvious at a glance. It’s further testimony to the fact that we see linear and digital media as a unit.” Looking ahead, Maren’s team will be able to do their own shoots there. And there’s no reason why interview guests can’t move straight from the TV studio to the digital one for a Q&A session.
Maren’s mission is to publish content customized to users’ needs day in, day out, irrespective of the platform. “Our ultimate goal is for users to simply find our news reports wherever they are, instead of having to consciously choose where to view what content,” she says, her gaze wandering back to the wall of screens. There’s breaking news that German Federal Minister of Defense Christine Lambrecht has resigned. Maren turns to her colleagues and back to the job at hand. Because the news waits for no one.