What started out as the media's enthusiastic telling of a feel-good story about integration has morphed into a tale of the waning trust Germans have in their news media.

Media hates complexity. Media likes and loves emotions.

Wolfgang Herles, former head of German public broadcaster ZDF

Last year, the media welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel's announcement that the country would take in more than a million refugees with open arms.

Both mainstream and social media were incredibly favourable of Merkel, her decision and the refugees themselves. 

"The so-called 'welcome culture' was fantastic for our media. It was romantic. It is, it was idealistic, but it had nothing to do with the complexity of the problem," says Wolfgang Herles, former head of German public broadcaster ZDF. 

But since then, Merkel's immigration policy has been criticised much more widely and the media's coverage of the refugee story has been scrutinised much more critically, especially where the right is concerned.

The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has made historic gains while its leader accuses the media of trying to minimise the party's exposure.

The AfD's position is that public debate in Germany is managed by a media elite that uses political correctness against them - a view that resonates with some voters who feel their voices have been ignored. 

"What AfD is criticising is not wrong. Of course, a lot of problems have not been discussed in the mainstream media ... nobody wanted to give footage to the right wing. And this is the problem. Truth is truth and if you decide only one part of the truth is good for the public, you will fail your job," says Herles.

In effect, many Germans see their press corps shifting from journalism to activism. Is it the media's role to counter the populist rhetoric fuelling the country's right-wing revival?

The Listening Post's Marcela Pizarro reports on the media's role and the challenges of reporting the rise of the far right in Germany.

Source: Al Jazeera