Taz advent calendar (16): “independence is a privilege”.

In its Advent calendar, the taz presents Berliners who are burning for something. Behind door 16: Doris Benjack, founding member of the taz cooperative.

It’s the time of gifts and Advent calendars Photo: dpa

site: Doris, would the media world be a better place if all newspapers, like the taz, belonged to a cooperative?

Doris Benjack:It would definitely be more independent. The fact that the editors here are not subject to corporate interests is a great privilege in the media world. It’s a freedom that many younger employees are perhaps no longer aware of. But as soon as there’s an investor or a stock corporation, someone can decide over the heads of the employees. At the taz, on the other hand, power is well distributed among more than 17,000 comrades. Anyone can write a letter to the editor and say what he or she doesn’t like – but it’s not possible for someone to sit up there and raise or lower their thumbs.

You were one of the founding members of the taz cooperative. Back then, 25 years ago, there was a heated discussion among the staff about exactly that: Should an investor restructure the taz or should we found a cooperative?

The discussions were heated. There was a not exactly small group that thought: An investor is the savior. But then, by a narrow majority, we got the cooperative through.

The cooperative model may have been the right decision for the future of this newspaper – but for many employees, the low wages that the cooperative model entails also mean a lack of security, especially in old age.

Of course, that is a critical point. I will also be among those who need a 500-euro job well into retirement age to maintain their standard of living.

Doris Benjack

63, born in Gottingen, studied political science at the Free University of Berlin and education in Munster. A political science graduate, she has worked at the taz since 1979. She helped set up the proofreading department, was a works council member for many years and now works in IT services. She also supervises interns at the taz.

Did you think that far ahead 25 years ago when you voted for the cooperative model?

No, I didn’t care. Now, perhaps, the old idealism is taking its toll. But I don’t regret it. I rather have the feeling that with age one becomes more radical again. Today, the taz is often too tepid for me. And you also have to see: There are a lot of people who are far worse off than the taz staff. I’m also still optimistic that something will change at the taz in that regard.

What are you hoping for?

There was a resolution at the last cooperative meeting that veteran employees should be paid an allowance when they retire. Of course, I would like to see that implemented.

Interview Anna Klopper

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