Jan Hofer stops: “The ‘Tagesschau’ is my DNA”


One of the most familiar television faces breaks up. For 35 years Jan Hofer brought the good and bad news of the “Tagesschau” into the living room of the republic, 16 years of which as chief spokesman. From Chernobyl to Corona lockdown, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to Brexit – when the world was on fire, he always kept his style, whether at half past five in the “morning magazine” or at the main edition at 8 p.m. And even if he wavered at the desk in a weak voice, as in March 2019 during the moderation, the nation held its breath in worry. The thing then turned out well. Only a small attack of weakness as a result of an infection that was not completely cured, he gave the all-clear from the clinic. Soon he was back on duty. You can always rely on Jan Hofer.

And that should be over now?

At a time when news anchors like Claus Kleber and Petra Gerster are postponing their retirement from ZDF beyond the public age limit of 65 years instead of spontaneously leaving for Timbuktu when they feel like it (and the pandemic allows it), Jan Hofer’s departure from the news stage seems almost anachronistic. At the end of January he will be 69. Or already 70 or even 71? The Hofer from Wesel on the Lower Rhine does not give any information about the exact age. But he tells about his grandmother. She died at the age of 63 and, in his memory, was “always an ancient woman who dressed in black and was no longer interested in much”. What he means by that: Today 60 or 65 year olds cannot be compared with your grandmother. “You are still in the middle of life. And it would be fatal if you did not fall back on their experience and knowledge. ”Of course, at 65 you are no longer quite as in the juice as a 30-year-old. “But there are a lot of ways to get involved in society.”

In the early summer, Jan Hofer played with the possibility of renewing his two-year contract with the “Tagesschau”. But then he obviously didn’t want to. The Corona year was tough for him too, he worked through without vacation. A five-year-old son from his second marriage is waiting at home with his manager. Last but not least, the prospect of not having to get up at three for the morning shift is “not that bad”.

© NDR / Hendrik Lüders
Jan Hofer in the “Tagesschau” studio

The “Tagesschau” veteran takes warm words from his NDR director into the new late riser life: The outstanding success of the “Tagesschau” would be inconceivable without Jan Hofer, said Joachim Knuth. Hofer himself wants it, “not too high”, in a Hanseatic style. Everyone is interchangeable. One can get used to anything and everyone. But continuity certainly plays a role: “It is important that someone is there reliably for years, someone you think you know and who does not make any major mistakes.”

Emotion and empathy are allowed

Ever since Karl-Heinz Köpcke was the very first to read the news of the day in 1959, the maxim at the “Tagesschau” has been that news anchors should be covers and not stand out too much. Even the diagonally raised sheet, from which Wilhelm Wieben read in the 1970s, was daring, almost eccentric. Jan Hofer says that it is still true that the speakers have to step back behind the news. However, a lot has changed, not only in terms of the appearance and technology in the background of the new news house in Hamburg-Lokstedt, which the outgoing “Tagesschau” spokesman describes as a “sensation”. The language is no longer so clearly informative and often based on pronouncements, but more narrative and explanatory. “With us speakers, emotion and empathy are definitely allowed. But we should definitely not evaluate. ”

And what about show? When, at the end of October, Die Ärzte played the intro to the “Tagesthemen” live in the studio, some cheered “how cool” and criticized the other “strange”. In his opinion, how many appearances of this kind can the High Mass of Information take? As a media company, you have to “occasionally draw attention to yourself as long as it happens in homeopathic doses,” says Hofer. “In this case, it was perfectly legitimate. The aim was to make it clear to a broader public that the entire cultural industry is idle and that millions of livelihoods are in danger. The editorial team is very open to discussions and has a diverse set-up and arguing right up to the question of whether you have to work with a commercial company like Facebook. “Ultimately, someone always has to make the decision. And that’s the editor-in-chief. You have to stick to that. ”

The most eccentric thing the outgoing chief spokesman has done in all these years was probably pulling out his smartphone for a selfie in the credits of the 8 p.m. edition in September 2019. A few minutes later he reported with a little film on the Instagram account of the “Tagesschau”, where he explained that, for once, he had taken a cell phone with him to the studio because the “Tagesschau” now had a million followers. Hofer himself currently has 28,000 fans on his private Insta channel and is deeply impressed: 80 percent of his followers are between 18 and 34 years old. He also thinks it is remarkable how professionally the influencers handled the lighting and cameras there. Nevertheless, Instagram is now worrying him: “It is degenerating into a commercial channel. The original intention, the exchange among each other, has moved into the background. It’s different with TikTok. I find that exciting. ”

Anyone who speaks so professionally was already a digital native when this generation was not even born, let alone the word existed. Jan Hofer was the first to have a fax and a computer, including the necessary DOS knowledge. With his private PC, they began to experiment on the daily news at a time when this was not an issue in newsrooms at all. At the age of (probably) 67, Jan Hofer’s digital life started all over again. “Forget Instagram, TikTok has more followers,” he said to his colleagues from the social media editorial team and in November a year ago let himself be hired for the debut of the “Tagesschau” on the video platform that featured dance and other amusements Has become a hit in schoolyards. The TikTok community named him #Ehrenjan when he used software tricks to change the color and pattern of his tie in the first clips, or when he talked about his everyday # job about how a teleprompter works. Probably the most serious face in news television became a big influencer in Generation Z / Y, even bigger than his younger colleagues Judith Rakers and Linda Zervakis, who occasionally joked around @tagesschau. As @janhofer_official he tiktokt also privately.

“I think these people are really good,” says Hofer enthusiastically about the ARD-aktuell social media team, “this drive, this will to shape and discover new things, is simply great. Unfortunately, you will not find anything like that with seasoned journalists. ”Speaking of“ seasoned journalists ”: The arrogance, especially among writers, that“ television noses ”like Jan Hofer only read prescribed texts and are therefore not real journalists, leave Hofer indifferent. He has done so many things in his professional life that some experienced colleagues do not. After completing his traineeship at Deutsche Welle, he worked as a young journalist for Südwestfunk (now SWR). Then he was editor and presenter at Saarländischer Rundfunk, where he was allowed to do everything and, as is usual with small broadcasters, had to do everything. Until 1985 the call came from Hamburg to move up from what he calls the “Landesliga” to the “Bundesliga”. He also made radio, led a series of jazz music and hosted the talk show “Riverboat” (MDR) for 20 years. And recently he’s been doing podcasting too.

“I have a lot to do next year”

He has only just taken the pilot on a topic that has been bothering him for a long time: What has become of the news that he has announced over the decades? For example, what happened to the people who were victims of the terrorist attack on Breitscheidplatz? For the as yet nameless podcast, he held discussions with experts. Whether it will ever be published is still pending. But Hofer’s own “drive”, it becomes clear, does not end with tonight. “I’m just saying goodbye to the shift work of the ‘Tagesschau’. In my case, there can be no question of a complete withdrawal from the media. I have a lot to do for next year. ”His invaluable advantage is:“ I can do it, but I don’t have to. ”

Hofer’s successor as chief spokesman is a 57-year-old, Jens Riewa, who, with almost 30 years of service, is part of the inventory of the “Tagesschau”, so to speak. Next to Julia-Niharika Sen, 53, Constantin Schreiber is moving up to the weighty Hauptabendplatz. At 41 years of age, he is comparatively a youngster on news television, where gray temples and forehead wrinkles, at least among men, are generally equated with credibility and seriousness. Conversely, could Schreiber be perceived as less serious due to his younger age? If there were only ‘young people’ in the 20 o’clock daily news, Hofer believes, then “our mostly older viewers would not necessarily buy the news from them because of the lack of life experience. You need an anchor that makes it clear that I am always there ”. In the mixture of seasoned journalists and pupils, which “Tagesschau” and “Tagesthemen” always had, it would work again. “But that’s my kitchen psychology.”

Finally, with a view to the youngest Hofer offspring, the question remains: Will his son Henry, when he gets old, still be able to see power at eight in a classic, i.e. linear way? Hofer is firmly convinced of this. “The Interstate Broadcasting Treaty obliges us to do this. But of course I cannot predict whether the ‘Tagesschau’ will continue to broadcast with the high number of viewers. ”He himself will“ certainly ”continue to consume his daily portion of“ Tagesschau ”beyond December 14th, then as a viewer:“ This is my dna. They planted them in me. ”Hofer promises that there is only one point where he will restrain himself, unlike his predecessor Werner Veigel. Because he liked to call right after the morning delivery at half past five to correct the wrong pronunciation.

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