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Ethnic Weeklies Grow Stronger With News From Homeland : German Publication Tries to Provide the Voice for Latest Wave of Immigrants

August 20, 1987|GERI SPIELER | Spieler is a Calabasas free-lance writer.

The small newsroom is strewn with West German wire copy from the telex. Conversation changes rapidly from German to English and back again.

The Calabasas office is home of the Los Angeles Neue Presse (New Press), a 16-page weekly newspaper that began publication in September, 1986, and circulates to 25,000 German-speaking Californians.

New Press is an appropriate name. The competition--the California Staats-Zeitung (State Newspaper) began printing in 1890 and is considered by many to be the authoritative source of news from the homeland.

But Edmund Brettschneider, 48, and Hans Spuerkel, 45, who work for Bauer Publishing Co., and Dierk Sindermann, 45, a correspondent for Express, a West German newspaper, said that the new wave of German immigrants that came to America in the '60s needed a voice reflective of the more liberal attitudes of postwar Germany.

After World War II, two waves of West German immigrants entered the United States, said Brettschneider, publisher of the Neue Presse.

"Immediately after the war, many women who married Americans came over," he said. In the '60s, he said, technically skilled people such as auto mechanics and tool-and-die makers emigrated to take advantage of the economic boom.

A 1980 German-American Chamber of Commerce census showed that more than 900,000 people of German ancestry live in Los Angeles County. "The Neue Presse reaches a younger audience," said Hans Eberhard, general manager of the chamber. "It is a very active, pictorial paper."

The paper, printed in Thousand Oaks, is sold by subscription for $35 a year and sold through German businesses such as delicatessens for 40 cents. Advertising by a variety of German-owned businesses is the mainstay of the publication.

Ursula Distelrath, owner of German Cold Cuts in Woodland Hills, said she sells out her 150 copies in just a few days.

"Most people take both papers, but the Neue Presse is more liberal" than the California Staats-Zeitung, she said. "Some of our more conservative customers don't seem to like it. I think there is room for both of them."

Brettschneider said: "Many people think because we are a German-language paper that we are a voice for white supremacists. We are not. . . . They have no place in our paper. I scrutinize our ads very carefully."

He said his readership comes from various arenas: German clubs, delicatessens and friends telling friends. Others who read the paper are Croatians, Czechs and Romanians who speak German.

The paper is also carried at many libraries and in universities where it is used as a teaching tool in German language classes.

The paper breaks even financially, Brettschneider said, but it remains a sideline to his correspondence work. None of the principals working at the paper draws a salary.

"I could never give up my correspondent work. It gets in your blood. Besides, I couldn't live off this paper," Brettschneider said.

The paper's coverage includes such international events as the Kurt Waldheim controversy, a popular poll in Germany showing the people there trust Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev more than they trust President Reagan, and the suicide of a high-ranking East German official.

Sindermann uses the Waldheim story to explain how coverage in Neue Presse differs from that in U.S. papers. His paper's story, he said, would stress the local, Austrian angle.

"We will also gather comments from prominent Austrians that live here--Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, or Robert Wolff, the Austrian composer--and see what they say."

The Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Francisco bureaus ferret out local news stories peculiar to the German-speaking community.

"We had a German girls wheelchair basketball team that competed against American teams. Now, you would not know through the Associated Press or United Press International about it," Brettschneider said.

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