The Axel Springer Group has been under pressure at least since the affair involving the former Bild editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt. There is talk of abuse of power, of exploiting dependencies, of a corporate culture that can generally be described as “toxic”. In the past week, this discussion was fueled again by leaked messages from Springer boss Mathias Döpfner, in which he insulted East German citizens and allegedly tried to intervene in everyday editorial work in order to place his own interests.

If the suspicion is correct, the question arises: How could such a culture develop at Springer? And how is she kept alive? The new podcast “Boys Club – Power and Abuse at Axel Springer” explores these questions. The journalists Pia Stendera and Lena von Holt researched for months and spoke to those affected from the Springer Group. It becomes clear that the alleged abuse of power, as in the case of Julian Reichelt or Mathias Döpfner, is apparently not an isolated case. Much more – at least that is what the researchers’ results suggest – it is a system that is deeply anchored in the company and apparently “swallows” anyone who is willing to get involved with it.

According to their own statements, Stendera and von Holt spoke to more than 40 current and former employees of the group for the research and show how young women in particular were drawn into a maelstrom of self-exploitation and self-doubt with praise, responsibility and comfort. They get the chance early on to write articles that are read all over Germany. Plus the opportunity to research stories around the world, including business class airline tickets. But euphoria and motivation quickly gave way to uncertainty and fear of failure. If you perform well at Springer and play by the rules, the world is your oyster. Anyone who has doubts about the working methods or the ethics of reporting has to go.

Those affected report that the first time at Springer felt like an intoxication, from which they eventually wake up with a headache and ask themselves how they got into this machine in the first place. Money, recognition and the reach of their stories keep the young journalists in line. And at the same time, the opportunity to work in one of the largest media houses in Germany puts her under pressure. Pressure, it seems, has a destructive effect.

A young journalist reports that she felt she not only had to work well but also look good. According to her own statements, she starved herself down 20 kilos. Another editor who was probably “close” to Reichelt even lied for him in the compliance proceedings against the editor-in-chief of Bild. “I didn’t have the courage and I didn’t understand that there was a system.”

The first two episodes of the eight-part podcast were released on Monday. It is the first cooperation between “TRZ Media”, the production company of Jan Böhmermann, Hanna Herbst and Robin Droemer, and the streaming portal Spotify. The other episodes of the podcast “Boys Club – Power and Abuse at Axel Springer” will appear exclusively on Spotify on Mondays in the coming weeks.