The new face of the nightly news: Pinar Atalay

Not just the token migrant

On 7 March 2014, Pinar Atalay hosted the ARD's nightly news programme "Tagesthemen" for the first time. This was a first in Germany because Atalay was born in Germany to Turkish parents. Together with Dunja Hayali, Pinar Atalay is one of the most experienced presenters with a "migrant background" on German television. By Shohreh Karimian

A month ago, 35-year-old Pinar Atalay succeeded Ingo Zamperoni at the helm of the ARD nightly news programme "Tagesthemen" (Issues of the Day). In addition to Caren Miosga and Thomas Roth, she will now work the late shift at the ARD, keeping viewers up to date.

Pinar Atalay is the daughter of Turkish immigrants and was born in the Westphalian town of Lemgo. After finishing school, she studied fashion design and worked in her mother's fashion shop for a year, before deciding to change career paths. She began a traineeship in radio and later began her journalistic career with a traineeship at the radio station Antenne Münster. In 2006, she made the jump to television and worked as a television presenter and journalist on various programmes. In 2009, she became a well-know face with the broadcaster NDR and, in 2010, she presented the late-night political talk show, the "Phoenix-Runde", on Tuesday and Thursday nights. The fact that she was able to serve up this programme's rather dry issues in an interesting way may well have contributed to her career leap.

"Anchor with a migrant background"

As the daughter of Turkish immigrants, Atalay has been referred to on numerous occasions as the "anchor with a migrant background". Only a few years ago, the German media industry ascertained that neither journalists nor news anchors reflected the diversity of German society, in which migrants play an ever-greater role. In response, more hosts and anchors with a migrant background were hired.

By now, however, Atalay is fed up of the constant references to her "migrant background". "In point of fact, I do not have a migrant background. I come from Lemgo […]. My parents came to Germany from Turkey in the 1970s. At any rate, all this fuss merely shows me that many people still do not find a biography such as mine normal," said Atalay in an interview with Spiegel-Online.

Pinar Atalay (photo: dpa/Getty Images/Alex Grimm)
"Atalay is not just the ARD's token migrant, but rather a highly experienced news anchor, who has risen to one of the most prominent media jobs in Germany through hard work and dedication," writes Shohreh Karimian

This kind of stereotype still seems to be prevalent in certain parts of German society. Television hosts like Atalay are frequently told that they speak German very well. The situation is compounded by the fact that the Germans have different clichéd views about the countries from which migrants come; some are positive, while others tend to be negatively charged. "Germans tend to associate Italy with holidays and drinking coffee; we Turks are still associated with the image of the guest worker," explained Atalay.

Cultural diversity is reality in Germany

The fact that the ARD mentions neither Atalay's cultural background nor her family roots in her online CV shows that immigration is no longer such a big issue, at least for the editorial team.

It also shows that the public broadcaster is paving the way forward in Germany's multicultural society. As the first state broadcaster, ARD is available to the wider public in Germany. The presence of Atalay and Hayali on television screens helps to show that cultural diversity has long become reality in Germany and may even help to overcome certain prejudices.

Nonetheless, this is not a matter of meeting quotas or raising television ratings. Atalay is not just the ARD's token migrant, but rather a highly experienced news anchor, who has risen to one of the most prominent media jobs in Germany through hard work and dedication. In addition, as a German news presenter with Turkish roots, she represents the multicultural reality of modern-day Germany.

Shohreh Karimian

© 2014

Translated from the Germany by John Bergeron

Editor: Aingeal Flanagan/

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