Opinion_ ZDF Info & Frontal21's Tesla Documentary Violated Journalistic Ethics. (2)

Opinion: ZDF Info & Frontal21’s Tesla Documentary Violated Journalistic Ethics.

I believe that ZDF Info and Frontal21 violated journalist ethics. They either doctored Elon Musks’s tweet or used a doctored tweet. They also omitted facts from their documentary–facts that, in my opinion, would contradict the core message of the documentary which paints Tesla in a negative light.  Here’s what happened.

Last month, the German public broadcasting service, ZDF Info, was called out by Alex Voight for using a doctored image of Elon Musk’s tweet in an Anti-Tesla documentary. After Alex called them out, the network replied that the tweet was abbreviated and that they welcomed constructive feedback They also claimed that the tweet was not “incorrect in terms of content,” and asked how Alex got the impression that the tweet had been manipulated.

It should be noted that ZDF Info is a German public broadcasting network and this means that it is taxpayer-funded.  The mission of public broadcasting in Germany (also in general) is to provide citizens with objective and balanced information. This can be critical and should be, but to present a subject objectively means to show the entire perspectives and to use the available information and facts in a balanced way. In a nutshell, don’t edit out a tweet and use that to make someone or an idea look bad because you don’t like that person. 

Along with ZDF Info, Frontal 21 also took part in producing the documentary and both should be held accountable for their part in unethical journalism. I wrote an opinion piece recently on LinkedIn and stated that Elon Musk deserves an apology from the taxpayer-funded media corporation. 

Alex recently wrote an article for the German publication, ElectroAuto News. This piece is entirely in German, but Alex wrote an English version for the Fully Charged Show and I’m going to recap and add my own thoughts on the matter. 

In his article, Alex is fact-checking the two Germain media organizations and noted that Elon Musk even backed him up. When Tesmanian’s Eva Fox called out the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) from the German news outlets about Tesla’s Giga Berlin in her article, Elon Musk replied, “Wow, shame on ZDF Info!”




In his piece, Alex writes: 

“When ZDF and Frontal21 publish a documentary, the station receives an advance of trust due to decades of serious and good journalistic work. An advance means that the citizens can trust that all available facts in the report are checked, balanced, and presented factually correct and from different perspectives according to journalistic ethics. Every controversial topic looks different when viewed from different angles – that’s why it’s controversial. A one-sided presentation is just an opinion but not a report and certainly not a documentary.”


With that being said, using a doctored image of that tweet, the two media companies chose to break the trust of the people they served by discarding journalistic ethics. The number one thing an ethical journalist should do is to be accurate and fair. They should also take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. 

This means that they should not doctor tweets to twist the words of the person they are reporting on in order to accelerate an agenda or biased presentation. This is exactly what ZDF Info and Frontal 21 have done. They either doctored a tweet or used a tweet that was doctored and claimed that it was “abbreviated” while noting they didn’t see how that was wrong. To learn more about journalistic ethics, click here

The evidence that the tweet was doctored has been provided several times. There is no question that the tweet was doctored and published in a documentary with an anti-Tesla approach. By anti-Tesla, I mean that the reporting on Tesla was biased against the company. If one is to cherry-pick facts and present them in a documentary, that is pure bias and very unethical. 

Alex noted that many commentators are demanding that the ZDF editorial team be held accountable and that the authors and journalists should be fired. This is due to the fact that the program goes against the mission of the public broadcaster. It also polarized and divided the population through factual and manipulated misrepresentations and deliberate abridgments in a documentary. 


“Everyone can have a different opinion or point of view about Tesla and that is something positive. It is not about whether one supports Tesla and finds it good or rejects and criticizes it, but about the fact that facts are facts, should be checked, and are unchangeable. If we question this basis of our social interaction with a report, then we risk far more than a few angry listeners – we risk that the citizens lose confidence in our basic order, the social peace, and thus our democracy. Trust in our media and politics that is already challenged far beyond the usual level in the time of a pandemic.”


In the following table, Alex provided several examples that show detailed proof of how Frontal21 chose to let go of journalistic ethics and embrace bias. The table is also included in Alex’s article and you can view it here

Final Thoughts

This, I believe, is a direct attack on Elon Musk and Tesla. Tesla is a threat to the legacy automakers as well as to the fossil fuel industry–both of which have billions to lose if Tesla were to succeed in its core mission of accelerating sustainability. The fact that you have several industries pulling out all the stops to make Tesla look bad in hopes that it will fail shows you just how terrified they are of Elon Musk.



That sounds a bit off the wall at first, but if you look at what Tesla is doing in the energy space, the picture becomes clear. I’ve written about this recently for CleanTechnica when I analyzed Hyperchange’s Gali Russell’s video. In his video, Gali details why he thinks that Tesla will be the world’s largest company.

In a section of his video, Gali showed a document that detailed the 2019 revenue of 9 of the world’s largest oil companies. Together it was $1.5 trillion. Tesla, which is still growing, is projected to become a $4 trillion-dollar company by 2025.  ARK Invest, which has been on point in its predictions with Tesla, foresees Tesla having a $4 trillion market cap and having 10 million car sales in 2025. ARK invest also estimated that there is over a 25% chance that Tesla will be worth more than $4 trillion by 2025.

Now, you may think that this is wild or may not happen because it hasn’t happened yet. However, Tesla is growing rapidly at a pace that is even leaving analysts lost and a bit confused. Tesla’s morph from an automaker into a tech and energy company is something that the fossil fuel industry is taking seriously and this, in my honest opinion, is why there is so much FUD especially around earnings report time or any major Tesla and SpaceX event. SpaceX may be a separate and private company, but both are linked to Elon Musk who is a direct threat to many legacy industries. They don’t want him to succeed.

Disclaimer, I am a shareholder of $TSLA with 4 shares. 

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