Interview
27/06/2023

On the road with... Robert Pölzer

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As part of our reportage series "On the road with...", we accompany exciting Burda colleagues in their everyday, ordinary working lives, which are often anything but "ordinary". Today: Bunte editor-in-chief Robert Pölzer, who was in the spotlight himself in the June issue of the media magazine Turi2 Edition.

It's two o'clock in the afternoon, and Robert Pölzer is in a good mood as he sits in his light-flooded corner office, wearing a suit, t-shirt and leather oxford shoes. Publisher and media journalist Peter Turi is about to arrive to interview him on Bunte's 75th anniversary for the June issue of Turi2. Two and a half hours, including a photo shoot. A role reversal for Germany's most powerful celebrity journalist, who works with his colleagues in the Bunte editorial team to find exclusive, socially relevant stories that everyone in Germany is talking about. Today, for a change, he himself is in the spotlight. The celebrity boss as a celebrity.

While Robert Pölzer has to publish a few stories on his computer, I look at his desk. There is a copy of Khalil Gibran's poetic bestseller The Prophet, CDs of John Munich's The Playboy Session and Otis Redding's Live at the Whisky a Go Go, and a hand cream. Next to it is a glamorous black and white photograph of his wife Vivien, and to the right a family photograph with his wife, daughter Vivienne, 17, and son Erik, 12. On the wall at the top right is a historic issue of the Bunte magazine with Empress Farah Diba on the cover, published on Robert Pölzer's birthday: July 1, 1961. He is 61 years old. And he certainly looks younger.

When Peter Turi and his photographer Johannes Arl arrive on the sixth floor of Arabella Street 27, the photo shoot in the Bunte Lounge begins – and Robert Pölzer has to model. He’s reading a Bunte on the sofa and ponders the close-up in the armchair. "Does it fit?", asks the media professional and goes to great lengths to meet the wishes of the photographer, who literally throws himself on the floor in front of him to get a special perspective. The next set: a wall in the Bunte offices, where Robert Pölzer proudly displays the covers he has been responsible for since 2016. In the next room, knee-high red Bunte letters are piled up and held up in the air by the team for a photo. The end of the shoot: Robert Pölzer is "spontaneously" caught by the "paparazzo" in the lift. He plays his role perfectly, and clearly enjoys it – judged his boyish, mischievous smile

Media professional and philanthropist

During the subsequent Turi interview in his office, Robert Pölzer gestures a lot with his hands and takes his time to think and reflect before answering. His voice is warm, reassuring and inspiring. A people whisperer.

He faces all pleasant and unpleasant questions about the Bunte brand and product. About the changing media consumption of young people (his children are only interested in TikTok), about the challenge of keeping print circulation stable (Bunte is still by far the strongest title in the people segment with currently 326,114 copies and 2.78 million readers), declining profits (among other things due to the loss of retail outlets, rising paper prices and transport costs), artificial intelligence (versus authentic journalism), social media (embellished selfies/stories versus journalistic quality that shows and classifies the real stories), special editions and important new sources of revenue (including events, podcasts, reader trips, travel guides and, most recently, "Bunte – live" in the Sat.1 evening show "Volles Haus" ("Full House").

Listening to Robert Pölzer, one thing stands out: his modesty and how down-to-earth he is. "You must not fall into the temptation of mixing personality and office. If I weren't editor-in-chief of Bunte, you wouldn't want to interview me," he tells Peter Turi, proving that success hasn't gone to his head. As a child, the scion of a family of creative artists wanted to be a footballer, then a musician – a bass player to be precise. And he played in many bands. But because his father worked as an editor for the youth magazine Popcorn and always got free records and free tickets to concerts, he also applied for a traineeship in journalism. He became editor-in-chief of Neue Revue, Neue Woche, Freizeit Spaß, and of Freizeit Revue until he took over from Patricia Riekel to become editor-in-chief of Bunte in 2016. Today he sees himself as a conductor, orchestrating his team.

"I only moderate, the editorial team does the work," he says – and means it. What is important to him: "Exclusivity. As far as possible, we only want stories in the paper that we have researched ourselves." His credo: "People journalism only has a chance if the quality of the content is right. It's about authenticity, credibility and fairness in dealing with personalities." Which famous fate is particularly close to his heart? "The fate of Franz Beckenbauer. A shining light who loses power, that's tragic," he says sympathetically.

And as an editor in his 60s, he also learns something new about stars every day, as he admits with a smile. "I didn't know Harry Styles at all, for example". And when Robert Pölzer himself stands in front of the camera for Sat.1 in Cologne to chat about hip personalities and aristocrats in "Bunte - live", the journalist in charge prepares himself meticulously for a whole day, as he tells Peter Turi. And he, too, is more than satisfied with the Bunte interview at the end.

Manager instead of power seeker

The 61-year-old concludes each of his Bunte editorials with a piece of wisdom of his own devising; Robert Pölzer has already written more than 360. His favourite saying – or should we say life motto? "There is strength in silence."

If you ask colleagues about Robert Pölzer, you will hear a lot of positive things. "He is always fair, listens attentively and creates a harmonious atmosphere – even when emotions are running high on a particular issue," say some of those close to him. Even if some wish he could heroically fend off all editorial cutbacks, like the dragon-slayer St George, patron saint of Richard the Lionheart, a sculpture on his desk – a gift from his wife.

And yet: After Franz Josef Wagner, the enfant terrible of tabloid journalism, and Patricia Riekel, the celebrity diva of Munich's chic scene, Robert Pölzer is an antipole, a calming influence that is good for the newsroom. "I see my role more as a responsibility," he says. Born in Augsburg, he is not a man of extremes, he is somehow balanced. Instead of big dramas, there are goal-oriented discussions in his editorial office. He is not bossy, but polite. He is not loud, but quiet. Instead of attending social events, he prefers to sit at his desk. Despite the healthy competition, he encourages teamwork and promotes young talent. Instead of long night shifts, there are efficient processes without indefinite closing days. In the evenings, Robert Pölzer drives his electric car to visit his family on Lake Starnberg, but his mind is always on new and exciting topics for Bunte.

Balancing work and family life with nature

"The advantage of my job is that I do not travel as much as my colleagues. That's why I have more time for my family," explains the people journalist in a recent interview with oneBurda. Small hitch: "Of course, my children don't wait for me to get home. They also spend a lot of time with friends and their hobbies." One of them is football. Pölzer himself was allowed to play with Franz Beckenbauer at a summer camp as a child. The newspaper article about it is framed on a cupboard in the office, complete with an autograph. Today it is his son, Erik, who sits beside him in the stands, cheering on the FC Bayern Munich players, his little fists raised happily to the Bavarian sky.

Back at home by Lake Starnberg, Robert Pölzer likes to take Latino – the family's Bavarian mountain dog – for walks, cook with great pleasure and good wine, listen to soul music from the 60s and 70s or plan his next holiday in Andalusia, his second home. And the other day he – almost –joined a gym, or at least visited one. After all, he already wears a fitness wristband.

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Robert Pölzer at his computer during article approval © Johannes Arlt/Turi2

Robert Pölzer with the Bunte logo at the Turi shoot © Johannes Arlt/Turi2

The light has to be right. PR colleague Franziska Hippe assists © Johannes Arlt/Turi2

To get a special perspective, photographer Johannes Arlt sometimes kneels on the ground © Johannes Arlt/Turi2

Robert Pölzer shows the Bunte photo wall © Johannes Arlt/Turi2

The Bunte photo wall © Johannes Arlt/Turi2

Paparazzo competition with Johannes Arlt © Johannes Arlt/Turi2

Total commitment to the perfect picture © Johannes Arlt/Turi2

Caught! Bunte editor-in-chief Robert Pölzer being photographed in a lift by "Turi paparazzo" Johannes Arlt © Johannes Arlt/Turi2

Robert Pölzer being interviewed by journalist and publisher Peter Turi © Johannes Arlt/Turi2

Flicking through an old issue with Gina Lollobrigida © Johannes Arlt/Turi2

Robert Pölzer shows the anniversary shoot with celebrities © Johannes Arlt/Turi2

Journalist Peter Turi interviews Robert Pölzer © Johannes Arlt/Turi2

From left: Johannes Arlt, Peter Turi, Robert Pölzer, Angelika Otto (Corporate Communications), Franziska Hippe (Brand PR) © Johannes Arlt/Turi2

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