Journalism Schools – Intensive and High-Standard Training
These questions would certainly give many an experienced editor quite a headache. In 2006 they were part of the entrance exam for the Henri Nannen School in Hamburg which, together with the German School of Journalism (Deutsche Journalistenschule) in Munich, is the most renowned school of journalism in Germany. The pathway to admission in one of these schools is strewn with hurdles: the aspirant has to be well-versed in many spheres of knowledge, from politics, history and geography to medicine and even astrophysics to gain one of the coveted places. The reward is an elite training that differs from journalism studies at university by including a considerable amount of hands-on practice, and also from mere work placements by providing systematic courses and intensive tutoring.
The Henri Nannen School in HamburgThe Henri Nannen School demands no previous training. The only restriction is age: anyone between the ages of 19 and 28 who is in command of the German language, both spoken and written, can apply. He/she has to register online and write a commentary and a report on one of five topics presented for selection. The best 60 applicants are invited to take part in the final exam. There a tough selection procedure awaits the lucky winners. After the general knowledge test they have to write a report under time pressure (three hours for research and three hours for writing) and are then put through their paces by a jury of twelve. From about 1,500 applicants only the top twenty get a place at the school. Tuition is free, all students even receive a monthly grant of 761 Euros.
Training consists of courses in school, lasting for 31 weeks, and a rather longer practical part that extends over 39 weeks. In the academic courses there is instruction in the core skills of the journalistic profession, along with all the customary forms of journalism – news, features, reports, analysis, interviews and commentary. Instruction is in the form of lectures, discussions and daily practical exercises. In order to gain hands-on experience in the real working world, students do four internships in different editorial departments.
The Henri Nannen School is financed by the media company Gruner + Jahr which publishes, among other journals, the magazine Der Stern and the weekly newspaper Die Zeit. The Henri Nannen School was founded in 1979 as the “Hamburg Journalists’ School”. Wolf Schneider, a college principal of long standing, founded the school together with Henri Nannen, editor-in-chief of the Stern, and Manfred Fischer, chairman of the board of Gruner + Jahr. “Nannen, Fischer and I were soon in agreement: the school should first of all initiate students into the real world of journalism so that they’re not all at sea in their first internship and are not surprised by anything (... ) Secondly, however, the school should also try to teach a better standard of journalism than that which is generally practised – one that can fulfil its two paramount tasks: to inform the citizens and to keep tabs on the powers-that-be.”
The German School of Journalism in MunichThe German School of Journalism (Deutsche Journalistenschule) in Munich is the oldest school of its kind in Germany. As early as 1949, the first Journalism Seminar had its genesis in Germany. It was directed by Werner Friedmann, editor-in-chief of the Süddeutsche Zeitung and publisher of the Abendzeitung. It was modelled on journalism schools abroad, in particular that of Columbia University in New York, which Friedman had got to know on a journey to the US in 1948. After visiting the Journalism Seminar the author and journalist Hans Habe wrote in the guest book: “The Journalism Seminar is one of my finest and deepest impressions in the new Germany.”
Today 45 young people are trained as journalists in Munich. Two forms of training are offered: a compact course over 16 months for which there are 15 places, and a course over about 18 months followed by three further semesters in “Practical Journalism” at the University of Munich (30 places). In the first nine months of the compact course the students are taught the fundamental skills of print (five months), radio (two months) and television journalism (two months). This is followed by two three-month internships: one is at a daily newspaper, for the other students have freedom of choice. The course of further study at the University also includes instruction in the theoretical bases of communication sciences.
|Lars Seefeld describes why he decided on the compact course at the German School of Journalism: “(...) after studying dutifully for two semesters at university for a degree majoring in Journalism, I began to have my doubts. Will this make me a good journalist? (...) and very soon (...) I became increasingly convinced that journalism is, above all, a craft. The best way to learn carpentry is from an experienced craftsman – with a plane in your hand. And that is exactly what I’m looking for in this compact class.”|
Apart from the traditional journalism schools offering a wide range of subjects such as the two schools mentioned above, the Berlin Journalists’ School of the Deutscher Journalistenverband (German Federation of Journalists) and the Evangelical School of Journalism (Evangelische Journalistenschule) in Berlin, there are also schools that have specialised, for instance the Georg von Holtzbrinck School for Economic Journalism and the Cologne-based School of Journalism for Politics and Economics. Those who are interested exclusively in television journalism can apply to the RTL Journalism School for TV and Multimedia. An increasing number of journalism schools, as for example the above-mentioned Georg von Holtzbrinck School for Economic Journalists and the Cologne School of Journalism for Politics and Economics also offer vocational training in combination with a university degree course.
Entering the industry with a degree – journalism courses at universitiesThe selection procedures at the universities offering a course in journalistic studies are not quite as strict as at the above-mentioned journalism schools. Here too, however, the demand far exceeds the number of places. A prerequisite at the universities is, in addition to an excellent Abitur (school-leaving exam and university entrance qualification), that applicants have already had a certain amount of practical experience.
One of the first universities to offer journalism as a degree course was the University of Dortmund. In the 1970s, when the training of journalists entered a state of crisis, a syllabus was developed here that aimed to accommodate the complex demands of the journalists’ profession. Up to this time the “normal” career pathway was via an unregulated internship in which theoretical education played no role whatsoever.
In the degree courses for journalism and communication studies, on the other hand, there was a dearth of practical training.
The new university courses were now geared to providing instruction in the theoretical aspects of journalism without neglecting the practice. Today Dortmund offers 52 places in journalism studies, in addition there are a further 15 to 20 places for applicants who have completed an internship. The biggest hurdle in gaining admittance to the course is the Abitur grade. The internal numerus clausus fluctuates each year between grades 1.1 and 1.3. Furthermore, the prospective journalists are required to have spent at least six weeks on a work placement in a newsroom. The 52 applicants accepted receive a thorough grounding in theory and also have to complete a one-year internship.
Nowadays a university degree for journalists is the norm rather than the exception.
Eli Farinha decided on a journalism course in Dortmund:
“I’ve wanted to be a journalist ever since I was twelve. But quite soon I realised that you only get an internship if you have connections. I had none. I come from a small town in the north of Germany, and I didn’t know anyone who had anything at all to do with journalism. We had a newspaper at home, but that was all. So I did some pretty thorough research to find out what was on offer. I didn’t have any clear idea as to how the training functioned. If you come from a backwater, if you don’t know anyone who can give you some information, if all you’ve done is an internship on an advertising paper, then you just don’t know how it could function. I applied to various schools and universities but Dortmund was my first choice. Simply because it gave me the chance to study and do an internship at the same time.
I did my internship at WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk). Radio and television. That was super! After that I worked regularly as a freelancer for radio and for television. In retrospect I have to say that the training was very good, even though not everything was quite the way it was presented in the glossy brochures. Even in comparison with the renowned journalism schools, our training was simply more comprehensive.”
is a freelance journalist in Essen.
Translation: Heather Moers
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
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