training in journalism Quality prevails
Fees are shrinking, newspaper circulation falling and many editorial offices being merged. Yet for many young people the career aspiration of “journalist” is still popular.
It has never been so easy as today to become a journalist. Or so at least it seems: a laptop, a fast internet connection, a smartphone, your own blog for texts, Youtube for pictures and videos, Twitter and Facebook for messages for networking with colleagues. If a certain passion is added, a flair for the right themes and a corresponding urge to communicate, you can quickly gain a name. Then the budding journalist needs only one thing more: someone who pays him for his work.
Access is open, the professional title not legally protectedThe professional title of journalist is not legally protected and access to it is open. Lateral entrants therefore have a chance, especially if they have already made a name for themselves on the internet. In this regard, the Federal Association of Newspaper Publishers once stated: “Because our constitution guarantees freedom of the press, access to journalism is open and may not be regulated by either the state or made conditional on the completion of prescribed training courses”. But without the relevant craftsmanship, the big plus of solid training, no one is apt to become a journalist even in the age of social media.
Rigorous selectionThose who decide for training can choose among the classical editorial traineeship, studying journalism at a universities or college or attending journalism school.
Positions as a trainee at a newspaper, a radio or television station are coveted. Media companies reserve the right to conduct selection tests. Comprehensive general education is mandatory, higher education an advantage and practical experience as a freelancer indispensable. Some publishing houses, radio or television stations today make it a condition that the candidate brings with him relevant experience as a blogger and user of Twitter and Facebook and the like. Many media companies offer cross-media training routes, ranging from work on the online desk to training with microphone and camera. With good reason: those who really want to succeed in this profession must adapt to the new media, be flexible and have no fear of moving back and forth among texts, radio and television programmes.
Another path is to study journalism. Universities offer programmes in communication and media science whose purpose is to introduce student less to journalism itself than to the scholarly study of the communication process. Many editors therefore prefer studies in other disciplines if the candidate has shown in relevant internships that he can write well. Economics, medicine, physics – those who are familiar with these fields of knowledge will find themselves welcomed with bouquets of roses by many specialized and special interest magazines.
Royal road: journalism schoolThe royal road to journalism, the journalism school, is reserved to only a small selection. Barely 300 candidates make it annually to a prestigious institution of this kind. They are then contenders for the top jobs in the profession. The entrance exams are in a class by themselves; the knowledge-based questions at the Henri Nannen School of Journalism in Hamburg, for instance, would make even a seasoned editor break into a sweat. In addition, there are practical exercises such as sample reportage and dictation. But those who make it into journalism school will get not only a free education, but also a monthly “education allowance” of 800 to 1,000 euros. The training teaches students the tools of the journalist’s trade, led by faculty who themselves use them daily and, as the schools put it in their self-promotion, emphasizes cross-media skills and is online-oriented in every area.
Since the Henri Nannen School of Journalism belongs to the publisher Gruner and Jahr, chances of the students there getting a job at the publishers after graduation are not unrealistic. The Berlin Axel Springer Academy is the only journalism school in Europe that publishes its own daily newspaper, Welt kompakt. It has been lauded in journalistic circles for its integration of new media in theory and practice. The German School of Journalism in Munich offers two training routes: while the compact course emphasizes journalistic practice and lasts over sixteen months, the master course combines practical journalistic training with an academic degree. Teaching is done by experienced journalists in accordance with the principle: “They teach what they do”.