How can journalism schools learn to cater to the needs of future journalism? The director of the German Journalism School shares her views on impartiality, diversity and the role of journalism for civilized discourse.
DW: How does the journalistic training at your institute prepare new talents for ensuring impartiality in reporting?
Henriette Löwisch: At the Deutsche Journalistenschule ("German Journalism School"), the idea of impartiality permeates our entire curriculum. From day one, both in seminars and in reporting exercises, we stress the importance of listening to others, especially to those who think differently or bring a different perspective to the table. We teach our students that reporting must always start with an open and discerning mind; we call this approach we 'ergebnisoffene Recherche' (research leading to open results): We require our students to verify factual claims, especially in their project work. But we also push them to question their own assumptions. I use monthly meetings with each cohort to drive home these points.
How does your school's curriculum adapt to the challenges of rapid digitalization?
As an independent school funded by a variety of media organizations, we are quite flexible in introducing new courses. Digital verification, data-driven journalism, social-media journalism, podcasting, mobile reporting, digital publishing, design thinking – those are just a few examples of subjects we've added in the last decade or so. At the same time, we refrain from jumping onto the latest fad, as we also need to keep teaching the basics of the trade. Why? Because people who can't write well, or don't know how to conduct an effective interview will never succeed as data journalists or format developers. Our range of subjects has grown, but our training sequence is still limited to 10 months. Yet, our graduates are sought out, right out of school, by online as well as broadcast and print newsrooms.
Does journalism need more diversity to undergo a rejuvination of sorts? How diverse are the graduates of the German Journalism School?
We certainly need a greater diversity of voices and perspectives in journalism. It's a simple matter of trust. Audiences will not trust the media if they feel journalists only represent a small slice of society. For DJS, this means we strive to attract more students who hail from small towns, whose parents or grandparents migrated to Germany, who studied STEM subjects as undergrads, who have experienced discrimination due to their creed, skin color or disability, or who grew up in difficult circumstances. We have no plans to change our admission system, where each applicant goes through the same process. But we need to engage more, to assure all applicants that they stand an equal chance of landing a spot if they bring talent, integrity and determination, wich are all qualities that absolutely transcend class or background.
What is your vision for the German Journalism School in 2050?
You're jumping quite far ahead here. It's impossible for me to say what the world will look like more than 25 years from now. There's just one thing I can say for certain: Deutsche Journalistenschule will be around to train the next generation of journalists. While we adapt to new technologies, we will stay true to our beginnings: We will continue to teach students to seek the truth to the best of their ability; to tell the truth in engaging ways through whatever channels prove most useful in reaching the public; to enjoy their trade, and to act with integrity. Only then can we guarantee that factual, probing and high-quality journalism will continue to foster civilized discourse and informed decision-making in the future.
Löwisch believes that nothing beats covering basic journalistic skills
Henriette Löwisch is the director of Deutsche Journalistenschule (DJS) in Munich, Germany. Prior to taking up the reins of Germany's premier journalism school, she directed the Master's program in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism at the University of Montana. Löwisch started out in journalism as a reporter for her hometown paper. She later worked as a foreign correspondent in Berlin, Brussels and Washington and served as editor-in-chief of the German Service of Agence France-Presse (AFP). She is a graduate of DJS herself and of the Ludwigs-Maximilians-University in Munich.
Henriette Löwisch will be part of a directors meeting of German J-Schools at this year's DW Global Media Forum on June 20 and 21.
Deutsche Journalistenschule (DJS) in Munich is the oldest training institution for journalists in the German-speaking world. Each year, it trains 45 young journalists for careers in professional media organisations, from online and print to radio and television. Its 16-month-program is highly selective and tuition-free. Courses are taught by recognized practitioners from across the country. Many of its 2,400 graduates occupy key positions in Germany's media as editors, reporters and on-air personalities. The school is funded by a consortium of 50 media companies and other public and private organizations.
What kind of talents and abilities are required for the future of journalism? What considerations need to be taken today to ensure quality in training and recruiting? And what requirements do different kind of journalism have? This year's DW Global Media Forum brings together junior journalists, teachers of J-schools and universities as well as editors-in-chief and initiators of new forms of journalism trainings to discuss the future of the trade.
These townhall talks on the future of journalism will feature, among others, Gwen Lister from the Media Institute of Southern Africa in Namibia and Christina Elmer from the Institute of Journalism, TU Dortmund University, Germany. Danielle Arets from Fontys-Hogeschool Journalistiek in the Netherlands will also join the events as well as DW's editor-in-chief Manuela Kasper-Claridge. The talks will take place on June 20 and 21 at 2:30pm CEST.
Click here for registration and more information.
This interview was conducted by Martina Bertram.