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This autumn, a new group of young people has started the international traineeship at Deutsche Welle. Ramón Garcia-Ziemsen, head of the journalism training program, explains why it is unique in Germany.
Online application, multimedia exercise or assessment center - what is the greatest challenge for applicants?
Many of our applicants have journalism experience or understand journalistic work, and general knowledge is usually not a problem for them either. However, tasks that require empathy and creativity prove to be more difficult. Applicants have to be quick, come up with convincing arguments and convey self-confidence, all at the same time.
You receive more than thousand applications each year. What makes DW’s trainee program so appealing to people all over the world?
There are several reasons for this. First of all, we are the only organization in Germany that offers bilingual and multimedia-based journalism training. Journalists at DW produce content in 30 languages, like Hindi, Kiswahili and Portuguese - just to name a few. No other German broadcaster offers such diversity in cultures, mentalities and languages.
Another aspect is that much of our editorial staff is involved in the assessment and selection process. During the assessment phase, applicants get to know some of their future colleagues at a very early stage in the application process. Gaining insight into work at DW is just as important as knowledge and skills.
Group dynamics and a sense of belonging to the group are equally important. We want our trainees to work as a team from the very first moment. During the 18-month program, our trainees work together very closely in what becomes an intense experience when they conduct research or produce content under time pressure, while learning how to create images or use their voices. It is very important that they get along from the beginning.
When you recruit applicants, what character traits or skills do you look for?
This changes every year to a certain degree, just like journalism itself is constantly undergoing change. Of course we require a general understanding of journalism and journalistic work. This includes finely-tuned observation skills. But what we look for in particular are people with a positive attitude, who can argue convincingly and take a stance on a topic. They do not necessarily need years of experience in journalism. Actually, we seek people who have fresh perspectives and are keen to try out new technologies and new forms of storytelling. They can learn the rest in our seminars, workshops and elective courses.
And what will they actually learn?
They are expected to acquire professional skills, like how to ask questions, do research, fact check and write news. Of course they also learn how to use equipment. But we always try out new things. We are always looking for new narrative forms and new developments in social media, mobile reporting, data journalism and virtual reality. Everyone is welcome to incorporate what they have already learned or seen elsewhere. Every year, we work with different combinations of instructors, so DW really has a lot to offer. What really matters is avoiding intellectual stagnation. We foster continuing development in journalism and always try out new things while challenging the old. That is what we expect of our applicants.