Rachel Stewart has been working for DW for three years, first completing a traineeship and then becoming the face of Meet the Germans, a multimedia series about German cultural idiosyncrasies.
It was perfect timing. After her DW traineeship of a year and a half, Stewart worked for the culture department and on the team of DW’s African youth magazine The 77 Percent. When the opportunity to present Meet the Germans came up, she jumped at the chance.
Each week a Meet the Germans video, article or picture gallery sheds light on a new aspect of German culture. Stewart produces the videos with the help of a small team. She describes the content as follows: "From small talk to nudity and complicated grammar, we show the most important things you have to know about Germans.” The focus lies on everyday German culture, customs and curiosities. Stereotypes are put under the microscope and even the Germans themselves can learn something new about their country and how it appears to newcomers.
What Stewart particularly loves about her job is "the freedom to be creative.” Whether that is writing a script entirely in rhyme, planning a shoot in a hospital or trying out new tricks in the editing suite - she is ready for anything and emphasizes: "I love to experiment!” The openness of the format gives her every opportunity to do so. Every video is 100% Rachel.
Meet the Germans is quite a personal format, so Rachel is involved in production from beginning to end. A small team works together on research, scouting locations, filming, promoting the videos on social media and adapting the content from English to German. Rachel writes the scripts, plans the shoots and edits the videos. “It is really satisfying to see a sequence that you planned in your imagination come to life in the edit suite," she explains.
Stewart sees herself both as an educator and an entertainer: "Journalists should of course always focus on facts and information, but even the best research in the world is useless if nobody pays any attention to it. Entertainment can be a powerful tool.” The entertainment aspect can also be challenging at times, for example when she had to present an episode about the German sauna culture wearing just a towel. “Once the camera started rolling we knew we didn't have a lot of time, so all reservations went out the window and I just got on with it!” With 2.5 million views on YouTube it became one of her most successful videos.
A common thread: information and entertainment
Rachel is not only the face of Meet the Germans, she is also involved in other projects. Together with her colleague Malte Rohwer-Kahlmann she created a chatbot for Facebook Messenger on the DW News account that sends out conversational, interactive quizzes once a week. Each quiz covers a different current affairs theme, for example quizzes on LGBT rights, plastic waste and independence movements around the world. “It's totally different to working on the Meet the Germans videos but it also brings together the two strands of education and entertainment”, she explains.
The future will bring many more projects and videos for Meet the Germans, that much is certain. The list of potential topics is still long. Stewart particularly likes the interaction with users, who comment with their own experiences of German culture and provide suggestions for new episodes. Meet the Germans is currently being featured on television on the DW Arts and Culture segment and there are also plans to make the series available to external partners.