Selection of new trainees: ″We approach this process with great humility″ | Traineeship | DW | 22.10.2020

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Traineeship

Selection of new trainees: "We approach this process with great humility"

Corona has left its mark in every area of life, including the trainee program at DW. Ramón García-Ziemsen, head of journalism training, explains how the application process for the DW Trainee Program 2021-2023 works.

Ramón García-Ziemsen at the 2019 assessment center for DW's international traineeship

Ramón García-Ziemsen at the 2019 assessment center for DW's international traineeship

How will the new trainees – the so-called "volos" – be selected this time?

Ramón García-Ziemsen: First of all, we need all the classic things like a resume and a work sample. But because we want to find out if someone fits in well with DW, we also ask a lot of questions.

There will be questions about journalism but....

...not exclusively. We want to know how creative, open for new experiences and critical our applicants are. So we ask very specifically for ideas on all sorts of topics like, for example, how to improve DW's services.

It is important to us that you don't have to be a journalist to apply. Scientists, IT experts, natural scientists, lawyers and economists are all welcome. But also someone with vocational training. We have had some cooks and nurses apply. They should be people who on the one hand want to learn the trade and on the other hand want to help rethink this profession with us beyond all the usual, well-worn paths.

This sounds already different from other large media organizations.

That is certainly the case. We are looking for people from all corners of the world who have a mind of their own. Diversity is also important to us, not only in terms of cultural and linguistic background but also in terms of biography, political views, sexual orientation and education. The more colorful the better! But we also take the needs of the house into account.

We are not necessarily looking for Type-A personalities but also for the quiet ones, which are more self-reflective and critical. Also people who say no sometimes, who do not take themselves so terribly seriously, who thrive when working in a group. Even if we have the greatest trainers, the volos learn mostly from each other and, of course, in the editorial offices.

In the end, normally 50 applicants are invited for an assessment in Bonn. What do you think, will that take place?

If it is possible, yes. If not, we will do the whole thing online. Whether analog or digital, our goal is to get to know the applicants properly but we don't want to test them to their limits. After a knowledge test, they have to show that they can write, present themselves in front of the camera and demonstrate, through various exercises, how creative and stress-resistant they are.

On the third day, 20-minute discussions take place with the director-general of DW, the editor-in-chief, the head of DW Akademie, members of the staff councils and representatives of all directors. These discussions are all conducted in a comparable manner and are therefore very fair.

What are the greatest challenges for applicants?

Sometimes I think that many applicants have read too many guidebooks for the application process. We are a journalism organization that stands for freedom of the press worldwide, that wants to reach young target groups and has to invest a lot in innovation to survive. You are allowed to show some rough edges.

When they are in Bonn, the first 15 minutes are always stressful. That's how long it takes most of them to realize that we are not all evil examination monsters. But, of course, the three days are incredibly exhausting. Applicants have to write reports under pressure and slip into another role on command. Our goal is to do everyone justice and give everyone a real chance.

For us, too, this is an incredibly intense experience that we take on with a great deal of humility. We are deciding the future of these people. It is clear to us that for many, especially those from countries where journalists cannot work freely, this is a great opportunity.

How will the traineeship under Corona conditions be structured?

Little will change in terms of content. There will again be a combination of seminar blocks and internships, alternating every two months. The first ten months will be spent in Bonn before moving on to Berlin and the foreign bureaus. We assume that the corona situation will calm down next year. Nevertheless, we are now planning more content that can be taught online.

That does not mean, however, that everything will take place over video calls. We will try to do as much as possible on-site. The multimedia training will also remain and there will definitely be projects for television and radio. The stages in the various editorial departments should – as far as possible – take place on-site.

And what will be new?

Topics such as verification, mental health and constructive journalism will play a greater role. Plus the basic journalistic training will be much more intensive. Body language and presentation skills will also be more important.

The trainees will be able to get much more involved in the process. If they have ideas and wishes regarding the seminar plan, we can quickly organize new trainings. We have had a lot of practice with such situations. We will also focus on the role of the media in the world and deal with conspiracy theories and disinformation.

What can the trainees look forward to when they manage to get one of the coveted twelve spots?

First and foremost, they can look forward to working with a great team. DW's trainees are more international than ever before. The opportunity to try things out is also much greater this time. The newcomers will be able to prove themselves in a broadcaster that is redefining itself in terms of organization and content, that is currently more successful and at the same time more willing to change than ever before. Most important is their willingness to drive change and not just to accompany it. But they can also look forward to learning how to search out their own topics with confidence.

In the end, they are trained so that they can work almost anywhere. This can be seen in those who have completed their training in recent years. They now work as editors, as reporters, as presenters or as correspondents around the world. A former volo, who started just four years ago, is now the head of the Digital News editorial team at DW. That's also possible.

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Ramon Garcia-Ziemsen DW Akademie

Ramón García-Ziemsen

Head of Journalistic Training

T: +49.228.429-2242
E: volontariat@dw.com