The routes into journalism in Germany

British hacks may have spent a lot of time in Germany this summer, but generally speaking, German news organisations are not crying out for British recruits. Not only is the newspaper industry shrinking — as it is in the UK — but few Brits have the German language skills needed for a media job there.

Those who do go, however, are full of praise for the country, particularly the capital, Berlin, which is a thriving centre of culture and politics, and the second biggest city in Europe.

While some British journalists do make good careers working in Germany, these tend to be through working as German correspondents for British publications or broadcasters, or through working at English-language news agencies such as Reuters. As far as writing in English for German titles goes, Berlin has just one English-language periodical — The Exberliner — while weekly current affairs magazine Der Spiegel has an English section to its website and broadcaster Deutsche Welle produces news in English.

However, you can get a taster of a life at a German news organisation through the George Weidenfeld Bursary, a 10-year-old annual programme that places seven British journalists in media companies in Berlin, while seven German counterparts spend time in London.

In recent years, journalists from the BBC, The Guardian, the Daily Mirror and the News of the World have taken part, spending time at organisations such as BZ — Berlin's tabloid equivalent to the Evening Standard— Der Spiegel, broadcasters and broadsheets such as Die Welt.

Stays can range from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, and grants of up to £2,000 are provided.

This is intended to cover travel and living expenses, as the work is not usually paid, although some journalists manage to keep filing copy for their home organisations while abroad.

Jeremy Armstrong, the Daily Mirror's Newcastle correspondent, was placed at BZ late last year, for nearly two months. Picked because he had studied German at university, he still said he found writing news in the language a challenge.

"It was something of a tall order to write news in German, despite the fact that I was fairly fluent," he said. "But even so, I did everything from writing about a brothel that was giving discounts to unemployed people, to interviewing Cynthia Lennon [John Lennon's first wife] when she was in Berlin to promote her book.

"Some of the journalists who were placed on broadsheets actually wrote everything in English and there were translators on hand to turn it into German copy," he added, "and I think that's one thing I would try and set up if I did it again."

For bosses at the Mirror, sending Armstrong on the exchange offered an opportunity to gear up for the World Cup, so there were no complaints about his disappearing for two months.

"I made some contacts during my placement that were hugely useful during the tournament, and that we wouldn't have had access to otherwise," he said.

Meanwhile, for those with only minimal German, there are placements available to write in English, such as at Deutsche Welle or Der Spiegel's Englishlanguage website.

Matthew Tempest, political correspondent at Guardian Unlimited, spent six weeks at Der Spiegel in 2004, filing English copy for the website.

He said: "It was perfect timing for me, because they were just setting up the English section of their website, so I was able to get involved with that.

"The trip offered a great insight into the German way of life, and I got meetings with some highranking people in government that I wouldn't have been able to set up on my own.

"On a personal level, I got to see just what a civilised, cultured and exciting city Berlin is."

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