The life of a journalism major is horrifying. We put all of our chips on the table for a career that we are constantly told is dying. Throughout high school people give you sideways glances. Newspapers are going to be gone soon. How long will magazines last? The Internet has no profitability.
It’s all a little unsettling.
The best way to counter these uneasy feelings is to jump into the field, learn everything you possibly can and get as much experience in as many different locations as possible. When I worked with the interns at Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR), the public broadcasting station for Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt in Germany, I knew that I was on the right track to getting the kind of experience I always hoped to gain.
Arriving at headquarters was nearly overwhelming. We were given a tour of the seemingly endless grounds. Studios, editing rooms, prop and costume departments: MDR had it all. It was the type of place I can only hope to find employment someday.
Eventually we sat down with two interns per group. While in Germany, I am working with three other Ohio University students interested in the vast history of Leipzig and its surrounding areas. Our interns were assigned to us to show us how to work with the video cameras, which were far more sophisticated than anything I had ever worked with. My expertise when it comes to video can pretty much be measured in terms of point-and-shoot cameras. The behemoths the interns pulled out were anything but point-and-shoot.
We drove out to Völkerschlachtdenkmal (the Monument to the Battle of the Nations) and started gathering footage. As I am mostly focused on print journalism with my major, I soon learned methods that I certainly wouldn’t have thought about on my own. Putting together a package isn’t only about the reporter. Yes, the shots where the journalist talks into the camera are important, but even more so are the establishing shots that bring in the interest of a viewing audience. We accumulated some gorgeous footage of different angles of the monument and even used different techniques that the interns seemed very excited to show us.
Working with young people in another country has been a fascinating experience from the very beginning. Working with Mephisto, the student-run radio station at the University of Leipzig has been an extraordinary opportunity in its own right, but working with these interns was something else altogether. The age difference between us wasn’t all that great, and yet these Germans will soon become professionals. And through all of the laughing and joking that occurred during the filming session, that professionalism never left them. Their focus, drive and willingness to help three students from the United States was constantly apparent. For that I can only express admiration and appreciation.
Part of the reason we are studying in Leipzig is to delve deep into cross-cultural communication. While I wish my German skills were a bit better, it was fascinating to hear the interns we worked with on this project go back and forth between their native language and English. They could switch it on and off. Sure, there were moments when they couldn’t remember what a certain word was in English, but that’s part of the fun. When you work with people who have similar interests and goals, no matter what cultural differences there may be between you, something clicks. It always does. I’m quickly finding that, in learning these techniques from students who grew up in a different country than the United States, I’m actually learning more than I could possibly have learned from a similar instructor in America.
- Christopher Dobstaff