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A Guide for Freelance Journalists who are new in Germany
Many journalists are forced to leave their home countries and some of them have found their way to Germany. They bring with them tools, professional experience, specific knowledge and valuable new perspectives. What they often lack, however, is detailed knowledge about the media industry and about starting a career in Germany. To support them, we have published the guide „all set - A Guide for Freelance Journalists who are new in Germany” together with n-ost and Freischreiber. Here you will find tips and advice on how to get started as a journalist in Germany – available for download in German, English, Dari/Farsi, Russian and Ukrainian.
The Media Landscape
How ist he German media market structured?
Compared to the media systems of other countries, the German media system is relatively decentralised. The state exerts little influence here. In the 2022 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Press Freedom Index, Germany ranks 16th out of 180 countries. In recent years Germany has dropped several places in this ranking. This trend is due to an increase in attacks against journalists and a decline in press diversity driven by economic factors. The German media market can be broadly divided into three main segments: the press, broadcast media and the internet. You can read about the media houses in the various areas in the brochure.
The editorial departments of media outlets are divided into different sec- tions. Each section is dedicated to a specific subject area such as politics, business, sports or science. There are fixed procedures and structures within these sections.
how to get your foot in the door
- If you want to offer a story to a media, it helps if the idea arrives at the right place straight away. The content and form of the article must be suitable for this type of media. So send your exposés to the right departments. In the imprint you can look up who is in charge of the department in which the article would fit. An article or story pitch is a short text introducing the topic and content of your proposed piece. It should give the reader a rough idea of what it‘s about and what the finished product might look like.
- If this is the first time you are pitching an article to a particular editor, you can write a few short sentences about yourself: your educational background and work experience, and which media you have already worked for. If you have a website or samples of your work, provide links to them.
- An internship or traineeship is definitely recommendable. It's a great way to get to know an editorial office and its processes from the inside - and perhaps even more important: the editors get to know you better.
What do you need to do to be allowed to work in Germany?
- In the case of migrants, the work permit is directly linked to the residence permit. To be allowed to work as a freelance journalist, your residence permit must explicitly state that „gainful employment is permitted“ (Erwerbstätigkeit gestattet) or „self- employment is permitted“ (selbstständige Tätigkeit gestattet). Find out more at Service-Portal Berlin or Handbook Germany
- If you want to work as a freelancer and submit invoices, however, you‘ll also need a Tax Number (Steuernummer). You must apply for this at your local Tax Office (Finanzamt).
- If you want to work as a freelancer, a visa/residence permit for freelance work pursuant to Section 21 (5) of the Residence Act is the obvious choice. A residence permit may be granted for freelance work if this work can be expected to produce economic or cultural benefits.
Do you have to speak German to be able to work in Germany?
Nowadays not all journalistic jobs require a perfect command of German. In a data journalism team, if you can speak English and have a good command of programming languages you will be in high demand even if your German isn‘t perfect. Editorial departments that promote cross- border projects and work on international research projects are also open to multilingual colleagues.
Nevertheless, anyone reporting on Germany and for a German-speaking target group would do well to perfect their German as much as possible, on the one hand to be less dependent on the translation of texts and exchanges with sources and interview partners, and on the other, to be able to communicate better with their colleagues in the editorial department. More information about learning German is available here. However, you can start working as a journalist even if your German is not very good yet. One possibility is to work with German-speaking co-authors. Another advantage of this collaborative work is that editors will be more open to giving you an assignment if they already know someone in your writing team.
How to deal with discrimination in editorial departments?
Newsrooms are not discrimination-free spaces. Here you'll find quick help and answers (in German) to the most pressing questions about discrimination in the journalistic work context - for those affected and their allies.
How to deal with threats and hate
- In Germany too, journalists can become victims of physical or psychological violence in the course of their work. This may be because of the topics they cover or simply because of their appearance or their name. If you cover sensitive topics as a freelance journalist, or if you suspect there could be violent reactions to your reporting, it makes sense to clarify in advance in a conversation with the editorial department what steps can be taken and who is responsible should a threatening situation arise. Together with other cooperation partners, Neue deutsche Medienmacher*innen has developed a code for the protection of journalists: www.schutzkodex.de (in German)
- Helpdesk Against Hate (in German) offers tips and tools to help individuals and editorial departments deal with online hate – from preventive measures against hate speech to emergency assistance and follow-up measures.
- We organise regular meetings for affected journalists who want to discuss attacks and hate speech and offer each other support. If you‘re interested in attending one of the regular meetings, please contact info(at)no-hate-speech.de.