News | Gruner + Jahr | Hamburg, 07/27/2020

Journalism Training In The Time Of Coronavirus

What does the training of future journalists look like in the time of coronavirus? In an interview, Christoph Kucklick, Head of the Hamburg based Henri Nannen School, talks about the pleasure of improvising, changes that will become permanent, and the mood among the students.

The students of the Hamburg based Henri Nannen School learn to research, write and produced videos and podcasts, and much more – the entire range of their craft – over the course of 24 months. The coronavirus has had a considerable impact on the curriculum. “Exceptional situation. But things are going well!”, said Christoph Kucklick, the Head of the Henri Nannen School. In an interview with G+J’s “Greenport” intranet, he talks about the pleasure of improvising, changes that will become permanent, and the mood among the students. 

Mr. Kucklick, part of the job of journalists is to always be close to people and topics. What is your experience during this period of social distancing at the Nannen School?  
Right now, we’re actually completely happy: since July 13, we’ve been able to return to giving in-person lessons. The 18 students of the current course are learning together in the G+J Auditorium, the only room large enough. We wear masks, we observe the regulations – and enjoy having that “closeness” that is so important for intensive discussions and group exercises. For four months, the students did their lessons as well as an internship from home. That went surprisingly well, but it was also an extremely difficult time for the participants. I admire their flexibility, discipline and creativity. This course clearly proves that they are all well suited for journalism.

What effect does coronavirus have on the training and your curriculum?
In March, we went into online operation from one day to the next. We had to completely change the program of the seminar because you cannot do everything via video. However, the pleasure the lecturers and students derived from the need to improvise was impressive. Like the publishers, the school learned that adapting to change within the shortest period of time is possible. Now, we’re using the summer of reopening to step outside again: in the current seminar, the participants are learning to film and produce videos.

Wearing masks and keeping a distance – what else do you have to observe to be able to hold the seminar on site?  
In the auditorium, we are maintaining a distance of several meters between seats Name tags are added to notebooks so they won’t be mistakenly swapped, and we have labels indicating the maximum number of people allowed in each room. Exceptional situation. But things are going well! This is also due to the assistance we received from the Health Protection and Real Estate Management at Gruner + Jahr; without them, we would not have been able to handle the complex preparations for this and all other courses this year. 

Are there changes that will become permanent after the time of coronavirus or that you perhaps would like to develop further?    
Absolutely! Here’s one example: we traditionally welcome evening guests to very lively discussions about current journalistic topics, once or twice a week. This current seminar will welcome, among others, Anja Reschke of NDR, author Alice Hasters (“Was weiße Menschen nicht über Rassismus hören wollen aber wissen sollten”), Jochen Wegner, Editor-in-Chief of, and Stefan Ottlitz, the new Co-Managing Director of “Spiegel”. It has always been especially important for the guests to be on site, but that greatly limits the selection. Now we know that a video conference can also be just as lively, and that allows us to connect with interesting guests from a distance, even if they are on another continent. 

And how are the Nannen students handling this period of time? Do they see lots of material for good stories or do they miss being together?  
Most students are new to Hamburg; they want to get to know the city, find friends, work hard and sometimes party – and suddenly, they are locked up alone for four months in tiny rooms in their flat-sharing community in front of their laptop screens. That’s really brutal. However, they have used the time well and have been very productive, have written excellent texts and attracted the attention of editorial offices. But if I asked you this question, your answer would probably be the same as for all of us: may this crisis soon be over!