“The media will change, but it will always need people” – Q&A with Martin Klingst

by Lisa Maria Krause and Jennifer Selby

Martin Klingst is a retired journalist and political commentator from Germany. After studying law, he became a transatlantic correspondent for media outlets such as NDR, Deutsches Allgemeines Sonntagsblatt, and Die Zeit. He has also worked as the Head of Strategic Communication for the German president. Lisa Maria Krause and Jennifer Selby talked with Klingst about his journey into the profession, the current state of journalism, and what AI means for the future of the media.

How did you get into journalism?

It was by serendipity. I am a full-trained lawyer – I was always interested in law and politics and also in foreign affairs. While I was assisting a professor at the University of Hamburg to write political commentaries, he told me that I might make a good journalist. I applied for an internship at the North German Broadcasting Corporation and got rejected at first, but then secured a two-week apprenticeship and a job there shortly afterwards. I didn’t stay very long because I found a newspaper that was looking for a lawyer as a legal commentator. From there, I went into foreign affairs. I covered the Balkan Wars, then became their senior political editor, before I changed to Die Zeit, Germany’s largest weekly paper.

What was your first experience like in the United States?

In 1971/72, I was an exchange student with Youth for Understanding. At the time, I didn’t know very much about the United States. We all gathered in a little college in Michigan, and most of the exchange students found out they would stay in the Midwest. They said to me, “Martin, you’re gonna go to Colorado.” There was a big map and somebody asked, “do you like to ski?”. I said, “yes”. “Oh, that’s great because you’ll live close to the Rocky Mountains”. I stayed there for a year. I only called my family once at Christmas because it was horribly expensive. You had to call an operator and wait for about two hours to be connected. So, we just wrote letters. It took about 14 days. Between my letter and the answer, there were at least four weeks.

And later you wanted to go back… 

Yes, I went back a couple of times. In 2006, I went to Harvard, where I was a fellow for a short time. That was a year before I knew I was going to be the US correspondent for my paper. I was a political editor for 10 years, and then I became a correspondent for seven years, based in Washington D.C.

How has journalism changed since you started in the field?

When I was in the United States, from 2007 to 2014, there was a big media crisis. Especially a crisis of print media. A lot of local papers closed or were forced to close because of a lack of revenue. Others went just digital. I saw how devastating the situation was, and it has not become much better. Some papers have progressed. I think The New York Times is doing fairly well. But others are struggling. I just heard today that the Washington Post is also still struggling, even though they have their big owner, Jeff Bezos. 

What is the cause of this?

I think it’s a total change of behavior and reception of the media. Print papers are probably going to die, but digital subscriptions might work better. People are more on the internet. They read bits and pieces, not a whole paper. In former times, you looked at the paper and you were surprised to read this and that. People nowadays tend to look for specific things.

Another problematic thing is what you see in the United States: even news is becoming more like entertainment than just information. I think this is feeding partisanship. People tend to watch or listen to news in order to picture their own opinion. They don’t look for others’. This is a tendency I’m a bit afraid of, because it narrows the field of opinion.

Do you think this impacts the way journalists report news?

Yes, I think there’s nothing like a totally objective or neutral view because everyone is formed by his own biography, by the things he sees and the things that matter to him or her. But I at least always try to step back and look at things a second or third time and ask, ‘is my opinion right? Are the facts right?’ Pure analysis or fact telling is on the decrease. This is something I sometimes regret. When I look at TikTok or other social media it’s about influencing, about advertising opinions, showing trends and personalizing or emotionalising things.

How critical or independent would you say journalists are nowadays?

I think they’re critical. I think independence is something that is probably threatened – mainly by big media companies. When I look, for example, at Murdoch’s empire and see how they try to frame political messages and what kind of journalists they employ; I think this is critical. I still remember when Tony Blair became Prime Minister of Great Britain, how he tried to become friends with the Murdoch family because they were so influential in the British media and he knew that he probably could not win without creating some kind of relationship. This is very problematic.

Do you think there should be greater restrictions on who can call themselves a journalist?

Well, it’s not a protected profession, so everyone can call themselves a journalist. I would not change that. It’s different when you are a doctor or a lawyer and you need to know the basics. As a journalist I can go wrong and say ‘I’m a photographer now’ because I know how to handle a camera. But no, I would not start creating some kind of basic criteria that would exclude people. I think this could be dangerous. I think that the good ones will succeed, the bad ones will fail.

Do you think that’s true, given what you said about journalists becoming more partisan?

No, there is a downside to what I said. It’s not only true that only the good ones succeed and the bad ones fail. There’s also a lot that I would consider bad and partisan that succeed, as you can see now. Especially in the United States, where the media has become so biased, and the talk shows are just campaigners. Take for example Tucker Carlson and his fight with Fox News. It’s awful that they replicated the lies and said that Trump actually won, even though they knew that was false. But it was welcomed and it paid and I think this is just terrible.

How has technology changed journalism? 

You see dramatic changes. I think a lot of journalists nowadays need to multi-task. They have to write. They might use a video camera, they have to be on social media and advertise what they’re doing. This is a trend you probably cannot stop, but it sometimes also threatens the focus on something. When I was based in Washington, D.C., my paper asked me to videotape my interviews. I started doing that and then stopped because the moment I used the camera, people were not talking as openly anymore or were correcting themselves. When they talk just with a tape recorder or you write down what they’ve said, they’re more open. 

How does AI such as ChatGPT change journalism, especially for those who want to become journalists?

I think that some parts of the media will be taken over by artificial intelligence. Probably the news, also some analytical articles. I think what will not be substituted by AI is features because you need someone that goes out, looks at people, travels, and tells what he sees. We cannot foresee what happens in the future. It could be good, but in any case it will dramatically change the profession.

Could AI even increase the need for journalists?

Oh yes, certainly. AI will have failures. AI is only as good as the data it’s fed with. I think it’s also very important to see who is feeding the data. Is it only white men that feed the data, or do you also have women feeding the data? Do you have a diverse range of people? Because different people will look at things differently, and have different data. It’s a different algorithm that comes out when you also have women and people of color and other minority groups. I think this is also very important for the media to look at: who’s the master of the data.

Is there any advice that you’d give to young journalists just starting their careers? 

Don’t let yourself be threatened by the difficulties. The media will always be there. It will change, but it will always need people: bright people, people that are independent and don’t take for granted what others tell them. Self-criticism is also essential. In my time working as the Head of Strategic Communication for the German president, I learned some humility. I saw how difficult political decisions are, that politicians have to balance many different interests and often come to a compromise because in the end they cannot satisfy everyone. As a journalist, you should always consider that they’re not only stupid on the other side. It’s good to step in the other’s shoes in order to get a better insight. This is what I would like to tell my journalist friends: don’t draw conclusions too easily.

Butterflies and Wee-wees or Vulvas and Penises?

Ending the Taboo of Children’s Sexuality

feature story by Nanna Christ Kiil Johansen and Domenica Sosa

(illustration by Domenica Sosa)

Society might seem to have reached its peak of open-mindedness, but the topic of children’s sexuality is here to prove it wrong. While adults are reproducing myths and social norms of the past, ignoring the existence of children’s sexuality, the results can be feelings of shame and distorted views on sexuality among children. Yes, children’s doctor play and genital rubbing are awkward, but experts insist: let’s talk about it.

Imagine you are in a supermarket, accompanied by a child. You might be its parent, or you might be the child’s caregiver for the day. The child points at a condom package, reaches for it and asks: “what is that?” Children have a lot of questions, but this one leaves you awkwardly silent, not knowing, what to say.  While standing there, furrowing your brows and trying to find the right words, your child has already run off to the candy section.

This time, you have avoided an uncomfortable situation, but next time you might not. Children are curious little humans. As they at some point will ask you to explain where babies come from, or what a new, sensitive word they heard in the schoolyard means, they will also explore their bodies and others.

While Western society seems to be tolerant and open-minded, it is far from normalized and known that children, from birth, are already developing their sexuality. “Everything is there from the beginning,” PhD candidate in Social Science and coordinator of the MA in Childhood Studies and Children’s Rights at the Fachhochschule Potsdam, Korinna McRobert, says. After realizing that most people do not think that children of a young age have a sexuality, McRobert started working with the topic, asking the question: “if we don’t think that it is there, how can we possibly engage with it?”

On the contrary, McRobert wonders how society has somehow come to accept the fact that teenagers are overtly sexual but pre-pubescent children are not. According to a Planned Parenthood report from the United States called the 2014 Let’s Talk Survey*, examining parental communication with children aged 9 to 21, 8 out of 10 parents had talked about sexuality with their children. Out of those, nearly half reported beginning by age 10, and 80% had talked about the topic by age 13.


“When they are in puberty, there will be this one big talk, and then everything is clear,” Anna Lapp, couples & sexual counselor and sexuality educator, says wryly. “This is the idea of sexuality,” she adds. Lapp and McRobert agree with experts from all over the world in insisting that the conversations with children about sexuality should start as early as possible. And if you are looking for a rule of thumb, Lapp got it: “When is the right time? When they ask.”

However, an issue, that Lapp addresses as being in the way of this development, is how sexuality in society is perceived. “The first thing should be defining sexuality in a wider, broader way,” Lapp explains. According to the World Health Organization sexuality is experienced and expressed through thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviors, practices, roles and relationships. “Sexuality is not just penetration,” Lapp states, “It is so much more.”

Working in her clinic in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg, Lapp encounters many adults who are not comfortable talking about their own sexuality. “If they do not learn to talk about sexuality at their age, how might that be with children?” she asks. Lapp therefore argues how working on your own perception of sexuality is also preparation for parenthood. 

What is actually going on in the development of children’s sexuality?

Let’s take a look at what happens in different stages of the child’s development and how to handle it, according to the general understanding of the experts and many children’s health organizations.

Age 0 to 2

At age 0 to 2 is the initial phase of exploration and self-discovery. The baby may self-stimulate their genitals but is yet unaware of the concept of sexuality. Babies activate their five senses and communicate through them.

At this stage, babies are actively discovering the world around them. It is normal exploratory behavior. Physical contact, like cuddling, is important to develop a healthy social and emotional base. Start communicating to the baby with specific terms, for example while changing diapers, explain what you are doing and name the genitals correctly.

Age 2 to 4

The toddlers can now distinguish age differences and begin to construct their gender identity. They tend to be curious about their bodies and the bodies of others. They begin to ask questions about body parts and they may touch their genitals simply because it feels good.

It is important to understand that self-stimulatory behavior in toddlers does not mean they have a sexual fantasy. Address their private parts with correct terminology. At this point, physical contact is continuously important between child and parent. However, respect the child’s boundaries and do not force affection.

Age 4 to 6

This is the doctor play phase. Children understand the physical differences between genders in a playful way. At this age, they are interested in where babies come from. They begin to set boundaries and follow social norms. Childhood play is normal curiosity.

It is a good time for the caregiver to create guidelines for the child about consent, and again, correct terminologies of their private parts, boundaries, and intimacy without making them feel ashamed. Create a safe environment at home, so the toddler can ask questions.

Age 6 to 8

At age 6 to 8, the latency stage is taking place, a period between childhood sexuality and the beginning of puberty. Children may feel shame and discomfort when they are naked in front of other people. They fantasize about what they have around them, e.g. in the family, at school or on television.

Provide the child with educational alternatives to sexuality, like placing informative books around the room. Children ask fewer questions about sex, but that does not mean they are less interested, so take advantage of teachable moments.

Age 8 to 10

In this phase, the child may experience the feeling of romantic love for the first time. They have a more mature understanding of sexuality, relationships and that sex can be a taboo subject. They could tell each other sexual jokes and are more conscious of their own sexual orientation.

The caregiver should listen and communicate. Don’t assume that the child wants to be sexually active if it asks, what sex is. Also, explain the meaning of sentimental relationships. If they make jokes, the caregiver or parent should explain the difference between inoffensive and offensive jokes and terms.

Age 10 to 12

This is the stage where puberty begins and the preteen’s hormones are activated. Physical and emotional changes are observed. The children are more interested in adult sexuality and tend to seek information about sex online. There may be small approaches towards a romantic relationship.

It is relevant to let them know at this stage that they can go to the parent or caregiver if they have any questions. Talk to them about sex, relationships and methods of contraception. It is also important to give them their personal space and to trust them.

The parents who come to Anna Lapp usually have a lot of questions once opening Pandora’s box. The counselor hears questions like “Is it okay to sleep in the same bed as my child?” or how they can answer when a child asks “what is this between your legs? What do you call it? Can I touch it?” These are situations that leave the parents uncomfortable and unsure, which draws a picture of something both McRobert and Lapp emphasize. “One huge problem is that adults transfer their own perspective of sexuality to the children,” the latter explains.

Many of a child’s curiosities catch the parent off guard. When they hear about the so-called doctor play in kindergartens, they might feel shocked and think that the situation must be sexual somehow. But according to Lapp, children do not plan sexuality, they simply explore. “It is always out of the moment. It is always just curiosity or a feeling of desire. They don’t need a romantic dinner at a restaurant to play doctor, so it is completely different,” Lapp argues.

Parents often do not see this difference. Therefore, it has become easier for parents and institutions to create strict rules of behavior that fit societal norms. Telling children not to touch themselves, keeping quiet about sensitive topics or such the adult thinks are sexual. “Nuance is hard,” McRobert explains.

“We just have these rules and follow them because it’s easier. We’ll be out of trouble. The problem is that we’re not out of trouble because children continue to explore and discover – and it’s normal.” – Korinna McRobert, PhD candidate in Social Science and coordinator of the MA in Childhood Studies and Children’s Rights at the Fachhochschule Potsdam

Another tendency, Lapp sees, is how parents put the responsibility onto kindergartens and schools, preferring to let institutions take care of the matter.

(illustration by Domenica Sosa)

Some boundaries, however, are necessary. “Sexuality is a lot about boundaries,” McRobert states. It is therefore encouraged for parents to establish guidelines. It is normal for children to be curious about their sexuality, but it is still something personal and intimate. “They are allowed to touch themselves and it is fine if they explore with other children, but only if they also want to. It’s private and you give permission,” McRobert explains.

These circumstances are perfectly healthy. However, one should keep in mind that if the age difference between the children is greater than 18 months, it could be problematic. Likewise, if the child seems to frequently and publicly masturbate, perhaps while knowing how others may feel uncomfortable in the situation, it could be a sign of emotional distress. In this case, some tend to think the child just needs attention, but McRobert explains: “it usually goes deeper than that. Why do they want attention?” she asks.

Boundaries, on the other hand, are not only for the parent to implement. “Many of us are raised with not respecting our own boundaries,” Lapp explains, referring to how children are sometimes pushed by adults to show bodily affection. “Give a little kiss to your granddad or aunt,” she exemplifies, stating that adults excuse their authority over children by thinking “it’s only a child.” The counselor suggests instead that the child itself can decide what is okay or not and that the adults should respect these boundaries.

A crucial encouragement from both McRobert and Lapp, is to talk to a child with proper terminologies. Often, adults will refer to the child’s intimate body parts as a flower, butterfly or willy, most likely because it is uncomfortable to say their right names. But when parents use these euphemisms, it is actually not helpful and will provoke a feeling of shame in naming their genitals properly, reproducing shame into their later adulthood. And another important issue that an incorrect terminology could provoke, is misunderstandings. “A child could say ‘someone touched my butterfly’ which can be misinterpreted, because one may not know these euphemisms,” McRobert mentions. “This can make them more vulnerable to abuse because they can’t express it,” she adds.

(illustration by Domenica Sosa)

Clear, transparent communication is therefore – yes, you might have already guessed it – key. The goal should be to create a safe environment for children to ask questions. Lapp mentions an example from a client, who’s child heard a new word in school: Schwanzlutscher, which translates to the offensive word cocksucker. This is a difficult term to explain to a child, and dependent on the child’s age and understanding, the parent must adjust the explanation. Therefore, Lapp emphasizes that it is also okay for adults to step back and take their time to find the right words: “But then it is super important that you really get back to them”, she states.

The fact that children ask, is a healthy sign: “It is really good that they ask what it is,” Lapp explains, referring to the former term. Because what happens when they don’t or when parents tell them off? They will probably turn to other sources of information, because the curiosity is still there. “Imagine, he would go to Google and put in Schwanzlutscher,” the counselor says.

As sexual knowledge and behavior are influenced by children’s experiences and environment, let us take a look at the media culture they are exposed to. According to a U.S. report called ‘The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens 2021’*, tweens, who are children about the age of 8 to 12 years, spend an average of over five hours online every day. And this number does not include screen time for schoolwork. Lapp argues that there is a lot of good information on sexuality to extract from the internet, but there are just as many, if not more, “bad examples” as she says.

According to recent research from 2022 by Rachel de Souza, Children’s Commissioner for England, one out of ten children has seen pornography by the age of 9. The report awoke headlines and comments on several news media and social media platforms, portraying a growing concern. “It might be – depending on the age – disturbing,” Lapp admits, referring to when a child is exposed to pornography. The counselor is concerned that it can form the image of their own sexuality: “They might think ‘oh, a man needs an erection for two hours. And the woman needs to be taken for two hours. And at the same moment, they’ll have the orgasm,” she says, painting the picture of mainstream pornography.

McRobert, on the other hand, thinks that adults, once again, are projecting their reaction on the children when they hear of exposure to pornography. “I don’t know whether it’s as traumatic as people think,” she says, arguing that children, whether it is pornography or not, are somehow used to being exposed to sex. “It might also just confuse,” McRobert says and adds: “We don’t know, because we don’t ask.”

Exposure seems to be unavoidable in a digital world. “You could protect them more,” McRobert says and adds: “but you can’t protect them from everything.” What she sees as more important, also as a mother of three children herself, is trust. “I trust them a lot when it comes to their own self-exploration and relations with other people,” McRobert explains and adds how she thinks there is a lot for adults to learn from children along the way. “You can be there and accompany them through it. A do-it-together kind of thing”, she says and ends with the note: “And the only way you can do it is to communicate.”

*The studies used in this article are based on data from the U.S. and might not be representative of children from Germany.

Career Advice With Michaela Krause

An interview by Walter Kemp Bruce

Walking into Michaela Krause’s offices in Mitte, Berlin, is quite impressive. A buzzer door leads off a beautiful archway, up four flights of stairs and into an open space where young professionals are busy working at Macbooks. Around the furniture you can see a collection of different products associated with Michaela’s public relations company, Laika Communications. Among them are harnesses and other contraptions designed specifically for dogs. The fact Michaela’s company chooses to work with these particular products is unsurprising given that Laika Communications is named after Laika the dog – the first animal to do an orbital spaceflight around Earth – and because you’ll often find a cute dog trotting around the office. 

Laika Communications is a very forward looking, modern PR company, and have worked with Snapchat, Twitch, Soundcloud and other huge names in the digital space. Michaela, as founder and CEO, has guided this company since it was created in 2018 and according to Linkedin, it already has 25 employees. 

But I’m here to discuss a particular subject with Michaela: I want to find out what guidance she might have for young people who, like me, are at the very beginning of their professional journey. Although she has already worked in different companies and in several industries, Michaela is a young person herself, and seems quite close to me in age (I do maintain a sense of British etiquette that prevents me from asking someone how old they are in exact terms). I hope this article might help to bridge the gap between my generation and our typical sources of career advice: people our parents’ age. 

Right off the bat, Michaela responds to my questions with total clarity: “You need to go out and try different things.” (I had asked her about the challenge of finding the right career, and how lost so many of us seem to be.) “I was lucky enough to do internships in three different fields in the time I was studying, and it allowed me to try my hand at different responsibilities and different industries. That really helped me to figure out what I liked and what I was good at,” Michaela explains. She is adamant that this is as relevant now as it has ever been. “Even in the digital age, there is only so much you can learn from trying out and observing, or looking stuff up. At some point you have to go out and do,” she says. Her last comments on this topic really hit home: “If you’re at the first stage, don’t let yourself get caught up in the insecurity that you might choose the wrong path that defines your whole career. That could stop you from taking opportunities. The truth is you’ve got so much time at this stage to explore, change and switch tack. People are often far too young when they start worrying about what’s exactly THE right job for them.” 

As an employer of young people herself, I ask Michaela what stands out to her about a promising applicant. “I like to see that someone has a firm idea of what they are curious to learn, as well as telling me what they bring to the table,” she says. She takes a second to think about this before continuing. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to have confidence in your skills, but I like to hire applicants I can help grow, and who want to gain new skills working with me, rather than people who consider themselves the full package already. Because I believe we never stop learning and that’s the attitude I want to see in someone” Michaela explains that the personal value of helping someone grow and develop as an employee is a great part of the work that she does. I’m sure staff at Laika also appreciate that they’re not expected to arrive as a finished product and will eventually leave with new skills and abilities. 

But what about very talented people, who have a particularly well honed area of expertise? Well, according to Michaela this could be cause for concern. “Sometimes, people with special abilities can fall into a trap,” she says, “because they end up developing that ability beyond all their other responsibilities.” For example, in her industry, Michaela explains that someone with an amazing knack for content creation could neglect their knowledge of brand strategy. More to the point, “in any industry, everyone wants someone who is a really competent, well-rounded colleague, who can pitch in and help out where needs be. It’s great to feel like you’re working with people who have that agility,” Michaela says. But this point goes even further: “Something that people don’t realise is that specific abilities can basically dip in and out of fashion. If you want true job security, it’s great to become invaluable to your industry without getting trapped in a particular niche. Being open to change and learning new things is the real hidden talent,” she says. 

Lastly, Michaela stresses the continuing relevance of the age-old principle of acuity: build good relationships. Michaela suggests this principle might even be grounds for going offline in the post-Covid world: “Y’know it’s always great if you can meet face to face. Even just because it’s a gesture which shows your level of interest and commitment. But generally, it’s just great to build lasting relationships with people, and put in effort to make it clear those relationships are important to you.” She goes on to say that developing good relationships in your career is about genuinely caring about people for their sake, and not thinking about what you can get from them. Maintaining positivity and kindness is a huge advantage professionally, not a weakness, she explains. 

For such a drastically changing planet, it’s surprising to me how much of Michaela’s advice could relate to previous generations. It strikes me that, in a certain way, developing a great career runs parallel to growing as an individual. Many of the skills and strategies outlined by Michaela reflect deeper facts about our personalities – we often think about what we can add before what we can learn, we can overspecialize when we find our talents and tastes, and we can sometimes allow our relationships with others to suffer in service of ourselves. For this reason, I think Michaela’s advice might be as helpful to developing personally as it is to developing yourself professionally. All the more reason to take her words seriously. 

Wandel Lab 2022 – Storytelling as an act of Resistance

By Maria Chotou

In response to the planetary emergency, activists, filmmakers, and storytellers clashed their visions over how we could produce co-creative spaces at the Wandel lab festival in Berlin. A weekend of action workshops, open spaces, art, and culture around social change took place at Atelier Gardens on the 3-6th of June. 

Among the many talks that Wandel Lab hosted, one of them was coordinated by Berlin-based filmmakers (Green Twenties) and students from MA in Visual and Media Anthropology at HMKW. ‘Storytelling as an act of Resistance: Artistic Intervention and Impact on the Planetary Emergency’ was the title of the roundtable discussion. The workshop included stimulus material, research findings, presentations, and insights from a range of current and recent projects that respond to the environmental crisis and provide an opportunity for activists and storytellers to network and discuss

The workshop aimed to brainstorm around how can stories transition from awareness building to action and how can creators be more targeted with modality and distribution of stories to gain maximum impact. 

‘We need to think of the output and how to imagine sustainable futures, but also how to bring them out’ says Blake Paul Kendall, lecturer at HMKW and coordinator of the discussion. 

Participants from HMKW were students: Elke Hautala, Hauxita Jergeschew, Melissa Blythe Knowles, Yusuf Ölmez,, and Mamo Akefetey. Others: Pavel Borecký (AnthroPictures / University of Bern) and Leonard Leesch (Green Twenties)

Short interview with Yusuf Ölmez,

Yusuf is a director, screenwriter, and producer.

His master’s in Visual and Media Anthropology at HMKW has allowed him to explore his artistic research through photography and ethnographic films. 

“The program is a key for me to dwell more into the non-fiction forms of storytelling and ethnofiction. This means that it allowed me to explore the field of visual anthropology that opened up a space that combines my profession of filmmaking with another research-based perspective.” Yusuf says.


  1. What ‘stimulus material’ did you present at the roundtable discussion for Wandel Lab 2022?

I presented a short documentary that I made as part of our effort in the Environmental Anthropology course. It was a collective story that is shaped by the interview that I made with my participant, Remzi Oguz Gunaydin, about his approach to planetary emergencies. I also experimented with the codes of poetic cinema to question this critical situation from an alternative and emotional perspective.

  1. In your opinion, how can documentaries make a positive impact on society, especially when filmmakers collaborate with activists and anthropologists? 

Activist documentaries of this kind have the potential of creating empathy, dialogue, and emotional stimuli. I think this can make it a bit different from research-based mediums which are also contributing a positive impact on society. Artistic research can be a method of abstraction to enrich and diversify the possibilities of other fields which strengthens the diversity of the contributions with other fields.

  1. How can storytellers/filmmakers contribute to the transition into sustainable futures?

There are a lot of ways to be part of this but I’d like to share my own experience. Raising an alternative voice of protest and awareness is one of the greatest possibilities that art allows us. When I think about this, I also remember how some poems, like the works of Nazim Hikmet, enriched my inspiration about resistance differently. Cinema and other mediums of artistic research can have the same.

  1. Do you have any advice for young filmmakers out there or any advice you would like to give on cinematography?

I do not see myself as a person to give advice but for the sake of this valuable question and my dedication to sharing personal experiences, I would say following my intuitions and intellectual pursuit with my lens and ear allows me to have conversations with more people through the works of image and sound that I create. I try to experiment and investigate my questions in this way. This creative process makes me engaged with the participants and audience through my camera.

You can view Yusuf’s short film presented at Wandel Lab 2022 by clicking the link below: 

Check out the trailers that Yusuf produced for two of his fiction films:

The Interdisciplinary Nature Of The Humboldt Forum

A feature by Maria Chotou

What do Berlin and Intelligence have in common? Τhe answer may be revealed in the essence of interdisciplinarity that inheres on the first floor of the Humboldt Forum.

Two exhibitions that are currently taking place at the Humboldt Forum, Berlin Global and After Nature, mark an encounter between culture and technology. The two are inextricably bound with the involvement of experts from various fields of science, artists and Berlin-based initiatives in both exhibitions. A cultural-scientific dialogue is fostered by the Stadtmuseum behind Berlin Global and the Cluster of Intelligence behind part of After Nature.

A Multiplicity of voices 

In July of 2021, the Berlin Global exhibition opened its doors to visitors with seven diverse themes: revolution, free space, boundaries, entertainment, war, fashion and interconnection. “The exhibition Berlin Global combines an interdisciplinary representation of the city’s history and culture, but also offers a unique participatory experience of interacting with this history using multimedia technology,” says Karsten Grebe, press spokesperson for the Stadtmuseum Berlin. The Stadtmuseum Berlin has been in charge of the communication for the Berlin Global exhibition since its opening.

The exhibition embraces the fact that there is not just one ostensibly objective presentation of history, but rather many histories. A team of political scientists, historians, communication scientists, musicologists, and gender studies scholars have been working to achieve this goal.

On account of such involvements, visitors have the chance to come across aspects of the multifaceted Berlin, reflect and construct their own views through a participatory experience and interactive technologies. Visitors choose a path when going from one station to another. And at the end of the exhibition, they receive a summary of their input and decisions, enabling them to challenge further their critical view and recognise the multitude of diverse opinions from other visitors. 

The possibilities of interactivity in the museum are so open-ended that their conceptualization and design are what make the experience special. Touch, feel, critique, and create, but, most importantly, be asked questions. 

Grappling with colonialism

Going back now to the museum’s view, the heterogeneity of its contents can already be seen on its façade. A merge of modern architecture with baroque construction. 

The new museum stands on the site of the demolished East German parliament building alongside Berlin’s Cathedral and has been dubbed one of the largest cultural developments in Europe in recent years. The Berlin palace was damaged during WWII. It was demolished and replaced by the Palace of the Republic, which housed the parliament of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). 

The decision to rebuild the baroque Berlin palace, which is now forming the Humboldt forum, has been undoubtedly a controversial topic. Inhabitants of Berlin have been debating about the reconstruction of a royal palace, which has associations with Prussia and the monarchy, and the Forum’s intention to host non-European cultural themes. 

The Humboldt forum was built and its content, rather surprisingly, challenges and advocates a new way of acknowledgement and discussion around the colonial past. 

“The Berlin Global exhibition seeks to engage critically with the history of Berlin and Germany. What underlines the whole concept is a critical view on the colonial structures of power in the present,” Karsten Grebe says. 

In fact, there are plenty of examples in the exhibition that show gestures of openness and dialogue, but also recognition of the past. The exhibition opens up with an art piece by duo artists How & Nosm that depicts the history of European world views and exploitation since the early modern age. The topic of colonialism is also found in the station “Boundaries” and “War” where they address the invisibility of Germany’s colonial past in the country’s culture of remembrance and call upon political leaders and the public to take a new look at colonialism.

The performative work produced by contemporary artist Philip Kojo Metz called SORRY FOR NOTHING takes place in the “War” room and points out the German silence regarding the country’s colonial past. It is one of the main works at the exhibition that highlights this new stance of the forum to challenge the past. 

From the exploration of Berlin’s society to what intelligence is 

As we progress through the interactive wanderings of the Berlin Global exhibition and gather a sense of the museum from the outside, we are transported to a different room on the first floor. The After Nature exhibition room has a similar design with the rain of matrix and installations that challenge our sense of human existence. Large floodlights hang from the ceiling and hold glass boxes exposing all sorts of objects from history. The exhibition, however, begins with an emphasis on sustainability and a reference to the human mind. The Cluster of Intelligence in Berlin curated part of the After Nature exhibition and exhibited precious findings from their work. 

“Members from different subject areas such as robotics, biology, and philosophy work together towards an interdisciplinary understanding of intelligence. The aim is to identify general principles of intelligence as well as technological applications that make use of these principles’’ says Prof. Dr Jens Krause, a scientist at Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries. Prof. Dr Krause’s research is part of the behavioural biology component of the Science of intelligence cluster.

A prominent part of the After Nature exhibition highlights our connection with the natural ecosystems. The exhibition starts with a massive installation of moving fishes, that just like humans, move around in swarms. Our collective actions and decisions have consequences for others. This is the power of collectivity. 

The science of intelligence cluster is a joint cluster of excellence of the Technische Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität in Berlin. This interdisciplinary outlet focuses on research about collective intelligence and presents an experimental setting of RobFish at the After Nature exhibition. 

One of the glass boxes mentioned above hosts the RobFish. Visitors of the exhibition come closer to a little robotic fish which is placed in a real-life simulation environment and through interactive technology tries out behaviours in a collective concept with other simulations of fishes. 

The robotic fish is anticipating the behaviours of its conspecifics and the aim of the experiments is to use such insights for improving collective robotics.

Why collective intelligence matters

Studying how humans or animals process information and make decisions collectively can identify new principles based on which experts can address important problems in society. The study of anticipatory strategies and social responsiveness with AI models is at the core of current research by the cluster of intelligence regarding collective intelligence. 

“Some of the mathematical models which are inspired by social decision making in animals were capable of providing algorithms for cancer diagnosis which are better than the human doctor,” says Prof. Dr Krause. 

“Collective Intelligence is the ability of a group of animals or humans to make better decisions than a single individual could. An important prerequisite is that individuals independently gather information from their environment. This information is processed through social interaction and leads to the solution of cognitive problems that single individuals cannot solve in this way,” he continues. 

The interdisciplinarity behind the exhibitions

The After Nature exhibition belongs to a part of the Humboldt Lab within the Humboldt forum, which aims to make science more accessible, bringing experimental work such as the RobFish closer to people. The Humboldt Lab is a great place to show visitors what goes on in the excellence cluster in Berlin and illustrate how interdisciplinarity, even in the most complex scientific fields, is necessary. 

“The Humboldt Lab is a place for science communication and we look forward to creating more content in the future,” says Prof. Dr Krause 

From Berlin Global to After Nature, it makes perfect sense to believe that all fields of life are interconnected. From culture to science and art to technology. The Humboldt Forum in Berlin at last is offering the space to experiment with those connections. 

The city derives intelligence and intelligence derives the city.

If you want to learn more about the ongoing exhibitions, please click the links below: 


All photographs were taken by Maria Chotou.

The Resurgence of Curated Newsletters for Journalists

A blog by Maria Chotou

Media outlets today provide journalists with multiple ways to distribute their work. While social media has grown in terms of user numbers, email still has the largest number of users. News writers might want to consider creating newsletters to expand their reach.

During the Culture and Entertainment module taught by Prof. Dr Tong-Jin Smith, students in the Digital Journalism master’s program at HMKW learned how and why newsletter journalism is becoming increasingly relevant. Following the theoretical seminar, they were exposed to e-newsletter creators and were able to develop a free format newsletter of their own.  

The curated box that changed newsrooms

A newsletter’s design and distribution are vital, and the tools that are used by networked journalists are fascinating in terms of how they need to think creatively and openly to inform their audience. So, how have newsletters changed the online newsroom?

The resurgence of newsletters shifted the online newsrooms in the way of disseminating curated news content and controlling incoming traffic on news websites. They became a new way of discovering how to inform the public. A curated box that is delivered to our digital letterbox just like newspapers were thrown in garden yards once.

In recent years, we have seen the emergence of affordable, user-friendly software such as Mailchimp and Substack that make newsletters more feasible. Both of these services offer plenty of design tools, a simple interface, and the option for paid subscriptions. Adding a newsletter to the news experience added a personalized touch and curated content aimed at encouraging recipients of newsletters to consume the news. 

Newsletters can serve as an excellent engagement tool, delivering valuable journalism content. As journalist NiemanLab staff writer, Christine Schmidt, emphasizes in her article about the shift from newsrooms to newsletters, newsletters seem like a “one-person-show reporting operation”. Her concept diverges from the idea that newsletter journalists are turning to readers instead of advertisers for support through subscriptions and the establishment of a personalized journalistic presence online. 

The fact that freelance journalists can establish their journalistic brand presence is creating a convenient marriage between entrepreneurship and journalism. The encounter of the two fields combines journalistic skills with marketing, communication, audience research, and business. 

Keeping it up with newsletters 

No matter how fascinating these new possibilities might be, it can be difficult for journalists to get familiarized with the different tools and software necessary for newsletters. For those interested, we have put some useful information below for you about how to start creating newsletters and curating the current news 

Knight centre offers a self-directed course about newsletter strategies for journalists and will be more suitable for anyone who focuses on the strategic aspect of newsletters. The newsletter guide is ideal for journalists that want to find their niche and understand how they can curate news on their matters. Lastly, an online journalism blog embraces the success potential of a newsletter with an informative video and the 19 essential newsletters for every journalist are undeniably a good inspiration thread. 

Newsletters from Berlin

As for local newsletters, tipBerlin is curating news from the city in German and Exberliner offers a newsletter for English speakers as well. Students from HMKW also tried to produce content for the city and the result is worth having a peek at. 

Michael Grubb and Reuben Holt, master’s students in Digital Journalism at HMKW produce newsletters about Berlin’s political news and Berlin’s dancefloors: The Hauptstadt Update and Offbeat.

If you want to read more about newsletters, you can click on the articles below: 

The NeoZoa Digital Magazine

A blog by Maria Chotou

According to NeoZoa’s own description on its website “Each issue of NeoZoa combines a poignant topic and ‘identity’, with the aim of uncovering how we are defined by cultural intersections and societal ideas”.

NeoZoa is a student-run online magazine written and produced by master students studying the MA in Digital Journalism at HMKW. Students began the magazine as part of their classwork for the module Culture & Entertainment in the summer semester of 2021 and it became a Minor Project in the next winter semester as well, both classes being taught by Prof. Dr Tong-Jin Smith. The main editors of the magazine were Alice Preat, Paul Krantz and Raf Yengibaryan, with everyone else in the class contributing as writers. The project’s idea was to rotate the roles and to give everyone the chance to become an editor, as explained by Airine Nuqi, one of the magazine’s writers and  designers of the magazine.

Prof. Dr Tong-Jin Smith encouraged the students to work collectively in launching an online magazine which they would then be capable of enriching further with their creative stories and journalistic works. They had to share roles regarding editing, design and web assistance. The first edition of the online magazine concerns issues of Language and Identity. The magazine is divided into features and multimedia, revolving around the concept of fear from different aspects.

Contributors were Alice Preat, Airine Nuqi, Carina Sheen, DJ Coffey, Hannah Atteneder, Hannah Reiss, Julia Merk, Leo Frick, Paul Krantz, Raf Yengibaryan, Stephen Benkert, Nadine Allgeier and Will Bryan.

Multimedia section from NeoZoa’s website
Features section from NeoZoa’s website

NeoZoa..but what is it?

“NeoZoa are animals that have been introduced into an area that’s not their native habitat. Since we all moved to Berlin from various places and had to find our ways in this new habitat, the name was very fitting. We all had to adjust to a new culture of sorts. Plus it sounds cool.” — Leo Frick, a NeoZoa writer.

“One of the ideas behind NeoZoa was to explore the theme of identity in relation to other issues that play a big part in our lives: language and fear for example. Our identities are complex and influenced by so much, and we thought it would be interesting to investigate some of these relationships and their impact on our lives. In the magazine, you’ll find pieces about the US military complex, phobias, voice actors, and more.” — Alice Preat, NeoZoa’s editor and writer. 

Challenges and advice

Regardless of which digital storytelling tool we use, it can always be challenging to learn and compress your ideas to create a web magazine. Student-run magazines like NeoZoa are always tricky to manage since they are operated by students for students.

According to the students: “everyone has different editorial and management styles and reacts differently to feedback and criticism. It’s always an opportunity to learn in the end.”

As for the last piece of advice for those who have the idea of creating an online magazine, but do not feel confident enough to do so, the secret is to not be afraid of the challenge and go ahead find your team, theme and get it started.

“Even if your magazine has only one or two issues and never continues on, it will be a valuable experience for all who participate. It will teach you how to work as a team, how to follow editorial visions, and how to follow up on your investments” says the NeoZoa team. 

To read the full first issue of NeoZoa magazine, click the link below:

Strategic Communication Concepts Delivered With a Smile

This winter term, Master students of Public Relations and Digital Marketing at HMKW worked on a strategic communication concept for Amazon in Berlin.

Amazon Development Center Berlin, Germany 

Amazon has been firmly rooted in Germany since 1998. The Company is not only delivering packages to customers throughout Germany, but also research and development in Germany, the largest of them in Berlin. In Berlin alone, more than 2,000 employees have been working since 2011 on artificial intelligence, automated translations or the improvement of services such as Alexa, Audible, Amazon music, or Amazon Web Services (AWS). 

After a briefing by Amazon, the third semester students, under the guidance of HMKW’s Prof. Dr. Christian Möller, spent their semester researching Amazon’s current situation and developing strategic communication concepts for corporate citizenship and outreach activities. Eventually, this week, they had the opportunity  to present their concepts to the Amazon Communication team at one of their offices in Berlin.

Here are some pictures from the presentations: 

  “The concepts and presentations by the students were very professional and highly relevant for our corporate communication work here in Berlin”, Amazon spokesperson Silke Goedereis said. “I was impressed by the student’s ideas, creativity and the maturity of their concepts.”

Master students of Public Relations and Digital Marketing at HMKW

These photographs were taken by Prof. Dr. Christian Möller. 

A Guide To Journalistic Writing and Practices with Andrew Curry

A blog by Maria Chotou

Berlin based journalist Andrew Curry has more than 20 years of experience reporting from five different continents. In his eyes, he feels very privileged to get to ask questions and share stories as a journalist. His reporting agenda is diverse and impressive. He regularly writes about science, archeology, culture, politics, business, and even cycling. Curry has written for a wide variety of publications, from Architect and Bicycling to National Geographic, The New York Times, Rouleur, and Wired. He is currently a contributing correspondent for Science magazine and also a contributing editor at Archaeology.

Since October 2021, he has been teaching the module Journalistic Writing, together with Dr. Martina Kohl, to students attending the Masters in Digital Journalism at HMKW Berlin. Curry aims to provide students with the key concepts of journalistic writing and reporting, from the basic elements of a news story to pitching, reporting and writing. His reporting principle is that there is no one correct way of writing a news story. Instead, he encourages students to tell readers in a news-y way about who was there, what they said, why it was newsworthy, where and when the event took place, and what the audience reaction was (the so-called essential five Ws).

As a kid and university student, Curry lived in California and Washington, D.C., where he used to bike around a lot. Still today, he perceives cycling as a symbol of relaxation and inspiration. It helps him think and enter a different mind space. Cycling in Berlin radicalized him and made him aware of traffic, dangers and other aspects that need to be improved in the urban space of the city. Cycling is a precious time for the mind to zone out.

“One of the great things about cycling is the rhythm of the year: The ride that leaves me barely able to climb the stairs afterwards in March will seem like an easy jaunt in October, when the leaves fall once again, and then winter will come, and the wheels will turn once more,” Curry said in an Instagram post.

These impulses for wandering and mobility but also a sense of time and rhythm find expression in Curry’s curiosity with scientific topics, more specifically, archeology. He did not study history but he was always interested in it and archeology is a big part of history. “It is hard to find news in history. Archeologists make discoveries which are news but the narrative around them is the news story,” Curry explains.

Coming to Germany, Curry thought that he would write about politics. But eventually he developed his interest in science and history and decided to embrace it in his journalistic work, as it requires some background knowledge on the topics, and the fact that science publications actually pay well. “Science reporting is like any reporting,” says Curry. So even if science is not your thing, but reporting is, here is some invaluable advice from Curry to keep in mind:

The Five Ws – Accuracy and Clarity

The goal of the coverage of any event, talk, or speech as a news story is to give readers information about what happened at a specific time and place. Readers need to know the who, what, how, when and why. Who was there? What did they say? How did other people who were there react to what happened? When and where did it take place? Why should we care? News coverage requires close attention to accuracy and balance. The five Ws are the most newsworthy elements of a report and will keep the facts straight.

The Headline

The key point of a headline is to say what matters and tell the readers briefly what the story is about. Ιf you had to imagine that you knew nothing about the story, what information would motivate you to read more about it? What is the information that will catch the eye? Being conversational is very important. You are naturally trying to communicate with others after all. As Curry says, avoid quotes, colons and journalese.

The Lead

Τhe structure of the lead varies depending on the content, purpose and audience of the story. There are certainly different ways to start a story and the lead will set the tone, mood and direction for everything that follows. If there are no unanswered questions in your reporting and the ultimate goal of accuracy and clarity have been achieved, an emerging lead that reflects your story will appear.

The Nut

News stories often follow the inverted pyramid structure that weighs facts according to newsworthiness based on the journalist’s judgment. The nut is the main core of the report. It is up to the writer whether the basic information of the five Ws will come before key quotes or after. Key quotes and interesting facts summarize, analyze and give relevant details to the readers. It is essential to get quotes and interview participants for reaction during the reporting.

The Kicker

The kicker is the last sentence of the story and aims to surprise, amuse, get the reader to ponder, -or summarize the story. It can be a quote or a simple conclusion.

Practice and enjoy it

Andrew Curry might consider journalism to be a lucky job, but he would not deny that journalistic writing requires practice and careful analysis. He suggests that reading other people’s work, questioning the way the details have been collected, considering the reader’s interest and the sources is the key to success.

To check out Curry’s recent publications click on the links here: https://www.andrewcurry.com/

Jump Into Something Where Your Heart is

Prof. Dr. Markus Ziener on his Washington DC sabbatical, American culture & the future of his students

A blog by Airinë Nuqi

“They stole my bike! I was furious!” Prof. Dr. Markus Ziener shares with me. “This crap happened to me already once before when I was living here as a correspondent years ago… And it’s not even mine, it’s the bike I borrowed from my friend.”

Reporting for duty, all the way from Washington DC, is our very own, Prof. Dr. Markus Ziener. For those who have not met him yet (and you wouldn’t have, since he is currently away on a sabbatical for the Fall semester), you will get to meet him when he rejoins our institute again, in the spring semester.

While Markus has been with HMKW since 2014 and has taught different classes ranging from Politics and Economics, all the way to Digital Formats and Storytelling, he has also reported as a correspondent from Warsaw, Moscow, the Middle East, and Washington.

Currently, he is carrying out research in Washington as part of the Helmut Schmidt Fellowship which was awarded to him by the German Marshall Fund (GMF).

As a young boy from Darmstadt in the state of Hesse, Markus started his journalistic career as far back as high school, when he was a schoolboy contributing to his local newspaper. Later on, he and his family moved to Bavaria, where he wrote about sports topics, recorded with the Bavarian broadcasting station, Bayerischer Rundfunk, and after graduating from university, he joined the Frankfurter Rundschau, one of the most prestigious left-leaning newspapers in Germany at the time.

Most young people go through a phase of trying out different jobs and careers and figuring out what they want to do. This is a relatively normal occurrence. For Markus? Not so much. Sure, at one point or another he wanted to be a very successful soccer player or a guitarist in a rock band (which, hello? Would have been amazing), but journalism was the only thing Markus ever pursued professionally. 

“It was easy actually. I wanted to write, wanted to work with words and writing sentences and stories, asking questions, and trying to extract something interesting from people. I always loved that, so maybe it’s a little boring but…” he shrugs, “I knew I wasn’t good at mathematics and physics and all those kinds of things, so I knew I should pursue a different path.”

In January 2020, Markus was awarded the fellowship at the German Marshall Fund in the US, but as you can all guess, a tiny thing got in his way. The tiny issue of a global pandemic… I know… these things always happen at the worst possible time, don’t they? He ended up going a year later and got to experience the COVID working environment at the GMF in Washington.

“It’s difficult to dive into a buzzing, lively environment, where things come at me… some stuff happens – but it happens on Zoom, which is not that funny and does not require my presence here in DC,” he says while sitting in his office with the door wide open, pointing to the emptiness of the hall beyond his office door.

Prof. Dr. Markus Ziener via Zoom
Prof. Dr. Markus Ziener via Zoom

Despite these challenges, Markus has had the chance to throw himself into his journalistic work and show his media prowess by scheduling interviews left and right. Having conducted almost 50 interviews so far, he has also appeared on C-SPAN, Euronews, Al Jazeera, Welt (WeltN24), France 24, BBC Arabic, and more. 

The project that brought him to Washington DC, focuses on the transatlantic relationship between Germany and America, but in the context of what is currently happening in China, Russia, and the US. “I think Russia is becoming a dictatorship or is a dictatorship, China is a bully, and the US is very much inwards looking and focusing on what’s good for America, even under the presidency of Joe Biden,” he says, adding, “So, the question is, where is Europe here in this equation? And that’s what I’m looking at.”

One thing Markus admits, having had a talk with a China expert earlier that day, is that when it comes to China, and it being the main topic in the city, he needs to know more.

“I mean this guy was from the Wilson Center, and in order to be on eye level with the questions and in the conversation, you have to build your own knowledge base,” he says, promising he will pass this on to the students at HMKW next semester (but not before I pass it on).

This is not the first time Markus is in the US or even Washington. Years ago, Markus lived in the capital for years. However, this time around (other than being a victim of bike stealing), Markus seems baffled at the level of environmental consciousness (i.e.lack thereof?) that people there possess. He compares Germany to the US, and admits that if the US would have the German Müllpolizei (translated: trash police), they would “have a field day in Washington.”

However, working with the GMF has given Markus some unique opportunities, making the time in Washington worth the ‘culture struggle’. As a German journalist in the US, it’s easy to be dismissed sometimes, but as someone from the German Marshall Fund, “considered to be an American NGO, it’s a door opener,” Markus says, adding that, “People here are really on top of their stories. They have China experts, Russian experts, experts for everything. They can hit the ground running, you know? They don’t need any kind of warm-up, they know their stuff and that’s exciting, and that’s why it’s really good being here.”

To the students Markus might not catch in time before returning, he says: “Be curious!” adding that, “I have this conversation with my daughter – when you’re young, I think it’s good to really jump into something where your heart is… where you want to achieve something, to leave a mark, and not just to check how many hours did I work this week.”

To my humored facial expression, regarding the hours comment, he adds, “I think there should be a time in life where you feel that something is more important than yourself, and you have to commit yourself to this…It’s an individual thing and I think sometimes you have to test your limits a little… I wanted to be a foreign correspondent. That was the goal I had when I was young and I didn’t want to settle for the low-hanging fruit, to be honest. I wanted to be a correspondent in Moscow and in Washington, that was something I dreamed of. And you don’t know whether you can achieve that because there’s a lot of luck involved but at least you try, and if you try and you don’t get it… I can live with that. But if you haven’t tried…”

If you want to hear more about his views and work on the transatlantic relationship between the US and the EU, give a listen to the EUROPALABER episode he was a guest on in mid-October https://open.spotify.com/episode/7EUKQflWVkwGptT593pvbm?si=6625c8153a144b80