Scholarship for a change of perspective

The opencast lignite mine Turów covers a length of dozens of kilometres at the south-western tip of Poland at the border triangle with Germany and the Czech Republic. The excavation work continues, despite the fact that the European Court of Justice ordered mining to stop in 2021. ‘A gigantic environmental issue,’ says Marta Thor, who is currently investigating the controversial surface mine: ‘I visit villages that are to be erased, the town Bogatynia that benefits commercially from the mine’s power plant, and environmental activists who want to turn the site into a wind and solar farm.’ The free journalist will be working in Wroclaw as a scholarship holder of the International Journalist Programmes (IJP) until the end of May. ‘Time-consuming investigation work like this would not be possible without the scholarship, as freelance journalism is rarely well-paid,’ she says.

In order to promote international exchange between media and opinion leaders, the IJPs have existed for around 40 years and offer journalists the opportunity to report from another country for a few weeks. Funding is available for scholarship stays with host media organisations in 45 countries around the world, the IJP network comprises more than 3,000 alumni. Reporting about issues related to climate and energy are at the heart of the exchange programme with Poland and countries in Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe. The scholarships are granted support from the European Climate Initiative EUKI. Marta Thor explains that the threat posed by climate change is not so apparent in Europe as in other parts of the world for now: ‘This is why it is important for journalists to raise awareness of the extent of the problems among people and of the need to make changes.’

Apply until 15.07. for the German-Polish Bursary!

Journalists, bloggers and documentary filmmakers from Germany and Poland who work in print, radio, online or TV are eligible to apply. Language skills in the respective language of the host country are not required. At least workable knowledge of English is essential. 

Apply now

Formation of lasting networks

‘Being able to draw each other’s attention to issues is very interesting for both sides,’ says Martina Johns of the IJP executive committee. Things like waste separation that are perfectly normal in Germany, are fascinating to many foreign journalists, she explains. ‘On the other hand, there are exciting environmental projects in Central, South Eastern and Eastern Europe that hardly anyone here has heard of, because of the language barrier.’ She continues to say that experiencing the conditions of journalistic work in other countries is very interesting for the funded individuals: ‘Fellows from abroad are often surprised about how openly problems are discussed in Germany, and that authorities are willing to provide information to the press.’

Those applying for a scholarship will indicate their preferred media organisation in the respective country and the IJP will then establish the contact. ‘We have a very good network in Germany and abroad,’ says Susanne Koch, who is in charge of coordinating programmes focussing on climate reporting. Marta Thor, who was born in Wroclaw and grew up in Southern Baden, chose her host media organisation Gazeta Wyborcza in part because the prestigious daily newspaper is among Poland’s few non-governmental media outlets. ‘My colleagues are incredibly helpful!’ she is happy to report. ‘This network is going to be very useful, because I would like to continue reporting about German-Polish issues in the future.’

Climate change: global problem, local interest

For Romanian television journalist Tiberiu Stoichici, who worked in Berlin and Bonn as an IJP scholarship holder from October to December 2021, the host media organisation was a certain choice right from the start: he produces reports for Deutsche Welle in Bucharest on a regular basis. ‘It was wonderful to meet the German colleagues!’ says Stoichici. His activities during his stay included an interview with Bonn’s senior mayor about the city’s plan to stop using fossil energy by 2035. He had hardly dealt with environmental and climate protection in the past. The television journalist explains that owing to the poor financial situation of many people, there is far less interest in these issues in Romania than is the case in Germany: ‘That’s why it isn’t easy to present green issues in Romanian media.’ He saw the scholarship as an opportunity to learn more about these topics. ‘I do in fact see many things differently now,’ he says: ‘This may sound like a grand statement, but it truly matters, how each individual acts! I now want to try and convince others of this.’

While Tiberiu Stoichici went to Berlin, Lisbeth Schröder visited the German-language newspaper Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung in Bucharest with an IJP scholarship. The young business journalist had travelled to many Eastern European countries in the past and had done research work about environmental issues in Ukraine and Moldova. Among the topics she reported about from Romania were illegal waste dumps that are a threat to groundwater. This is a problem that has been imported from Germany: ‘Few people know that large amounts of German waste, especially construction waste and plastic, are exported to Romania.’ Lisbeth Schröder hopes that journalistic reports can help to put an end to those dealings. She was especially impressed by her meetings with Romanian investigative journalists: ‘These conversations made me realise even more, how important investigative work really is.’

IJP scholarship programmes for reporting about climate and energy issues

For the fifth time, the International Journalist Programmes (IJP) are issuing their calls for applications for scholarship programmes for journalists who wish to focus on reporting about climate and energy issues for a period of between six and eight weeks. Journalists from Germany will spend this time at a host media organisation in Poland, Central Eastern or South Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, scholarship holders from these countries will be visiting German media outlets.

In addition to the German-Polish programme, there is a German-South Eastern European programme for journalists from Germany, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia. The German-Central Eastern European programme is addressed to journalists from Germany, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, as well as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Up to ten persons can take part in each of the three programmes per year. The application deadline for the current phase is 15 July 2022.

Further information is available here.

Author: Miriam Hoffmeyer

  • Lisbeth Schröder Lisbeth Schröder
  • Tiberiu Stochici Tiberiu Stochici
  • Marta Thor Marta Thor

Lisbeth Schröder is a freelance business journalist based in Hamburg. She reports and conceives films for media outlets including Spiegel Online, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Bayerischer Rundfunk. After completing her degree in biology, she attended Deutsche Journalistenschule in Munich.

Picture: private

Tiberiu Stoichici went to a German school in Bucharest and studied mechanical engineering. After obtaining his diploma in 1991, he joined the public television station TVR, that had resumed broadcasting for the German-speaking minority following the revolution. He is now an editor for this programme, as well as working for Deutsche Welle in Romania.

Picture: private

Marta Thor moved from Poland to Germany with her family as a child. Following her degree course in rhetoric and English studies in Tübingen, she joined the newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung in Mainz as a trainee. Marta Thor is a social media editor for the evangelical magazine Chrismon and works as a freelance journalist and photographer for media outlets such as ZDF and daily newspapers of Verlagsgruppe Rhein/Main.

Picture: Tomasz Pietrzyk

How important is bi-national exchange and international cooperation in journalism? Feel free to use our to discuss this topic in the comments.

June 2022

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