01. December 2021

“Stick at it” “Stick at it”: Visiting lecturer Dunja Hayali has been bringing together students and media makers

Visiting lecturer Dunja Hayali has been bringing together students and media makers

Thirty-four fascinated students, a wealth of media expertise and Wilma the dog on board too: at the four-day block seminar entitled “Mächte, Medien, Mythen” (“Powers, Media, Myths”), Dunja Hayali talked about agenda-setting, honed participants’ media literacy and got them excited about journalism in all its flavors. 

Wilma the dog is a constant companion.
Wilma the dog is a constant companion. - “Wilma did brilliantly. She wasn’t as much of a distraction as I’d feared, either – for a brief time, I was worried that everyone would be jumping around the dog.” © University of Bonn / Sebastian Eckert
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The face of Stefan Niggemeier, a critic of the Bild newspaper, has not quite finished flickering on the wall of lecture hall XVII. Niggemeier is a media journalist who runs the “Übermedien” watchblog about failings in the media. Shortly after that, Hayali welcomes Paul Ronzheimer, deputy editor-in-chief of Bild, who has only just got back from Afghanistan. He reports on the handling of experiences in a crisis zone and on freedom of the press. During the seminar, he parries allegations made against him and chats openly with the participants.

The block seminar is a platform for confidential discussions with well-known journalists of all persuasions, covering the ethos of the profession, rules of conduct, the treatment of sources, the difference between opinion and stance, and much more besides. Four days, six hours a day: a packed program. “It was a rollicking ride,” says Hayali, looking back.

Her aim: “I wanted to share my own personal perspective on the media and media literacy. So I talked about my experience, my beliefs and my craft,” Hayali explains – specifically, through dialogue and exercises. She is being aided in her endeavors by federal politicians and media figures such as Jochen Wegener (ZEIT ONLINE) and Katharina Hamberger from Deutschlandradio, who join via video link.


Dedicated students

Hayali was impressed by her students. Prior to the event, she’d feared she’d be staring into the blank faces of a silent audience. Far from it, however: “I found them to be incredibly energetic,” says Hayali enthusiastically – and she also knows why: “They must all really want to be there, because we’re still in the semester break. And anyone who puts themselves through a block seminar must be sitting here out of a total sense of conviction, mustn’t they? Not just because it’s the first event to be held in person for 18 months, not just because it’s Dunja Hayali who’s jumping around here. I think that the content was a big draw.” She is happy: “I signed up to the experiment to try it out. I found it really rewarding.”

Among those taking part is Emely Hofmann: “We learned what makes good journalism, what the difference is between opinion and stance, and how the ZDF-Morgenmagazin TV program works. We also gained insights into the different areas of journalism.” Politics student Lioba Einhoff found it a welcome change: “My degree program hadn’t had any modules geared toward real-life journalism, so I was pleased that there was now at least one going in that direction.”

Improving media literacy and facilitating debate

Among other things, the seminar focused on teaching media literacy, something very close to Hayali’s heart: “I’ve long been convinced that we need more media literacy among the general public – and not just since the rise of fake news.” Media literacy should be on the curriculum as part of the promotion of democracy, she believes. “It’s vital in order to properly assess news items from public bodies, private-sector providers, YouTubers and influencers.” The idea of a Center for Media Literacy at the University is therefore to be welcomed, she adds. “I’m looking forward to seeing it happen or becoming part of it.”

Being open in debate, not having any preconceived opinions about other speakers, letting them actually speak: for Hayali, this is fundamental. Otherwise, says the 47-year-old journalist, you cannot be receptive to other people’s opinions. “If your suitcase is full, you won’t be able to fit anything new in – no new ideas, approaches or arguments. I don’t think that’s how debate works, particularly not in a democracy.” Of course, she admits, everyone is hindered by prejudices and set ways of thinking. “As a journalist, it’s my job to break these down,” she observes.

“Have fun in your work”

At the end, the moderator gave participants some useful tips on starting out in the world of media. “Expect to make coffee, photocopies and do the most tedious tasks or conduct daft surveys at subway stations for a radio program. Stick at it, be patient. Network, with women, with men, with people. And, when doors do open up, walk through them – especially if you’re female.” However, she believes, there’s one thing that’s important: “Have fun in your work. If your work is your passion, that’s worth its weight in gold.”

After the block seminar, there was the opportunity for a group photo for Dunja Hayali’s Instagram channel.
After the block seminar, there was the opportunity for a group photo for Dunja Hayali’s Instagram channel. - The students presented her with a lecturer’s certificate and a University of Bonn sweater. © University of Bonn / Sebastian Eckert
Feedback of Students
Feedback of Students - I’d expected to take a lot away from meeting her in terms of experiences. It was more than just a pleasant surprise how much added value and personal experience was packed into the sessions. And, above all, how many guests she’d invited, all of whom lifted the lid on their lives. I’m also a bit awestruck. Of course, you always have something of a detached view of journalists and the media, but you never really look beyond that. You never fully see the person who’s actually hiding behind. So it made a lot of sense to meet the people in the flesh and ask questions. Overall, I think that the media and media literacy are paid far too little attention in general at university and school. Yannik S., student of German Language and Literature and English Studies, currently in his eighth semester © University of Bonn / Sebastian Eckert
A certificate for Dunja Hayali
A certificate for Dunja Hayali - The students awarded Dunja with a certificate. © University of Bonn / Sebastian Eckert

The Faculty of Arts at the University of Bonn is setting up a Center for Media Literacy with a dedicated interdisciplinary focus, which will serve to create a network spanning faculty and university boundaries. Ethics, sustainability, internationality and critical journalism are just a few of the areas on which it intends to focus right from the start. The new center will open its doors in 2022.

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