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Student magazines

Thinking outside the box

München, 03/04/2016

Student magazines cover more than university life. One LMU title has featured video games, interviewed the editor of “Vogue” and published first-hand reports from Lampedusa on the refugee crisis. – And it has just won a prize.

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What was German chansonnier Max Raabe doing at Marilyn Manson’s wedding? Are antisemitism and islamophobia comparable phenomena? Why would students wish to concoct a new mélange of beer and sparkling wine in the garage at home? Maria-Mercedes Hering found answers to all of these questions – in the course of an interview in Berlin and a visit to a small village near Munich, and during editorial conferences in the office of Philtrat. Maria is Philtrat’s current Editor-in-Chief, and the magazine has just received the Pro Campus-Presse Award for campus journalism.

Maria began writing stories for the student magazine Philtrat when she was in her second semester in Scandinavian Studies at LMU. “I want to know what people are thinking – and I want to provoke them into thinking about new topics and issues,” she says. And that is indeed what motivates her investigative reporting. Take the beer story, for instance. Although a native of Munich, Maria cheerfully admits “I really knew nothing about beer.” Nevertheless, after observing and interviewing some students engaged in creating their own, she came away convinced that brewing can be exciting. Indeed, this experience is emblematic for most of the students who write for Philtrat. Anyone who wants to write for the magazine or has ideas for its layout can join in. The current editorial team includes students of Biology, History, Literature and Economics. Many of them, like Maria, hope to take up journalism as a career. In fact, Maria studied Political Science before switching to Scandinavian Studies in the hope that her unusual combination of expertise would help her to realize that very goal.

Maria and her colleagues produce one issue of Philtrat per semester. The editorial team consists of 10 people who research the topics to be covered, write the stories, take and select the photos, and design the layout of each issue. The final product makes a highly professional impression – in terms of its layout, its use of pictorials and its graphic design. This do-it-yourself approach means that students who work on the magazine pick up invaluable practical experience which will undoubtedly be of use to them in their professional lives. “It is certainly an advantage when you can tell job interviewers that you have previously worked on a magazine.” And every issue of Philtrat is the result of a long series of discussions and consultations – about the choice of topics, the texts, the illustrations and the graphics – often lasting far into the night. “Preparing for the interview with Max Raabe, lead singer with the Palast Orchester, was particularly difficult,” Maria recalls. “What questions can you put to someone who has already heard them all?”

Seeing things from another angle
Of course, Philtrat also features stories about student life, university courses and academic affairs. But the magazine has recently published pieces such as an article on the terrorist attacks in Paris, a debate between a student of Business Administration and a student of Dramatic Arts on the merits and demerits of a state-financed and unconditional basic income for all, and an interview with the Artistic Director of the Münchner Kammerspiele. “Everyone who has an interest in politics, economics, the arts, cultural affairs or urban life will find something worth reading in our pages,” says Maria. The topics dealt with are not restricted to issues relating only to its immediate academic environment. – As long as a topic can convince the skeptics at the editorial conferences, it will find a place in the next issue. No wonder that, in its citation, the distinguished jury for the Pro Campus-Presse Award attested that Philtrat “sticks very close to real life”.

Yet the magazine is produced by part-timers. All members of its editorial team study in Munich, and must write their articles and interview texts after attending lectures or during the holidays. They also have to advertise and market the product themselves. But all involved put their heart and soul into the magazine. “Many of our stories have forced me to change my own view of things,” Maria says. And that, she adds, is probably the reason why of all the things she intended to do during her time as a student – get involved in sports, learn a new language – only one thing is left: Writing for Philtrat.

Campus Life at LMU
Life on campus offers more than seminars, poring over books in the library and writing assignments at home. Anyone interested in journalism can get a taste of it in the many student media produced at LMU. In addition to Campuszeitung, Synapse Redaktion, Ethnologik, Unikatmag, StandardsButPoor, rescriptum, Newspeak Magazin (produced by the Zirkel BABEL) and cog!to, one can get involved with M.94.5, Munich’s student radio channel. StandardsButPoor, the student magazine produced by the Geschwister Scholl Institute, is threatened with imminent closure, and urgently seeks contributors and supporters to help keep it going.