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Jana Pareigis, communicator and activist

Privileged access

“They were so totally open. It was very moving. This is what I like about my job. This is what makes it so special: the privileged access that you have to other people’s lives.” It’s Jana speaking. But, of course, you know Jana: Jana Pareigis, anchorwoman on the German version of the DW news bulletin, the Journal. Jana is my latest guest on Talking Germany.
She was telling me about one of her most recent assignments. One that took her away from the newsroom. She’s been making a report about the lives of people who have for more than fifty years now suffered from the effects of their mothers taking the thalidomide drug. “They are over fifty now,” says Jana, “but in many ways their lives have been so hard that their bodies are like those of 80-year-olds.”

It clearly wasn’t an easy assignment. But I have no doubt that Jana was the right person for the job. So, I wonder, if she’s doing this kind of report, which is very people-based, are we at some time in the near future going to lose her as a news anchor? “No! You see I’m the only black presenter in Germany. Of course, I love the work. But it’s also about sending a signal.”

Jana is a great communicator. And she’s also something of an activist. We talk about poetry (yes, we both indulge in that ancient pastime!) and she tells me about her favourite poet. It’s a woman called May Ayim. I had not heard of her, but I have now. Here are the first four lines of one of her poems:

i will be an african
even if you want me to be a german
and i will be german
even if my blackness does not suit you

Date

October 7, 2013

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