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Alumna Portrait: Anna Petersen - A Heart for Local Things

2021-08-02 After a journalistic traineeship at the Uelzener Allgemeine Zeitung, Anna Petersen decided to study for a bachelor's degree in cultural studies. Alongside her studies, she continued to work as a local journalist for the AZ and the LZ. For her reportage on a young woman with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, she has now been awarded the Theodor Wolff Journalism Prize in the category "Best Local Piece".

Award winner Anna Petersen with the moderator ©©Marcus Zumbansen
Benjamin Piel, editor-in-chief of the Mindener Tageblatt, presents Anna Petersen with the Theodor Wolff Prize in the category "Best Local Play".

How does a pig feel on a fattening farm? And can you really detect water in the ground with a dowsing rod? The topics Anna Petersen deals with at the Landeszeitung Lüneburg are diverse. "I am basically a curious person with a wide range of interests. That's why I really appreciate being able to deal with very different topics in my work. For the same reason, I decided to study cultural studies back then." After working in various editorial departments before and during her studies, including Süddeutsche Magazin, it became increasingly clear to the 27-year-old editor where she would like to be in journalism: in the local. She wants to be as close as possible to the people and in the middle of the action. Since the award for the reportage "Chaos im Kopf", which first appeared in the Landeszeitung Lüneburg in February 2020, interest in Petersen's person has been great. Suddenly she finds herself more and more often in the role of the interviewee and the portrayed instead of asking the questions. Since then, she has often been asked whether she would now like to switch to a larger newspaper. For Anna Petersen, this question has never arisen - her heart beats for local journalism.

"How did you come up with such a topic?" asks the moderator on the evening of the award ceremony. "It was practically put in my cradle," Anna Petersen answers. "Since my mother offers riding therapy for children, I came into contact with people with disabilities at an early age. However, the contact usually broke off again quickly after the end of the therapy. I then often asked myself how the biographies of the individual children had developed and decided to tackle this question journalistically: To accompany people with disabilities on their way, to tell their stories and in this way to reduce fear of contact." For her awarded reportage, the local journalist followed a young woman with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome over a period of one year when coming of age - moving into her first own flat, with her first boyfriend and in her first job. The life of the protagonist, who is called Julie in the article, is not always easy: she is often sad and has to struggle with depression, is sometimes quite angry and then only wants to cry and scream. But the report also tells of happy moments: of picking mushrooms with Julie's foster father Karsten or the moment when her boyfriend Finn gets down on his knees in front of her on the Kalkberg and proposes marriage.

The prize jury from the Federal Association of Digital Publishers and Newspaper Publishers praised Anna Petersen above all for the "respectful, empathetic approach" to the protagonist, as well as the "persistent and precise pursuit of the story over a whole year full of unforeseen and dramaturgically clever twists and turns". She came to the Landeszeitung Lüneburg through a seminar led by Anna Sprockhoff, now deputy editor-in-chief of the daily Märkische Allgemeine in Potsdam and Petersen's predecessor at the LZ. The internship at Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin also came about through a seminar as part of her studies - led by SZ editor Tobias Haberl, who subsequently invited Petersen to the editorial office in Munich.  

Most recently, Anna Petersen could also be seen on the big screen at the Scala cinema in Lüneburg: In the documentary "Die letzten Reporter" (The Last Reporters), director and Grimme Prize winner Jean Boué accompanies several local journalists in their work and shows how the profession is changing and reinventing itself in times of rapidly growing online journalism. Anna Petersen is one of them. However, she does not see herself as the "last reporter" and is confident about the future. She says: "While local journalism has changed a lot in recent years, change does not equal death. There will always be a need for local news - how that content is transported to the people remains a negotiation process."