Irene Broer on Gute Leute, crowdfunding and starting a PhD

Irene Broer talks about Gute Leute Magazine collaboration with Mundus Journalism, running crowdfunding campaigns and working as a freelancer.

2019.04.01 | Sabeen Jamil

The Mundus Journalism Programme in Hamburg recently collaborated with Gute Leute magazine to showcase students term projects from the Multimedia Storytelling Seminar. In this alumni profile, we talk to the co-founder of Gute Leute - Irene Broer about this collaboration and her journey from freelancer to academic researcher in Germany.

The day she submitted her Master thesis project was a day that brought some soul-searching and uncertainty for Dutch Mundus alumna Irene Broer.

“2015 was a black hole period for me… I always had something to look forward to every year (academically) before I graduated from Mundus. I had no idea what to do now, I had no idea where to go.”

Four years later, Irene Broer is not only certain of where she is headed, she has also made remarkable achievements in her career on her way out of uncertainty. She is a co-founder of an English language online and print magazine Gute Leute in Hamburg. She has established herself as a freelance travel writer and, she is now a  junior researcher in Science Communication doing her PhD at the Leibniz Institute for Media Research at the Hans Bredow Institute. Irene recently collaborated with the Mundus Journalism Program to showcase the journalistic work of Hamburg Mundusians in the Gute Leute Magazine. We asked Irene a few questions about this collaboration and her journey from a freelance journalist to an academic researcher.

MJ: What is the story behind Gute Leute Magazine and how does it connect to Mundus Journalism?

Irene: After I graduated from the Mundus Programme, I decided to stay in Hamburg for sometime instead of going back to the Netherlands. It was one of those days when I was trying to figure out what to do with my life when I met another international in Hamburg Sabela García Cuesta at a networking event. We both got talking about how Hamburg has a big international community and how there is a quite a big hurdle in terms of learning and speaking German. We figured that it would be interesting to create a magazine focusing on those people who are new in Hamburg and trying to figure out their lives. This is how the idea of Gute Leute Magazine came about.

It was July 2015. We started a crowdfunding campaign and 100 different people sponsored us. We set out interviews and published Gute Leute Magazine both online and in print. Since then we have been running this project regularly.

In terms of connecting it to Mundus Journalism, I brought up this idea to Dr. Monika Pater, one of the professors on the Hamburg programme, to expand Gute Leute Magazine to Mundus students as a platform where they can showcase their journalistic work. We thought it would be a nice opportunity for students to do something practical while studying in Hamburg and gain some hands-on experience of contributing for magazines.

I got in touch with Nea  Matzen and Bettina Schütz- the two Mundus Journalism professors of the course Multimedia Storytelling Seminar in which students were tasked with producing multimedia stories about international people living in Hamburg. This student project was called Heimat and it explored how internationals in Hamburg were giving meaning to the idea of home (Heimat being loosely translated as homeland in English). Gute Leute Magazine’s collaboration with this seminar gave students the opportunity to publish their Heimat stories on Gute Leute and receive personal feedback from me on their writing.

MJ: You have successfully run Gute Leute through crowdfunding for three years now. What has this taught you about running crowdfunding campaigns?

Irene: From this experience, I have learnt to be close to those people who are funding your project because they are your backers in the most literal sense - they are behind you, making your idea happen so you should be grateful to them. You should stay in touch with them and try and build a community. We have done that at Gute Leute Magazine and this has been really successful. Each time we print a new issue, we arrange an event where we invite our sponsors and people who contributed in the magazine and also people who gave us interviews. 

If you are thinking about crowdfunding, it is important to maintain good relations with your backer, show them gratitude and use their willingness to support you to make your product better.

MJ: Apart from running Gute Leute Magazine, you have also worked as a freelance writer and researcher. How did you career develop in that direction and what will be your suggestion for students who want to follow your path? 

Irene: I started freelancing during the Mundus studies. I wanted to make a career in research but I was not prepared to start immediately after graduation. Through freelance work I could earn money and I also had time to explore Hamburg. Most of my freelance work involved contributing as a travel writer and assisting as a researcher on a Hamburg University research project. I was also employed for three years by the Hamburg city website to help set up the new English-language portal hamburg.com, which meant a steady source of income and an entry into the German professional world. Most of my freelance assignments came through the contacts that I made during internships and the contacts that I made in the Mundus network including Mudnus peers and programme coordinators. 

For students who want to follow this path, I can’t stress enough the importance of doing internships especially during your studies. I myself did three internships and that helped me a lot in getting freelance assignments afterwards. Then, I always made myself available for work. I was not very good in terms of promoting myself through snazzy websites, but when I spoke to someone who was in journalism or research, I would always mention that I worked freelance. I also made a lot of relevant contacts on Facebook platforms that target internationals living in Hamburg in the networking meetups . 

I also always stayed in touch with the student coordinators in the Mundus programme. They know of opportunities that are relevant for students who are looking for freelance assignments. I myself got to know about an open position for a freelance researcher on a research project in Hamburg University through Mundus professor Dr. Monika Pater.

If you have a story idea for Gute Leute Magazine, you can message Irene on Instagram @irene_broer or send a tweet to @irenebroer. In the meantime, check out Heimat stories on Gute Leute Magazine: GernGeschehen: The cafe where the world meets in Hamburg.

Students, Alumni, PhD students
Tags: collaborations, magazine, showcase, journalistic work, researcher, PhD