The Story Collector

The wind lashes the waves against the quay wall, while the sound of a horn from a container ship cuts through the raw air. The continuously operating cranes are already waiting for the next consignment to be seamlessly loaded onto the collection area and the waiting trucks. Hamburg – Europe’s third-largest container port with over a million inhabitants – is a key hub for many international companies. When Thomas Milchers needs a break he comes down here to the jetties at St Pauli. Looking at this harbour setting, he starts to search. Not for coins or other objects, like the people with metal detectors on the banks of the river Elbe. In his mind, Thomas Milchers is searching for stories he has experienced with his customers over the years to add to his collection.

He feels he is in the right place in Hamburg - after all, coordinating projects worth millions is what he does best. Thomas Milchers has been working for the Bertelsmann Printing Group since 2001. He initially trained as a media designer with Mohn Media in Gütersloh before moving to 4Mat Media in Hamburg in 2004. His considered approach to work, his knowledge of the pre-print stage and his confident cooperation with large customers comes across well. In 2011, he becomes location manager in this city on the Elbe. He comes from Rheda-Wiedenbrück, a small town in Westphalia. But when he got the chance to move to Hamburg, he knew straight away that it was a great opportunity. So he took it.

Despite the large distances involved, Thomas Milchers manages to stay close to his customers.

Every order needs new ideas

And nothing really phases him. Even when he’s travelling on the busy underground, he likes to read a book. A real one of course, not on a small digital screen. But then Thomas Milchers finds out that he and his team have to complete this new order. It’s for the Henri Nannen Prize, the coveted award for investigative journalism and outstanding documentaries. Print run for the booklet: 1,500 copies max. The brochures are to be printed for a selected group of readers who want to know more about the nominees and their submissions. Should he approach such an order differently from the usual large projects? What should he look out for? What is particularly important now? Thomas Milchers tries to find answers at the Port of Hamburg, a global network hub where people and stories come together from all over the world.

The booklet for the Henri Nannen Prize showcases outstanding journalistic work.
Over the years, Thomas Milchers’ team has become very close-knit.


A special team The customer’s call takes him away from his thoughts and the Elbe. He gets on the next train and is soon shaking hands with his client with a smile on his face. They discuss the next stages together, right through to the publication of the booklet for the Henri Nannen Prize. Page count, colour matching and timing – Thomas Milchers is perfectly at home with all these factors. For him and his pre-print stage team, this means fine-tuning everything as precisely as possible over the next few weeks. Page by page, layout by layout. What counts here is quality right down to the last detail. Thomas Milchers likes to visit his customers in person to speed up these processes, or arrange meetings in his office in the warehouse district of Hamburg. This way the new business partners find out a lot about each other’s work and tell each other anecdotes about life here in Hamburg. Even in this city of over 1.7 million people, Thomas Milchers still manages to stay close to his customers, a key requirement in this type of business relationship.


Each customer has their own requirements. Thomas Milchers knows how to recognize these and act accordingly.


The story collection The book makes an immediate impact with its striking red-and-white cover. Thomas Milchers browses through the numerous pages with reports and photos from all over the world, representing the very highest level of journalism. His team have delivered superb colour quality on this special paper. Close networking with his customer has definitely helped him here. The Henri Nannen Prize and Thomas Milchers are a perfect match. He was able to provide his customer with the best possible service thanks to all the experience that he had gathered. And the same holds true whether the print run is for ten million or 1,000 copies. In the background, the waves are slapping against the quay wall again and the sound of a horn tells us that the next container ship is leaving the harbour. And Thomas Milchers has another story to add to his collection. A story that includes valuable experience for the next order. And that is definitely in the pipeline.


  • Thomas Milchers’ experience at Mohn Media / 4Mat Media: 13 years
  • Print run for the booklet for the Henri Nannen Prize: 1,500 copies
  • Award winners in all categories: 7
  • Distance from the jetties to 4Mat Media: 1,600 metres
  • Length of quay wall: 43 kilometres
  • Number of ships calling at the Port of Hamburg: approx. 9,000 per year

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