News & Events
October 1, 2021
Bright future for RIAS Berlin Commission thanks to vibrant alumni
quarter century. Without being sentimental, it nevertheless seems like the right time to reflect briefly on these past five years and look ahead towards the next five years.
As always, our most important aims remains to keep alive the spirit of Radio in American Sector (RIAS) — “a free voice of a free world” that beamed news, information and music into Communist East Germany during the Cold War.
Despite the prolonged period of extremely low interest rates and dwindling investment income that has made things difficult for all foundations like ours, the RIAS Berlin Commission has managed to actually expand the numbers of its transatlantic exchange programs in recent years — thanks in part to your generous donations as well as new student programs that are largely funded by a grant from the German government’s ERP program and student own-contributions. In 2022 we are hoping to have about 100 participants on seven different programs — including a program for 30 German alumni next October just before the midterm elections. That is nearly twice as many participants as previously despite the challenging financial environment. Thanks to streamlining efforts, modest cutbacks, centralized operations in Berlin, a greater reliance on public transportation, and own-contributions from exchange program participants, RIAS Berlin Commission has weathered the difficult conditions without sacrificing quality or depth of our programs. That’s something we can all be proud of.
In these past five years RIAS Berlin Commission has worked to fill a key goal outlined by the RIAS Berlin Commissioners, a distinguished 10-member board of directors made up of five Americans and five Germans. They wanted this truly binational organization to try to find new ways to better connect our 1,900 alumni members. It’s not been always easy with two steps forward one step backwards, but there are now seven thriving RIAS alumni chapters led by enthusiastic volunteers in Berlin (Vladimir Balzer, Petra Gute, Anja Heyde), Hamburg (Michail Paweletz, Nadine Gries), Cologne (Martin Richter), Mainz (Anna-Maria Schuck), Munich (Lydia Leipert), New York (Michael Gargiulo) and Washington (Larry Miller). They are doing tremendous things to help keep the spirit of of RIAS alive. These chapters host regular meetings, invite guest speakers and are always ready to meet the next group of American or German fellows visiting their cities. These alumni reunion get-togethers have become eagerly-awaited fixtures of our RIAS programs in Washington, New York, Berlin, Cologne and Hamburg.
September 30, 2021
At RTDNA21, RIAS meets candidates for future exchange programs
The RIAS Berlin Commission took part in the RTDNA21 conference in Denver recently — a forum to meet potential candidates for future programs and meet RIAS Berlin Commission alumni members.
David Wagner, a 2019 alumni and 2020 RIAS media prize winner, was at the RIAS Berlin Commission booth at the RTDNA21 conference meeting candidates and alumni at the annual convention held by the U.S. partner organization of RIAS Berlin Commission. The RTDNA conference was much smaller than in years past, due to several factors such as this was the first year RTDNA did not have another organization helping put on the conference and also because it was the first one held after the 2020 Covid-19 shutdown.
“It was great talking to other journalists about the fantastic opportunity that RIAS offers,” said Wagner. “I know my experience in 2019 was really eye opening and I’m hope to get more people interested in the program.”
Around 200 people attended with Covid-10 safety protocols in place as all attendees had to show proof of vaccination and wear a mask while in sessions or in exhibition areas. Wagner had the RIAS Berlin Commission booth setup up in ballroom Denver 5.
He displayed the documentary that he and his colleague and fellow RIAS alum Monica Quintero put together on their program. He also created a QR code for visitors to the booth to get more info from the RIAS Berlin website.
Wagner, who was a member of the RTDNA board for 4 years, said he also was able to speak with current board members about the RIAS relationship with RTDNA and said everyone he spoke with felt that the partnership was strong and would continue.
“For almost 30 years RTDNA has partnered with RIAS to place German journalists in American newsrooms, and send American journalists to explore and cover stories in Germany,” said Vince Duffy, a RIAS alumni and News Director at Michigan Public Radio in Ann Arbor — and a RTDNA trustee. “It’s a great partnership that benefits both organizations and journalists at all levels. I was part of a group of American journalists that travelled to Berlin for the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and it was an educational and emotional experience. I can’t say enough good things about RIAS and look forward to the possibility of participating again in the future.
September 30, 2021
RIAS Berlin Commission exchange restarts with German elections
The September 27 German election was a welcomed chance for 17 American journalists to spend a week in Berlin learning more about the campaigns, the issues, the six parties and the German election system — and what’s different from elections in the USA.
Coming out of an 18-month hibernation due to the corona pandemic, we also had the good fortune of meeting with a half dozen top German journalists, despite the continued corona limitations, either at their offices (RBB and WeltTV) or in restaurants or cafes. Candid and interesting talks with political leaders from all the parties (SPD, CDU, Greens and AfD) was possible (sometimes outdoors) thanks to the tremendous flexibility of the group and guest speakers. Some of the Americans on the alumni program even used the fellowship to air stories from the Germany elections back to their home stations.
All in all it was a fantastic group and illuminating week — for our fellows and guest speakers. Here are some comments from the participants:
Michael Gargiulo, Anchor WNBC New York:
My time in Berlin as part of the Alumni Program allowed me to do what I love best about journalism: be a witness to history. For an entire week, I was immersed in a subject I had only been able to read about. With a great group of fellow reporters, producers, and assignment editors, I traveled over all Berlin, visited TV stations , government offices and political research think tanks. We met with German politicians, journalists, and political experts …. all to try and learn how and why Germany will take a new direction in the post Merkel era. All of us were RIAS fellows at different times. While I didn’t know everyone on the program initially, I was amazed how quickly we bonded as a group. After day one , it was like we had been together a month , trading everything from Berlin restaurant tips to career advice. To me, the German Elections Alumni Program represented the best part of RIAS, that the program doesn’t end when your two week fellowship is up.. it’s just the start of a great relationship.
Karin Caifa, Reporter CNN Newsourse, Washington DC:
What an eventful time to be in Berlin! In my short stretch in the city, I got to witness a climate march kicked off by Greta Thunberg, the Berlin Marathon and – of course – the most significant elections Germany has seen in 16 years. Our guest speakers gave perfect tee-ups to how to sort through Sunday evening’s results, and we were fortunate enough to be welcomed to an actual polling station on Election Day to witness the process in action. The cultural side trips, including touring the East Side Gallery with artist Kani Alavi, and the networking opportunities were especially valuable additions and enhanced the experience immensely.
Miranda Dotson Reed, former KGO TV/ABC7 News, San Francisco, California:
I am continually amazed at the deep level of access the RIAS program provides, and this experience was no different. From meetings with politicians to influential German journalists, visiting the Berlin Rotes Rathaus to walking inside a polling station on Election Day, the program is unmatched.
The in-depth conversations we had were candid and insightful, and allowed a new and more complete understanding of the German election system. It gave real insight into what’s important for German citizens and their futures. More than that, the chance to connect with American colleagues from around the country is an excellent way to grow my broader journalism network. And it further confirms the amazing journalistic work happening in every corner of the U.S. (and Germany). I’m confident these relationships will carry on for many years. Thanks again for a truly wonderful and impactful experience!
Lane Luckie, Anchor, KLTV, Tyler, Texas: Participating in the RIAS Berlin Commission’s Fall 2021 alumni program was another life-changing opportunity. After the coronavirus pandemic isolated the world, this was a valuable lesson — a powerful reminder — that nothing replaces face-to-face experiences. Having participated in a previous program centered around the German elections, this only added to that foundational knowledge and helped me better explain this historic moment to our viewers in East Texas. As always, this was a tremendous professional challenge that helped me push myself as a journalist and grow as an individual. Most of all — my heart is touched by the friendships formed through RIAS. It was a really special getting to reconnect with American fellows, see German fellows who have visited my station in Texas or have hosted me in Germany, as well as form new friendships with some truly exceptional journalists. There’s much to be achieved when our countries work together and RIAS is helping deepen those bonds in a meaningful way. I described RIAS as providing a ‘golden ticket’ because so many in Germany are aware of its legacy. It opens doors for acquiring sources, forming friendships, and gaining the trust of others, which is invaluable. It’s a true honor to be associated with RIAS. (PS – Lane did these reports for his station in Tyler, Texas )
Tiffany Zeno, Producer NBC New York: Democracy is not easy. Representation is a must. Hatred and racism have no place anywhere. The 2021 elections in Germany proved all of this. As a journalist, my job is to report on truth and facts. We get down to the core of what is in society and what moves society. Your voters have spoken. Now is the time that you must carry forth their wishes. Thank you so much for taking time with us during this incredible life-changing event. Godspeed in this new reality. And remember, you represent ALL of Germany.
Debby Block, Voice of America, Washington DC: Another incredible RIAS program experience, made even more special by being able to learn about the German elections firsthand. I learned so much from the speakers and other people I met, with the highlight of going into a voting station on election day where I watched people cast their ballots, and spoke with the polling station manager about the large turnout. I am also grateful for being able to reconnect with German and US RIAS journalists and meeting new ones. Thank you so much for having the American alumni in Berlin where we could experience another chapter of Germany’s amazing history.
Jeremy Chen, KTNV Las Vegas: It was a privilege and an honor to be a part of the first RIAS program since the pandemic began. It also came at a good time coinciding with the German elections, where anything could go with Angela Merkel stepping down. We spoke with members who represented views all across the political spectrum. Getting an understanding of how Germans vote and value democracy was very eye-opening in contrast to our own system in the US. It was a wonderful week meeting distinguished speakers with colleagues. Thank you!
Bryan Weakland, Producer MSNBC, New York: Participating in the RIAS alumni program was incredible. I was able to reconnect with German journalists I met during my first RIAS fellowship. I was also privileged to meet a new group of German journalists of whom I know will be lifelong connections.
The speakers and guests we met with on this program were phenomenal.
Being here during such pivotal elections is a front row seat to history in the making and I’m so thankful to have been included in this tremendous opportunity.
Justin Campbell, reporter, WKMG News, Orlando, Florida: It was an incredible honor to be invited and attend the RIAS alumni program in Berlin. I connected with so many journalists and learned so much about the historic German election. One point I find interesting and will not forget is how German voters are changing. Almost every speaker emphasized how historically voters cast their ballot for the party, but now they’re voting more for the candidate like Americans. It goes to show what happens in the U.S. really does reverberate throughout the world. After 16 years of Angela Merkel, the country will move in a new way forward. What a pivotal time to be invited back to Germany to witness it first-hand.
Bonnie North, Program Director North Country Public Radio, Canton, Potsdam New York: It was an honor to participate in the first RIAS reunion program since the start of the COVID pandemic. During the week we heard from speakers from across the political spectrum, visited with some of our German media colleagues, and furthered our understanding of this historic election in Germany. I was also able to witness the climate strike march and the Berlin marathon – perfect timing! It was an amazing week. Vielen Dank. Thanks again for everything.
Joel Waldinger, PBS Madison Wisconsin:
RIAS has provided me with another opportunity to expand my horizons on the European Continent. Having a front row seat to democracy in action with the historic German elections. This experience helps strenghten and emphasize the importance of voting – a right some Americans take for granted. I was impressed most by the immigrant stories of Sawsan Chebli (SPD) and Kani Alavi – stories of overcoming adveresity and hardship to forge a better life for themselves, their families and their country. They are living their best “German dream! Thank you again for a great experience.
Maggie Kerkman, Fox News Channel /Dallas bureau field producer:
What a fascinating time to be in Germany. I had learned about German politics and parties before, but to see it all in action at an historic pivot point in Germany’s history was thrilling. I feel like I finally come close to understanding the German voting process— and maybe even a little bit about German voters. As one told me, “We want change, but not a revolution.” Another mentioned how historic Angela Merkel’s reign has been, perhaps not in policies as much as her long tenure as the first female chancellor. For teens who don’t remember having anyone but Merkel, someone told me, this now seems normal. I will watch with avid interest over the next few months to see which coalition will come to power.It was not just to learn about German politics that we came to Berlin. We met- or got reacquainted with- our German and American colleagues. We also got a chance to wander the city and explore. As I sat in a large park on a sunny, lovely day, eating ice cream, watching people play with their children and dogs, I felt for a little bit like I was truly experiencing something really wonderful- and typisch Deutsch.
TJ Speicher, Senior National Editor & Desk Operations Officer/Fox News, New York:
21 years, 2 months, 17 days. Or 7749 days. Or 669,513,600 seconds (give or take, but who’s counting?) That’s how long it had been since I was last in Berlin during the summer of 2000. So much has changed since then, not just me or Berlin, but the world as a whole. And as much as we call Times Square the crossroads of the world, it might be Berlin that truly holds that title. From the people to the food. And for RIAS to welcome us back to Berlin at such and auspicious time for another historic election (aren’t they all, nowadays?), it has been a truly special week to once again explore a truly special city. RIAS has again introduced us to various points of view from politicians and journalists, which I find truly enlightening. So, once again Berlin, ich sage auf Wiedersehen, in the truest sense.
Michael Makowski, The Progressive Magazine, Madison, Wisconsin:
What an exciting time to be in Germany—during a historic election and one that will change the direction of its government. As an alumnus, I had the background knowledge that made meeting with journalists, politicians, and influential figures all the richer. By election night, I felt informed about all the parties, nuances, and possible outcomes, and a deep appreciation for the democratic process. RIAS has given me so many learning and networking opportunities, and I’m a better journalist for it. Thanks to Erik, Melissa, the RIAS Board, and my colleagues for another fantastic experience.
Susan Valot, Reporter public radio stations, California: The RIAS program has always been about building bridges, between the US and Germany, between the journalists who take part, between the speakers and the journalists. It highlights the good and bad, showing what’s working and what needs to be fixed. I was honored to take part in this year’s alumni program, allowing me to return to Berlin for the first time in five years, to see that it’s still a city evolving and changing, with its skies, as always, lined with construction cranes.
From hearing from a Muslim political leader who receives so many death threats that she questions whether she can continue in her current career to seeing so many German children and teens taking part in the Climate Strike March that filled Berlin’s streets with thousands of beacons of hope — these sorts of interactions, both formal and informal, lead to new stories, new perspectives and new friendships.
and Bob Jamieson from NBC News New York
September 27, 2021
American RIAS group follows German federal elections in Berlin
A group of 17 American journalists spent a week in Berlin learning more about the 2021 German elections ahead of the vote on September 27. It was the first RIAS Berlin Commission in-person exchange program in nearly two years due to disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. During the visit by the RIAS alumni fellows to Berlin, the American broadcast journalists met with journalists, politicians, political experts, musicians and fellow German alumni during their busy six days in Berlin.
Several of the Americans also filed reports on the buzz in Berlin during the German elections back to their home stations while others gathered information and knowledge about the intricacies of the German election system.
Some of the meetings included talks with German election officials who explained how boundaries for constituencies in Germany are redrawn apolitically whenever population shifts require. There is no such thing as gerrymandering in Germany, they learned, and the redrawing of districts is done according to strict standard procedures.
Because the lingering corona pandemic made it impossible to get inside some German newsrooms that remain off-limits for not only visitors, but often many staff members as well, the challenge for the group of Americans (all of whom were vaccinated) was to find locations for meetings with the German journalists, politicians and alumni in neutral venues such as TV station rooftops (such as at RBB TV), restaurants, backrooms in cafes, street corners and even outdoor election rallies.
Thanks to the patience and flexibility of the American alumni and the German guest speakers, it was possible to have a great program that helped the group better understand the issues at stake in the September 26 elections.
Here is an overview of some of the meetings: meeting in beer garden with RBB journalist Petra Gute and Radio Bremen Intendant Yvette Gerner; talk with German election official Ulrike Rockmann about the German election system; talk with Politico senior European correspondent Matt Karnitschnig.
There was also a talk with WeltTV editor in chief Jan-Philipp Burgard and a visit to his state-of-the-art commercial TV station’s studios.
There was also a meeting with Jan Niklas Engels and Knut Dethlefsen at the SPD-affiliated Friedrich Ebert Foundation; meeting with Dr. Jochen Roose and Alexander Beribes from the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation; walking tour of Kreuzberg neighborhoods with Greens party member Özcan Mutlu.
There was also a meeting with JD Bindenagel, former U.S. ambassador; talk with CDU member of state assembly in Brandenburg Barbara Richstein; meeting with German swing band leader Andrej Hermlin; meeting with Dr. David Biesinger and Jade-Yasmin Tänzler of RBB TV/Radio station; talk with Sawsan Chebli, deputy minister in Berlin government for federal affairs, and leader in SPD party. There was also a talk with far-right AfD member of parliament Beatrix von Storch.
There was also a multi-media light show at the Bundestag; talks at Cafe Einstein with ZDF TV’s breakfast TV news ZDF “MorgenMagazin” Mitri Sirin & Anja Heyde & Michael Wagenbach; also with Julius van de Laar, a leading political consultant in Germany who studied political science in South Carolina and worked on Obama campaigns.
The group also met with Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, host of the Common Ground podcast, author and foreign correspondent for public radio; they had a talk with an AfD member of parliament and watched a campaign rally; enjoyed an alumni dinner and get-together with German alumni; had a meeting and tour of the East Side Gallery with artist Kani Alavi and visited German polling stations on Election Day.
September 6, 2021
RIAS exchange programs resume with three in the fall programs
The RIAS Berlin Commission will emerge from its involuntary COVID-19 induced hibernation with three exchange programs for about 55 participants over the next eight weeks — two one-week long alumni programs for about 46 participants and one standard three-week program for nine participants.
Despite the difficult and changing situations in the United States and Germany as the pandemic gradually wanes, the RIAS Berlin Commission has selected German and American participants for the three upcoming programs and will attempt to carry out the programs as best and creatively as possible. The outlook for a reopening of newsrooms and nations appeared brighter in June before the Delta variant threw a spanner into the works.
In particular it was the continued travel restrictions preventing most EU Schengen-area citizens from traveling to the USA that has made organising the trips difficult. There were hopes that the restrictions would have been lifted after the EU lifted its restrictions on USA travelers to Europe in June. But the USA’s restrictions remain in place. Fortunately RIAS Berlin Commission journalists were able to obtain exception visas for the programs.
Because many newsrooms are still closed to their own staff members as well as visitors, some of the meetings will be held at unconventional locations. RIAS alumni chapter leaders in Cologne and New York. Martin Richter of Phoenix TV in Bonn and Michael Gargiulo of WNBC in New York, have helped enormously in selecting and coordinating the two alumni groups.
Here is a short overview of our three upcoming programs:
September 20-27: 16 American journalists will be coming to Berlin for a one-week alumni program timed to coincide with the German elections. Many of them will be reporting on the German elections to their stations back home. There will have an alumni get-together with German and US alumni on Friday evening, September 24. All alumni are invited to join. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
October 11-29: 9 German journalists will be in Washington DC (one week), New York City (one week) and in the third week at a small station in the South, Midwest or West for the standard three-week program. The group will take a closer look at important mayoral and gubernatorial elections in New York City and New Jersey.
October 24-30: 30 German journalists and RIAS alumni from across the country will be in New York for one week, taking a closer look at the New York and New Jersey elections as well as New York City’s recovery from the pandemic.
Here are the USA participants for Sept 20-27 Berlin program:
Michael Gargiulo, Anchor WNBC TV, New York
Lane Luckie, Anchor, KLTV, Tyler, Texas
Karen Caifa, reporter CNN, Washington DC
Maggie Kerkman, producer, Fox News, Dallas, Texas
TJ Speicher, producer Fox News, New York
Bonnie North, reporter/anchor North Country Public Radio, Canton, Potsdam New York
Bryan Weakland, producer MSNBC, New York
Tiffany Zeno, producer WNBC, New York
Susan Valot, reporter public radio stations in California
Bob Jamieson, NBC News, New York
Justin Campbell, reporter, WKMG News, Orlando, Florida
Michael Makowski, The Progressive Magazine, Madison, Wisconsin
Larry Levin, Irish Echo, Dublin, Ireland
Jeremy Chen, KTNV Las Vegas
Debbie Block, Voice of America, Washington DC
Miranda Dotson Reed, former KGO TV/ABC7 News, San Francisco, California
Here are the German participants for the October 11-29 program in the USA
Lena Mosel, Welt TV Berlin
Dilek Üsük, RBB Abendschau/WDR news, Berlin
Annette Yang, NDR, Hamburg
Kristian Wiegand, Phoenix, Bonn
Jan Fritsche, ZDF, Magdeburg/Berlin
Julia Grünwald, MDR, Leipzig
Dania Maria Hohn, RTL/NTV Hamburg
Frauke Holzmeier, RTL/NTV Cologne
Kate Brady, Deutsche Welle, Berlin
Here are the German participants for the October 24-30 program in New York
Martin Richter, Phoenix, Bonn
Michail Paweletz, NDR Hamburg
Vladimir Balzer, Deutschlandradio, Berlin
Mitri Sirin, ZDF, Berlin
Anja Heyde, ZDF, Berlin
Anna Maria Schuck, ZDF, Mainz
Mirja Fielder, NDR, Hamburg
Andre Schünke, NDR, Hamburg
Anja Martini, ARD, Hamburg
Anne Sieger, ARD, Cologne
Björn Heckmann, RTL, Cologne
Cornelia Gerhard, Phoenix, Bonn
Guido Meyer, Deutschlandfunk, Bonn
Iris Ollech, Phoenix, Bonn
Kerstin Ruskowski, Deutschlandfunk Nova/WDR, Cologne
Lydia Leipert, BR, Munich
Marc Krueger, podcast freelancer, Berlin
Maren Hellwege-Beck, BR, Munich
Nina Hansen, ARD, Hamburg
Petra Gute, RBB, Berlin
Philipp Eins, freelance radio/podcast, Berlin
Sabine Krebs, ARD, Nairobi, Kenya
Steffi Clodius, ARD, Hamburg
Susan Falkenstein, BR radio, Munich
Zlatin Nikov, SR, Saarbrücken
Boris Baumholt, WDR, Duesseldorf
Bartosz Dudek, Deutsche Welle radio, Bonn
Marius Zekri, NDR radio, Hamburg
Michael Meyer, Deutschlandfunk, Berlin
Micha Wagenbach, ZDF, Berlin
Oliver Sallet, Deutsche Welle, Washington DC
August 6, 2021
Former NBC correspondent and long-time RIAS Media Prize juror John Dancy dies
John Dancy, a long-time NBC News correspondent and RIAS Media Prize juror, has died, according to a former colleague at NBC News in Washington. Dancy, who passed away recently at the age of 84, served as an integral member of the RIAS Media Prize jury for many years and was well-remembered at the jury meetings for his friendly but firm insistence on holding up the highest standards for prize winning entries. His passing was announced recently by Washington news producer for NBC News Today Bill Hatfield in a Twitter post.
“Remembering my friend and mentor John Dancy (1936-2021),” wrote Hatfield. “John spent 30 years at NBC News with postings in Chicago, Berlin, Moscow, London and DC, where he covered every major beat. In retirement, he taught the next generation of journalists. I was lucky to know him.”
Born on August 5, 1936 in Jackson, Tennessee, John Albert Dancy graduated from Union University in Jackson in 1959 with a BA in English Literature. He later earned an honorary PhD from Union University in 1989. During his long career, Dancy received a Columbia-Dupont award for documentaries in 1977, an Overseas Press Club award for documentaries in 1977, a Janus award business reporting in 1984 and a Everett M. Dirksen award for reporting of Congress in 1987. He was a member of the Radio-Television Correspondents Association in Washington. He worked as a journalist for Westinghouse Broadcasting Company, KYW-television in Cleveland from 1961 to 1965 before becoming a Correspondent from 1965 for NBC News in Los Angeles, then Chicago, Berlin, London and Washington. He was the network’s Senior White House correspondent from 1978 to 1979. Dancy was later NBC’s Congressional correspondent from 1982-1988, Chief diplomatic correspondent in 1988 and Moscow correspondent from 1994 to 1996.
“Sadly acknowledging the passing of former veteran NBC News Correspondent John (“Bud”) Dancy, with whom I covered global diplomacy in the late 1980s/early 1990s,” wrote former RIAS board member and CNN correspondent Ralph Begleiter in a post on Facebook. “One of the smartest reporters on the diplomatic beat… After retiring from NBC, Dancy taught journalism at Duke University. My heartfelt condolences to Ann and his family.”
Dancy also served as a regular host for German journalists when he taught journalism at Brigham Young and Duke University, according to former RIAS Berlin Commission Executive Director Rainer Hasters. “This is really sad news,” said Hasters. “John was a good friend, long-time jury member and long-time university host for visiting German journalists.”
July 18, 2021
RIAS alumni chapters meet in New York, Cologne & Berlin
RIAS Berlin Commission alumni chapters held reunion meetings in New York, Cologne and Berlin in recent weeks — the first get-togethers in over a year. New York Alumni Chapter leader Michael Gargiulo (right) and six other members of the New York alumni group met at Reichenbach Hall in Manhattan on Thursday, July 15 to celebrate their first meeting after the coronavirus pandemic shutdown. Gargiulo said the group was delighted to meet again in the popular German-style beer hall in midtown and talked about the upcoming alumni program in September in Berlin for up to 30 Americans interested in covering the German federal election on September 26 and networking.
“It meant so much for us to get back together after a year and a half because it meant that RIAS New York is back, but also New York City is back,” said Gargiulo, who is also the U.S. coordinator for applicants to the alumni program. Among those alumni who also attended the New York alumni meeting were Adam Reiss, Tiffany Zeno, TJ Speicher, and Basti Harting.
In Cologne, chapter leader Martin Richter (second from right) and six others gathered in a Brauhaus near the Rhine River on Wednesday, July 14. The turnout was reduced by heavy rains in the region that evening that led to devastating flash floods the next day in towns southwest from Cologne. Those attending also talked about the planned alumni program to the United States in late October and whether the United States will relax travel restrictions on European Union citizens soon — a topic of discussion that Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed with President Joe Biden a day later at their meeting in Washington DC.
“I think everyone who came had a great time,” said Richter, who will be coordinating the German applicants for the October alumni program to New York in late October. Among those who also joined the alumni chapter meeting were Bartosz Dudek, Claudia Davis and Kerstin Ruskowski.
In Berlin, the chapter met on June 30 with Vladimir Balzer (first from the left) organizing a meeting at a Berlin restaurant in the government quarter that four others attended. The Berlin group talked about the upcoming elections in Germany, the status of vaccinations and infection rates in the coronavirus pandemic, recruiting efforts for new applicants to the RIAS programs from especially eastern Germany and the upcoming alumni program in October in New York after the October 2020 program to Washington was cancelled. The group also celebrated Benjamin Eyssel’s long-delayed appointment to Beijing for RBB radio (on the right) Also attending were Dorte Störmann, Erik Kirschbaum and Philipp Eins.
July 7, 2021
RIAS alumni program planned for Berlin in September
The RIAS Berlin Commission is planning a one-week alumni program for up to 30 Americans from September 20 to 27 and invites all former RIAS participants to take part.
The program is timed to coincide with the German federal election on September 26 and there will be a number of meetings with politicians, think tanks and attending German campaign rallies.
Following the great success of the November 2019 alumni program in Berlin timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary and celebrations relating to the fall of the Berlin Wall during which many of the American alumni were able to report on events to their home stations, RIAS alumni participants are welcome and encouraged to report on the German election for their outlets in the United States to come to Berlin to network with colleagues and associates.
There will about two appointments per day, allowing ample time for networking with U.S. and German journalists who have taken part in programs over the last three decades. German alumni are also welcome to take part in the one-week long program designed to keep the spirit of RIAS alive nearly 30 years after the Cold War’s “Free Voice of the Free World” went off the air.
If you are interested in taking part, please write to the leader of the New York alumni chapter Michael Gargiulo (email@example.com) or to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for further information
Michael Gargiulo will be coordinating the program from the United States.
As in the past, RIAS will be covering hotel and breakfast costs, a week’s pass on the Berlin subway/bus network and many group dinners during the week while participants will have to cover their own airfare.
June 29, 2021
St. Louis alumni chapter of RIAS Berlin Commission launched with 3 intrepid alumni
Three RIAS Berlin Commission alumni in St. Louis got together recently to start a local chapter, following in the footsteps of chapters in New York, Washington DC, Texas/Oklahoma and Los Angeles. There are also chapters in Berlin, Cologne and Hamburg.
Rachel D. Lippmann of St. Louis Public Radio, who took part in the RIAS program in 2017, joined with her former colleague Ryan Delaney, who was on the program to Brussels and Germany in 2019, and Stephanie Carr, who was on the 2018 program to mark the occasion recently with a dinner at at a sandwich pub called The Gramophone in St. Louis’ The Grove neighborhood.
Rachel and Ryan had long worked together at St. Louis Public Radio while Stephanie recently moved from Nashville to St. Louis to work at station KSDK, an NBC affiliate for St. Louis. She had been working at a local station in Kansas City when she took part in the RIAS program.
June 10, 2021
RIAS Berlin Commission exchange programs to resume in September
The RIAS Berlin Commission’s board of directors approved on Thursday, June 10 plans to resume the in-person exchange programs in the fall of 2021 following the widespread relaxation of restrictions in the United States and Germany after the Covid-19 pandemic that idled the programs for the last 15 months.
The first in-person exchange program for up to 30 American alumni members is tentatively scheduled for September 20 to September 27 in Berlin — timed to coincide with the September 26 German federal election. The second program for 10 to 12 German broadcast journalists would start on or about October 4 or October 11 and run for three weeks.
Most of the journalists on that October 2021 program were scheduled to take part in a March 2020 program that was cancelled at the last minute. A third program tentatively scheduled for one week in late October would be for up to 30 German alumni members in either New York or Washington DC. Those and other details still have to be decided.
All alumni in the United States and Germany who are interested in either the September one-week program in Berlin or the October one-week program in the United States should contact their local alumni chapter leaders or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 7, 2021
When will RIAS Berlin Commission exchange programs resume?
The RIAS Berlin Commission is eager to resume its transatlantic exchange programs for German and American journalists as soon as it is possible. Unfortunately there are still travel restrictions in place making it difficult for Germans to visit the United States and there are also limits on U.S. citizens traveling to the European Union. These travel restrictions and any quarantine requirements make it in essence impossible to run our in-person exchange programs. In the meantime, RIAS has been hosting weekly Zoom talks with many of our guest speakers that future participants and alumni are invited to attend.
The travel restrictions to Germany and to the United States might be lifted in the near term, which would clear a path for RIAS to resume its programs perhaps in the fall of 2021. Another key factor in the resumption of programs would be a reopening of newsrooms for visitors in both Germany and the United States because visiting journalists in each country is one of the important aspects of the exchange programs.
If the vaccination efforts in the United States and Germany lead to relaxations of the travel restrictions and further newsroom openings in each country, RIAS Berlin Commission hopes to organize an alumni program in Berlin from September 20-27 for 30 American journalists to coincide with Germany’s federal elections on September 26. If possible, it would also aim to reschedule the March 2020 program for 15 German journalists that was cancelled at the last minute to October 4-22 as well as hold a one-week program for 30 German alumni from October 25-31 that was originally scheduled for late October 2020. RIAS hopes to make a decision on these programs by mid-June 2021.
Please write us at email@example.com if you have any further questions about these or any other programs.
April 13, 2021
RIAS Media Prize winners take part in weekly Zoom talks from April 14 to May 26
The RIAS Berlin Commission will be resuming its program of Zoom talks on April 14 with WNBC TV morning co-anchor Michael Gargiulo, who was the co-chair of the RIAS Berlin Commission Media Prize jury. Gargiulo, a veteran of the RIAS jury, will talk about the 2021 prize, some of the trends in this year’s competition and about the possibility of having an
awards ceremony in in Berlin in November. You can watch or listen to all the winning stories on the RIAS Berlin Commission website below in the March 26 story.
March 31, 2021
RIAS Berlin Commission exchange program outlook for 2021
The RIAS Berlin Commission in-person journalist exchange programs have been suspended since March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The RIAS Berlin Commission has been tracking the situation in both the United States and Germany and hopes to restart the programs as soon as the prevailing conditions allow.
There is a possibility that the exchange programs could resume in late September or October but that would depend on conditions in both countries – in particular the reopening of newsrooms for visitors and an absence of any mandatory travel-related quarantines — that would allow for meaningful exchanges.
A decision on whether RIAS programs can resume in the autumn or later will be made in mid-June. In the meantime, please do take advantage of our regular Zoom talks with prominent guest speakers and alumni from the United States and Germany that we have been holding for the last 10 months. Please write firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
March 26, 2021
Jury commendations for RIAS Media Prize winners
An independent panel of American and German journalists issued the following commendations for
the six RIAS Berlin Commission 2021 prize winners.
The jury for the 29th annual prize was made up of three Americans and three Germans and a total of 10,000 EUR prize money will be presented to the winners at a gala ceremony expected to be held in November. The jury includes: Co-chair Michael Gargiulo (WNBC TV, New York), Co-chair Anja Heyde (ZDF-MDR, Berlin) as well as Helge Fuhst (ARD, Hamburg), Yami Virgin (Fox 29, San Antonio, Texas), Matt Karnitschnig (Politico, Berlin) and Richard Meng (formerly Frankfurter Rundschau).
The RIAS Media Prize is intended to help strengthen the diversity of transatlantic dialogue and to deepen interest in German-American relations. There will be a total 10,000 EUR in prize money awarded to the six winners, including a new 5,000 EUR grand prize for the single most outstanding entry broadcast in 2020.
Here is what the jury had to say:
Ingo Zamperoni, Birgit Wärnke – NDR: “Trump, meine amerikansiche Familie und ich”
“Trump, My American Family and Me” by Ingo Zamperoni and Birgit Wärnke is an outstanding film about an American family and is, at the same time, a film about American society. It shows the political divisions of the country on a meta-level through a private lens that is full of empathy. Zamperoni took a considerable risk by broadcasting such a personal glimpse of his family. The result is a film that gives viewers valuable insights into American life and ways of thinking that is rarely seen in Germany. The film makes no judgment – but instead simply documents the situation. By doing so, it reveals why so many Americans cast their ballots in favor of Donald Trump as their president. The narrative shows the entire ambivalence between a great love for a great country and the palpable aversion to some of the social and political developments within the USA.
RIAS Radio Award:
Aylin Dogan, Gregor Schmalzried – Bayern 2 (BR): “Die Andere Cancel Culture – von den unbekannten Opfer der Sozialen Medien“
“Cancel Culture” is a corrosive phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic. In their thought-provoking report for Bayern 2, Aylin Dogan and Gregor Schmalzried delve into this emotional issue with nuance, exploring the tensions and misunderstandings it creates. They report on the tremendous power of “Cancel Culture“ in social media and how it sometimes hits the wrong target – from ordinary people to celebrities who are often powerless to defend themselves.
RIAS Digital Video Award:
Janek Speight – Deutsche Welle: “Why US sports are more socialist than European football”
Janek Speight has succeeded in creating an unusual, attention-grabbing look at the routines of professional sports on both sides of the Atlantic. A cheeky inversion of clichés, a social media-friendly and brilliant comparison of the incomparable. He discovers almost “socialist” aspects in American sports – with its revenue sharing, salary caps and draft system – and he contrasts those with a rather brutal selfishness of big money in Europe. His YouTube contribution for Deutsche Welle combines tongue-in-cheek levity with serious analysis. A triumphant piece of transatlantic journalism.
RIAS Fellow Award Radio:
Ryan Delaney – St. Louis Public Radio, NPR: “How Germany Reopened Schools During a Pandemic”
2020 was the year everything changed for millions of schoolchildren. Most of the schools in the United States were closed, many students were at home for remote learning. Germany, however, reopened its schools during the crisis. How? Ryan Delaney from St. Louis Public Radio went in search of and found the answers to this question in a series of reports in October/November 2020 through Pulitzer Center and Education Writers Association. He spoke with a kindergarten teacher in Cologne, a father in Berlin, a high school student in Bonn and many others. He took the listeners into the classrooms to understand the actual impact of the decisions made regarding education and of the health of a generation.
RIAS Next Generation Award Award:
Anna Ellmann, Maximilian Osenstätter – BR (Bayerischer Rundfunk): “News WG – Series of Instagram Stories on Political Issues”
News – “not from the pages of a newspaper or a TV screen but from ‘Instagram”? That is the goal of the ‘Die News-WG’ – which was developed by young journalists at Bayerische Rundfunk (BR). The News-WG Team reports on the news in ways that young people understand and relate to… and they deliver the news to where young people are active…on Instagram. They tackle questions like ‘Things politicians would never say’ or ‘What kind of pork is that in your sandwich?’
Special Jury Prize Radio:
Michael Groth – Deutschlandradio Kultur: “Songs of Love and Protest – Wiederkehr des politischen Liedes in den USA“
Michael Groth has produced a series of outstanding, in-depth feature stories on the rich history of music in the United States and its influence on both politics in the United States and on music in Germany for Deutschlandfunk Kultur over the last 15 years. From features on Johnny Cash, Muddy Waters, Corky Siegel, Hank Williams, various country music and Mississippi Delta artists to the Chicago Blues and music from Austin and Nashville, Groth is a master of his craft. For his determination as perennial entrant, Groth receives special jury recognition for his contributions.
March 19, 2021
Six German, American stories picked as RIAS Media Prize winners in 2021
The RIAS BERLIN Commission is proud to announce the winners of this year’s RIAS Media Prize Awards. The 29th annual award is presented by the German-American exchange program and celebrates the best of transatlantic broadcast journalism with 10,000 EUR in prize-money awarded.
The jury made up of six distinguished journalists from the United States and Germany selected six winners in TV, Radio and Digital Media categories in Berlin on March 17, 2021. The jury includes: Co-chair Michael Gargiulo (WNBC TV, New York), Co-chair Anja Heyde (ZDF-MDR, Berlin) as well as Helge Fuhst (ARD, Hamburg), Yami Virgin (Fox 29, San Antonio, Texas), Matt Karnitschnig (Politico, Berlin) and Richard Meng (formerly Frankfurter Rundschau). Conditions allowing, RIAS Berlin Commission will host a gala ceremony in November to pay tribute to the winners from the 2021 competition as well as the 2020 completion that was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year’s prize winners are:
Rias Berlin Commision Grand Prize
Ingo Zamperoni, Birgit Wärnke “Trump, meine amerikanische Familie und ich“, ARD, November 2, 2020
RIAS Radio Award
Aylin Dogan, Gregor Schmalzried “Die andere Cancel Culture – Von den unbekannten Opfern der Sozialen Medien“, Bayern 2 (BR), September 13, 2020 https://www.br.de/mediathek/podcast/zuendfunk-generator/die-andere-cancel-culture-von-den-unbekannten-opfern-der-sozialen-medien/1804209
RIAS Digital Media Award
Janek Speight “Why US sports are more socialist than European football“,Deutsche Welle YouTube film, September 18, 2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0yZQgDwn1A
RIAS Fellow Award
Ryan Delaney “How Germany Reopened Its Schools During a Pandemic”, St. Louis Public Radio, NPR series during October/November 2020 through Pulitzer Center and Education Writers Association https://pulitzercenter.org/projects/how-germany-reopened-its-schools-during-pandemic
Special Jury Prize
Michael Groth “Songs of Love and Protest – Wiederkehr des politischen Liedes in den USA“ on October 30, 2020 and recognition for more than 15 years of outstanding in-depth features on US music for Deutschlandfunk/Deutschlandfunk Kultur https://www.deutschlandfunkkultur.de/die-wiederkehr-des-politischen-liedes-in-den-usa-songs-of.3780.de.html?dram:article_id=486565
RIAS Next Generation Prize
Anna Ellmann, Maximilian Osenstätter “News WG” – series of Instagram stories about political issues for BR (Bayerischer Rundfunk) https://www.instagram.com/news_wg/channel/?hl=de
January 27, 2021
Deadline nears for RIAS Media Prize submissions
The deadline for entries for the 2021 RIAS Media Prize is nearing on January 31. Journalists from the United States and Germany are encouraged to enter their best stories for the annual competition that puts a spotlight on exceptional radio, television and digital stories that were broadcast or published in 2020. Here is a link for the entry form.
The RIAS Media Prize is intended to help strengthen the diversity of transatlantic dialogue and to deepen interest in German-American relations. Germany and the USA are each facing new directions in many respects, both internally and externally. Committed, independent journalism can contribute a great deal to mutual understanding of and between countries as well as to an open social discourse about values and goals. The contributions submitted should go beyond daily and routine reporting, should process information and describe social reality in a remarkable way, and promote dialogue on similarities and differences in transatlantic relations.
Ideally, contributions worth consideration should: stand out thematically and/or in their execution; take on new questions in a creative way; critically examine and make the diversity of social reality clear; contain interesting suggestions for transatlantic debate; encourage reflection on problems and solutions; question clichés about Germans and/or Americans; describe trends in everyday life that are of general interest; contribute in a special way to mutual curiosity and understanding; be suitable to strengthen democratic and societal values.
The entry system has been streamlined this year as well as there is no need to send tapes or audio recordings any longer. Instead, all entries must be submitted electronically via email with a valid UR that is active until March 2021 and can be accessed without proprietary information (password) by the RIAS jury.
January 24, 2021
IMPORTANT! Call for Entries 2021
DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES: JANUARY 31, 2021
January 13, 2021
RIAS Zoom Talks open 2021 with large group of alumni for Michael Cohen
More than 100 RIAS Berlin Commission alumni and friends of RIAS took part in a riveting hour-long conversation with Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney and self-described “fixer”.
In a conversation organized and moderated by Adam Reiss of NBC, Cohen described in great detail his long and close relationship with Trump before he pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign finance violations and other crimes. He is currently on house arrest after being sentenced to a three-year sentence.
Here and also on youtube is the full interview:
Cohen said he also predicted that there would be turmoil surrounding any transition from Trump to another president. He also talked about being on house arrest and how that he had to stay inside his apartment in New York for 22 hours a day.
“There are a lot of people who take jabs at me and say ‘Ah you worked with him for a decade and a half you did his dirty deeds for him you helped to promote him’,” Cohen said. “Yes I did. yes I acted in ways that, if I could go back in time I would have (done differently). Did we play hardball with contractors? Sure we did, sure we stiffed contractors and sure we bullied people into getting what we wanted….. Donald Trump has become the worst version of himself imaginable. He is living in an alternate universe. The scariest part of it all is that 70 million people voted for him.”
Cohen said Trump believes he won the November 3, 2020 and cannot fathom how it was possible to win seven million more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016 yet not win. “He truly believes that he won the election,” Cohen said. “He has a fragile ego and he truly believes that he won this election and it was stolen from him.”
RIAS alumni Allison Walker did this story on the RIAS zoom talk for her local station in Dayton, Ohio. Cohen said that Trump was enjoying the turmoil and would continue blowing a “dog whistle” to his ‘Make America Great Again (MAGA) supporters. “Donald Trump speaks in code,” he said. “He will say this inauguration is a ‘shame to our democracy’, ‘they’re taking away your right’ and ‘your vote and not listening to the will of the American people’.”
Cohen said thanks to tighter security precautions the chaos that happened on January 6 in Washington DC would not be repeated on January 20 at the inauguration of President Joe Biden.
Cohen said that Trump tends not to think more than five minutes ahead of time and wasted a golden opportunity to rebuild infrastructure in the United States at the start of his term.
Cohen also talked about his book “Disloyal: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump” about his time working for Trump as well as his new podcast called Mea Culpa
As part of the on-going efforts to connect alumni in the United States and Germany, the RIAS Zoom talks will continue on a near-weekly basis in 2021. We hope that you can join us in these enlightening discussions designed to broaden horizons and keep the spirit of RIAS alive through the Covid-19 crisis.