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June 23, 2022

American journalists offer personal insight into their “RIAS experience”
It was an honor and a privledge for the RIAS Berlin Kommission to recently welcome ten amazing American journalists to our 2-week program for professionals. This is what they have to say about their personal “RIAS experience”.

Sheryl Worsley, VP of Podcasting, KSL, Salt Lake City 
I am amazed at how much I learned on the RIAS Berlin journalism exchange to Brussels and German cities of Cologne and Berlin. We were given incredible access to wonderful people inside NATO and the European Commission where we learned about the way this part of the globe interacts with member partners and those countries nearby. The geo-politics were fascinating. Although exhausted from a whirlwind of activity (this schedule is action packed!), I found all the discussions compelling and valuable. It was wonderful to learn from and about journalists in Germany and I made contacts I hope to keep. Most interesting were the visits with a Syrian refugee who escaped the war in Aleppo, the Ukrainian journalist who fled the war in her homeland waged by Russia and the Turkish politician who still fights for the rights of minority populations in Berlin. I have a better understanding and appreciation for the people, culture and history of Germany. Most of all, I am grateful for the people with whom I travelled. Erik was an incredible leader, an excellent teacher and expanded my understanding. Lastly, the connections I made with the nine journalists in our group I would not trade. We will be friends for life. I highly recommend this program.

Omar Atia, WNBC New York, NY
Eye-opening, life changing, unforgettable. Insert all of your travel clichés and they all ring true of RIAS Berlin. Russia’s war in Ukraine dominated our discussions throughout two whirlwind weeks in Brussels and Berlin.
Each day was packed with a who’s-who of politicians, journalists, deal makers and diplomats. Our level of access was second to none. We had candid discussions with top officials from NATO and the EU. Their message was optimistic: Europe was more united than ever, thanks to Putin’s war. We heard heart-breaking stories directly from the people impacted most: a group of Ukrainian mothers and their children, who recently arrived to Germany. They wanted their stories to be heard and told, afraid their plight might blur into background noise.
We saw the success story of a Syrian refugee, a narrative that is largely left untold. Seven years ago, he risked his life swimming across the Mediterranean to escape war. Today, he is an IT manager who has built a new life for his family in Berlin. Through it all, I was constantly impressed by how committed Germany is to publicly funding news outlets. A business model that prioritized people – not profit – and substance – not flash. We learned in real terms why a well-informed public is a key ingredient to a healthy Democracy. Maybe that’s something the U.S. can learn from Germany.

Esther Ciammachilli, WAMU, Washington, D.C.
Journalists often say that we got into this business because we like to talk to people and learn about new cultures. The RIAS Berlin program and the people I have met on this whirlwind journey encompass all the reasons why I chose journalism as a career.
The Squad: I do not think I could have asked for a better group of people to run all over Belgium and Germany with at times like the Amazing Race. We all brought a different strength and perspective to the group dynamic – Omar the navigator, Katherine the archaeologist – to name a couple. All of you left an imprint on my soul. Friends. For. Life. Without the RIAS program I never would have met so many amazing new German friends and colleagues, all of whom showed me the true meaning of warm hospitality, humanity, empathy, and international cooperation.
Last but certainly not least is the unprecedented access to institutions and officials most journalists would never have access to. Each new day brought a new extraordinary opportunity that was more meaningful than the day before. Visiting NATO (no photos!) and the EU were surreal for me. I’m still processing.
My favourite part of the trip was Cologne and talking to journalists Jörg Schönenborn, Charlotte Maihoff, and Karolina Ashion – some very big deals in Germany. They graciously set aside time in their busy days to talk with us about how Germans view the current political climate in the United States (Shönenborn), their harrowing reporting experiences as a Black woman in Russia (Maihoff), and how they maintain composure and self-care while also reporting on the atrocities in their home country of Ukraine, which they fled at the beginning of the war (Ashion). This day was really a gift to me.
The RIAS experience is invaluable. I came back to Washington D.C. a proud ambassador of the program and I will be thrilled to share my experience with other journalists and encourage them to apply.
I want to send a very special thank you to Erik Kirschbaum for leading us on this amazing trip and connecting us with so many important Europeans. And also for forcing us to mingle with RIAS alumni in Germany. Seriously, the best forced interaction I have ever experienced. Also thank you to Melissa and Christina for herding ALL the cats on this trip and every other. You two are magicians!

Matthew Gregory, WUSA9, Washington, D.C.
After two years of false starts and several waves of COVID, the RIAS 2022 June Fellowship was worth the wait. We found ourselves thrown into the middle of a historic time as European allies grappled with the war in Ukraine. The situation had turned politics on its head. The halls of NATO and EU buzzed with activity and old alliances began to wake to face the Russian threat in the East. A large number of German politicians-Greens in particular-called for a military build up, the likes of which Germany hasn’t seen in its post-World War II existence. While German leadership waffled on how to handle the defense of Europe. There we were, in the middle of it all. I don’t know if past RIAS groups got to experience the level of access and activity we did. While it felt unprecedented, it also matched an unprecedented time. The ‘background briefings’ at NATO and the EU gave insight into which direction the old alliances are moving in order to deal with Russian aggression. RIAS peppered in talks with journalists who cover these institutions to give color to the information we were given.
In Germany we saw how our European counterparts have approached this new paradigm of ‘Europe At War.’ In all RIAS Fellowships there is the interesting novelty in how German journalists do their jobs, but this was something different. We were watching them do their work as the ground shifted beneath them. Journalists from the public and private newsrooms talked about the rising challenges of covering Germany, as politicians try to find some even-ground for the war in Europe. At the same time, it was obvious the country and its journalists are still working towards a true ‘German identity.’
Around 30 years after unification, the country is still forging the new Germany. Questions of ethnicity, race, and representation continue to hum in the background. We sat down with activists and politicians who were born and raised in Germany, but still felt that a section of Germany does not accept them because of how they look. Their stories of overcoming adversity and optics were inspiring, but also disheartening. Germany, in a similar fashion to the United States, has a long way to go to forge an identity that includes all of its citizens. When I look back at RIAS June 2022, I can’t help but think we caught lightning in a bottle. We attended during a pivotal time in European and German history. We sat down with some of the most intelligent and cerebral journalists covering the new Europe. We spoke to refugees who have made their home in Germany. We did it as a highly functioning team. The group selected by the RIAS board worked like a newsroom. We leaned on each other for help and pushed each other for success. We hit our deadlines for every event-usually we showed up 5-10 minutes early.
However, unlike most newsrooms, we all got along. Each one of us fit something the group needed to succeed. The last day felt-to all of us- like the last day of camp. We came in as strangers, but we left a mark on each other. We marched across Brussels, Cologne, and Berlin in a small herd. All the while led by Erik Kirschbaum as he peppered in stories and context to the sites and stories we saw. I am terrible at networking, but I look forward to staying in touch with my RIAS 2022 Fellows because we worked on something monumental together.

Kevin King, Dakota News Now, Sioux Falls, SD
What an amazing two weeks! I don’t know if there is a better way for American journalists to learn more about the historic relationship between Germany and the United States. As a journalist, the program opened my eyes to German and European politics. The access we received during our program was amazing. From visits with high level officials at the European Union, NATO and the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, tours of some of the biggest media organizations in Germany, to meeting local journalists, this was trip unlike any other. I’m looking forward to going back to my newsroom and sharing what I’ve learned. Anyone who is able should apply for this amazing fellowship. It will not disappoint.

Pam Ortega, Freelance Radio/TV Journalist, Oklahoma City, OK
Back in 2018, RIAS was my introduction to Europe and Germany. Four years later, the program exceeded my expectations. I spent two weeks with 9 of the most dynamic, intelligent and versatile journalists in the industry, that I now call friends. As an immigration journalist and researcher, my favorite part of the program was the incorporation of refugees and migration issues, including the tour of Syrian and Turkish neighborhoods, and talks by politicians of migrant backgrounds. From visiting the EU, to speaking with various politicians to knocking it out of the ballpark at karaoke, these 9 are truly the best the industry has to offer and I’m grateful for them and the work they do to uphold journalistic values.

Brandon Benavides, NBC4, Washington, D.C.
My first trip to Europe was more amazing than I imagined. I learned first hand information from officials at NATO Headquarters and the European Union in Brussels. That knowledge will help shape my future stories. From visiting the German Parliament to tv studios in Cologne and Berlin, I saw how journalists covered the news and used their resources. I recommend the RIAS Berlin Commission to anyone looking to expand their worldview. There is more in this world, than your hometown.

Katherine Bennett, CNN International, Atlanta, GA
I am thankful I was able to participate in the RIAS Berlin Commission transatlantic exchange program in June 2022. Our group’s visit to the European Union headquarters and NATO was my favorite experience during the program. I also enjoyed spending time meeting so many incredible and accomplished people along this journey, including my fellow American journalists, who became my friends. I would recommend RIAS to any journalist seeking a rigorous (and fun) professional development experience.

 

Scott Neuman, NPR, Washington, D.C.
It would be difficult to imagine a better journalistic introduction to German and European politics and foreign policy than the RIAS Berlin program. As a group, we enjoyed unique access to high-level diplomats and politicians. Highlights included briefings at the headquarters of NATO and the European Union in Brussels that came at a pivotal time in history. Having the opportunity to discuss these momentous events with fellow journalists was equally valuable. RIAS was an incredible and unforgettable experience!

 

Andrea Gutierrez, NPR, Los Angeles, CA
Since studying in Germany in college, I have been looking forward to returning in a professional capacity. RIAS gave me the chance to learn and grow as a journalist not only through meetings with government and agency officials, but also with journalists in Belgium and Germany, as well as within our mighty crew of US-based journalists. I am glad to join the ranks of RIAS alums in the US and Germany.

 

And a few words from our Executive Director about this particular program:

Despite the newfound challenges of trying to schedule meetings with NATO, EU and German newsmakers and policymakers short after a war in Europe broke out and the Covid-19 pandemic continues to mess up the best of plans, the first RIAS Berlin Commission exchange program for professional American broadcast journalists to Europe since 2019 turned out to be a tremendous success. All of a sudden, just shortly before the program began, the skies opened up and guest speakers began lining up to talk to our talented collection of senior American broadcast journalists from across the United States – Utah, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Georgia, New York, Washington DC and Los Angeles. It was one of the most ambitious RIAS programs in Germany in many years with nearly 40 appointments in 12 days but also one of the most enlightening ever.
-Erik Kirschbaum, Executive Director RIAS Berlin Commission, Berlin


June 18, 2022

American journalists visit Brussels, Cologne & Berlin on fellowship

Ten American broadcast journalists from Atlanta to Salt Lake City and from Oklahoma City to New York City spent two weeks on a whirlwind RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship, learning a lot about Germany, NATO and the European Union at a time of crisis over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Americans were able to talk to senior policymakers, leading journalists, activists, refugees, immigrants and political experts in all three cities during the first standard RIAS exchange program to Europe since before the pandemic in 2019.

The fast-paced and exhaustive program began in Brussels on June 6 with  meetings with such luminaries as journalist Teri Schultz (NPR, Deutsche Welle), senior NATO policymakers from the United States, the UK, Slovakia, and Croatia who talked about the crisis in Ukraine as well as the bids to join NATO from Finland and Sweden. They also met European Commission figures such as Haydn Schofield, Frederic d’Hondt, Stefan de Keersmaecher, and Peter Stango, the foreign affairs policy spokesman on EU support for Ukraine.

In Cologne the Americans were treated to a riveting talk with WDR program director and leading journalist Jörg Schönenborn, RTL anchor Charlotte Maihoff and a Ukranian journalist, Karolina Ashion, who is now doing a daily news broadcast in Ukrainian on the NTV network’s social media channels. The Americans also met about 20 members of the Cologne alumni chapter at the Brauhaus Deutz before taking an early-morning train to Berlin — where they met a leading member of the SPD, Sawsan Chebli, and Politico’s Chief European Correspondent Matt Karnitschnig. They also met with about a dozen members of the Berlin alumni chapter.

After an illuminating Saturday morning stroll together with Syrian refugee Firas Zahkri of the Neukoelln neighborhoods that are overwhelmingly population by immigrants and the famous Sonnenallee avenue that is better known locally as Arabic Avenue and lunch at a famous Syrian restaurant, Aldimashqi, the Americans had an eye-opening visit to the Stasi prison in Hohenschönhausen where political prisoners were held in Communist East Germany.

ZDF anchor Mitri Sirin and RBB reporter Petra Gute enlightened the group about the differences between TV and radio journalism in Germany compared to the United States while political consultant Julius van de Laar, Rob Schmitz, the NPR correspondent in Berlin, and musician Andrej Hermlin were able to expand the horizons of the journalists with talks about life in Germany during a series of food-filled meetings at the famous Cafe Einstein. The Americans were able to visit the US Embassy in Berlin in the afternoon along with the Holocaust memorial before listening to a speech from Defense Minister Christina Lambrecht, who tried to defend Germany’s assistance to Ukraine despite criticism from Ukraine and the German media that it should be doing more.

The Americans got a lively tour of the Reichstag parliament building, its spectacular glass rooftop dome and its fascinating history — complete with Russian profanities scribbled on walls inside the parliament building by invading Soviet troops at the end of World War Two. They also had the chance to talk with Deutsche Welle’s director general Peter Limbourg and news director Max Hoffmann at DW headquarters in Wedding.

The Americans also enjoyed a spectacular evening with the famed German radio and TV personality Joerg Thadeusz and Anna Engelke, a journalist who has spent the last several years working as the spokeswoman for President Frank-Walter Steinmeier before returning to journalism this year.

After hearing so much about the opposition Alternative for Germany (AfD), an extreme right-wing party in Germany that all other parties have shunned, the Americans met with a senior member of the AfD in parliament — Beatrix von Storch. That was followed by a meeting with Tagesspiegel newspaper journalist Elisabeth Binder at the famous Berlin newspaper offices and a meeting at the Federal Press Office with deputy government spokesman, Wolfgang Büchner — the former editor of Der Spiegel news magazine.

The creator of the famous East Side Gallery open-air art exhibit on the East Side of the Berlin Wall, Kani Alavi, explained how the 1.3-km long project happened in early 1990 and how he has successfully fended off developers who would rather tear down one of the last remnants of the Berlin Wall to build apartments.

Deutschlandfunk correspondents Katharina Hamberger and Markus Pindur were able to shed light on their work at Germany’s most influential news radio station from the offices of the Bundespressekonferenz – a uniquely German room for news conferences where spokesmen and spokeswomen from all the ministries are invited to answer questions from the assembled capital press corps three times each week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The journalists also visited WeltTV, where editor-in-chief Jan Philipp Burgard talked about the all-news station and his time as a correspondent in the USA for the ARD network while joined by RIAS alumni Lena Mosel and Leonie von Randow.

Özcan Mutlu, a leading figure in the Greens party and leading voice in Germany’s increasingly influential Turkish community, gave the Americans a tour of the ethnic neighborhoods in Kreuzberg just south and west of where the Berlin Wall stood during the Cold War that have in the meantime turned in the new and vibrant heart of Berlin.

In Berlin, journalist Anna Noryskiewicz talked about her work as a journalist for CBS News before the Americans had the chance to savor an eye-opening and at-times emotional lunch with a group of 20 Ukrainian women and their children. 


June 6, 2022

RIAS Germany Standard Program starts in Brussels – June 6 -17, 2022

American RIAS fellows fresh off the airplane listen to Teri Schultz talking about NATO and life as a freelancer for NPR and Deutsche Welle in Brussels

Ten American broadcast journalists arrived in Brussels on Monday for the start of a two-week RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship in Belgium and Germany. The radio and TV journalists from Oklahoma, South Dakota, Georgia, Utah, California, New York and Washington DC will be learning more about NATO and the European Union in meetings with NATO officials, defense policy experts and the EU until taking a two-hour train ride to Cologne on Thursday for meetings with senior German broadcasting journalists at WDR TV, RTL TV and NTV all-news network before meeting with the Cologne alumni chapter on Thursday evening.

After that they will take a four-hour train ride across the country to Berlin early on Friday for a full week’s worth of meetings with political leaders, leading German and American journalists in Berlin, think tanks, political scientists, Turkish community leaders, refugees from Syria and Ukraine who have settled in Berlin, take a tour of the Reichstag parliament building and US embassy officials.

Teri Schultz

In Brussels, they got an introduction to NATO and life as a freelance foreign correspondent for NPR and Deutsche Welle from Teri Schultz, a RIAS alumni originally from New Mexico.

Schultz took part in a RIAS program in the late 1990s from New Mexico State University and ended up working in Finland for CNN. She later moved to Brussels and has carved out a niche as one of the most authoritative journalists covering NATO for Deutsche Welle and NPR.

The American journalists on the two-week RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship are:

 

Sheryl Worsley, News Director, KSL, Salt Lake City is Vice President ofpage1image27691456

Podcasting at Bonneville and KSL Podcasts in Salt Lake City, Utah. Worsley spent ”20 years in radio as a news director before concentrating full-time on podcasts. She manages the production of 25 original podcasts, including the investigative true crime hit COLD. Worsley serves on the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) board of directors.

Omar Atia, WNBC New York, NY is is the 5 p.m. producer for WNBC-TV in

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New York City. A native New Yorker who still resides in Brooklyn, he started his career at NY1, a local TV news outlet in NYC, and has earned several prestigious honors, including a 2017 NY Press Club award and the 2021 duPont-Columbia University award for WNBC’s COVID-19 pandemic coverage.

Esther Ciammachilli, WAMU, Washington, D.C. is the local host of Morning

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Edition on WAMU 88.5. Ciammachilli presents local news updates from the WAMU and D.C. news team, along with feature stories and conversations with newsmakers from around the Washington, D.C. region. She is a fan of sports and has won several regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for her coverage of sports-related stories.

Kevin King, Dakota News Now, Sioux Falls, SD is the News Director at Dakota News Now (KSFY/KDLT) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Before moving to

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South Dakota, he was a newscast producer at KWCH in Wichita, Kansas, KSDK in St. Louis, and KTVT in Dallas/Fort Worth. He is a past president of the Midwest Broadcast Journalists Association. He currently serves as a regional vice president for the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Brandon Benavides, NBC4, Washington, D.C. works as a content producer at NBC4 in Washington, D.C. He has field produced Emmy Award-winning broadcasts and teaches journalism at Georgetown University and the University of Maryland. His interest in supporting diversity in media led him to serve as

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president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (2016-2018), and he is on the board ofSAG-AFTRA Washington – Mid-Atlantic Local. He graduated from American University with a Master of Arts in Communication: Journalism and   Affairs, and earned his Bachelor of Arts from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.

Matthew Gregory, WUSA9, Washington, D.C. is a Washington, D.C.-based reporter for WUSA9-the CBS affiliate. His career began as a sports producer in Baltimore for Wpage1image27692496BAL. His news-reporting career began at WTHI-TV in Terre Haute, Indiana, and then moved back across the country to report at WAVY-TV in Norfolk, Virginia. He has a special interest in crime & justice reporting, as well as tech and finance. He runs his own finance podcast called “Funance.

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Andrea Gutierrez, NPR, Los Angeles, CA is a radio producer in Los Angeles and on the NPR podcast “It’s Been a Minute“. She has also worked on “Planet Money”. Her work has also appeared on “Code Switch”, “Alt.Latino”, “All Things Considered” and “Up First”. Her work has received awards and honors from the Podcast Academy, LA Press Club, NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the International Women’s Media Foundation. Gutierrez has a bachelor’s degree in German at Scripps College and MFA in creative nonfiction at the University of California, Riverside.

Scott Neuman, NPR, Washington, D.C. is a writer and editor for NPR, based in Washington, D.C. He focuses mainly on digital platforms, writing breaking

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news and features. Previously, he worked as a Hong Kong-based editor and correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and as an editor at the Asia Desk of the Associated Press in Bangkok. He also worked in South Asia for United Press International.

Katherine Bennett, CNN International, Atlanta, GA is a news writer for CNN International and is based in Atlanta. She has worked for CNN since 2000

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with career highlights there including an Emmy Award for 9/11 coverage, duPont-Columbia University Award for news coverage of Tsunami Disaster in South Asia, Peabody Award for news coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. She shares all of these awards with the CNN Newsgroup.

Pam Ortega, Freelance Radio/TV Journalist, Oklahoma City, OK is a freelance journalist in Oklahoma City and a researcher for the Center for

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Comparative Immigration Studies with UC-San Diego. She holds a master’s degree in Latin American Studies from UC-San Diego and bachelor’s degrees in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. She has worked with CNN, POLITICO, Bloomberg and ProPublica. Ortega has a special interest in immigration and spent time researching asylum in Southern California and in rural Georgia.


June 6, 2022

Good time had by all at annual RIAS Berlin Commission alumni party 

A good time was had by all — that was once again the motto at the annual RIAS Berlin Commission party for alumni on June 3, 2022 at the Pusteblume beer garden and restaurant across the street from the famous RIAS building in Berlin’s Schoeneberg quarter.
About 65 #RIASBerlin alumni and applicants for future program gathered first for  for an illuminating panel discussion with RIAS media prize winners Clare Toeniskoetter, Jan Philipp Burgard and Ingo Zamperoni about their prizewinning stories. The American and German journalists offered candid observations about their work and about the differences between journalism practices in the United States and Germany as well as the differences between the commercial networks in Germany and the powerful public broadcast stations.
Also joining the meeting in the courtyard of the RIAS building was a group of 10 American college students from the University of Miami-Ohio taking part in a summer exchange program in Europe under the guidance of RIAS alumni Rosemary Pennington.
After the hour-long panel discussion, the group migrated across the street from the historic RIAS building that is now the home of Deutschlandradio to the venerable Pusteblume restaurant/beer Garten for another rousing alumni reunion that didn’t want to end. A good time was had by all.

June 6, 2022

Impressions from the RIAS Media Prize Awards ceremony 


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June 5, 2022

Claudia Roth speech at the RIAS Media Prize Awards ceremony 

Germany’s Culture Minister Claudia Roth, who is the honorary co-chairwoman of the RIAS Berlin Commission along with Ambassador Amy Gutmann of the United States, gave a riveting speech on June 2 at the RIAS Media Prize Awards Ceremony. Roth, a member of parliament in the Greens party, paid tribute to the history of the RIAS radio and TV (Radio in American Sector) — as well as the American-style swing dance band playing, the Swingin’ Hermlins.  The RIAS Berlin Commission was created 30 years ago by the German and United States’ governments as a non-profit binational organization to keep alive the spirit of the Cold War-era broadcasting company. RIAS went off the air after the peaceful conclusion of the East-West confrontation during the Cold War and some

historians said RIAS played a role in helping to overcome those divisions.

“I am glad to be here tonight, even if only as a fleeting guest. But I certainly did not want to miss the moment to congratulate the award winners, to thank you for your work, which is so important for democracy, and to introduce myself to the Commission, of which I am now the honorary chair – together with you, dear Amy, which I am particularly looking forward to.

If something has grown, it is because it has taken root. This is also true for institutions from time to time. They grow together with the task and the people for whom they were made. They become indispensable. RIAS, the radio station in the American sector, was such an institution, more than a medium in the Cold War and more than a radio station. RIAS was, no, RIAS is a Berliner.

For a Berliner whom the Berliners themselves have chosen to be a Berliner is immortal. For that there are – Ernst Reuter, Marlene Dietrich, Willy Brandt, David Bowie – not many, but some role models!

So today we are not only celebrating the winners of the RIAS Media Prize. We are celebrating the idea that has remained: “A free voice of the free world”. This is what the RIAS-Berlin Commission was founded for 30 years ago. It has worked for this in three decades, with exchange programs and fellowships, with encounters, discussions and friendships.

We have reason to celebrate this idea. We should celebrate it, in the great contributions of the laureates! We should celebrate it, because a free voice in a free world is the condition for our democratic culture.

And for this very reason we should defend it where it is threatened – there is also reason to do so. Because thinking about the freedom of the word at all is a challenge at this time. The word itself is free; it gives everyone who uses it the freedom to use it as he pleases. Lying, too, is not subject to any fundamental prohibition.

That is why, I think, it has rarely been more important than today to understand how propaganda works. I deliberately do not say how it “functions,” because it works in very different ways, it is nimble, it works with the means of its time. It is a tactician. And if it works with supposedly clumsy means, that doesn’t mean that the technique it uses is also clumsy.

In our post-postmodern world, which is so confusing and complex, in which for so long one crisis follows another, one catastrophe follows another, it is not a matter of putting a lie into the world and then reproducing it again and again.
The propaganda we are confronted with today works with countless half-truths, with different versions of one and the same story. And this cacophony has only one goal: to make us believe that we cannot know anything, that no source can be trusted. We are supposed to distrust each other.

That’s why the work of journalists, is your work so important, indeed so absolutely indispensable. It is you who inquire, who question, who use your knowledge and experience to tell us what is happening and to classify what is difficult to understand.

Journalists are fallible too, yes. But to declare them lemmings in the mainstream follows exactly the intention I just described. The intention of fomenting distrust. Because without trustworthy reporting and commentary, we remain disoriented in a globalized world with so many crises. Without trust, there can be no democracy.

RIAS was also distrusted. I quote: “But you were an American-funded program. Was there freedom of speech?” Egon Bahr, editor-in-chief of RIAS in 1953, was asked by Deutschlandfunk Kultur in 2006. Or was the “free” word dictated to the station in the end?

Bahr replied that his colleagues at German stations envied him. I quote, “You can say whatever you want at RIAS; we have to be considerate of our supervisory bodies.” The only restriction, Bahr said, was that “we were not allowed to say that the American president is an idiot.”

In the time of its existence, RIAS had no occasion to do so.

We hear lies and half-truths in many languages, Russian, Chinese, even German and American English. But the idiom is the same: an inhuman and democracy-despising “Putinesisch” and “Trumpistisch”!

We have the duty to defend free voices for a free world.

And we want to do it. We want to do it directly and unbureaucratically by facilitating the entry and stay in Germany of persecuted and fled journalists, cultural workers and scientists from Russia and Belarus together and in coordination with the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of the Interior. It is these voices that we hope for. And it is these free voices that we can hope for.

And we want to do that. We want to do it directly and unbureaucratically by making it easier for persecuted and fugitive journalists, cultural workers and scientists from Russia and Belarus to enter and stay in Germany, together and in coordination with the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of the Interior. It is these voices that we hope for. And it is these free voices that we can hope for.

That’s why I want to put this topic on the agenda of the G7 Conference of Media Ministers in Bonn. We have to agree on it, because the propaganda war, like the real, cruel and brutal war against Ukraine, threatens democracies as forms of state and society – not only where there is already shooting. It threatens the free world.

In conclusion, I want to pick out just one of the many historical moments that RIAS not only reported on, but in which it itself made history. And I want to use it to remind ourselves of our duty not to abandon people who are being forced to give up their freedom and independence.

We ourselves, this city, were once in such a situation. The fate of 2.2 million Berliners depended on the help of the Americans, on their willingness not to give up the free part of Berlin. RIAS broadcast from the beginning of the blockade until its end, to which it contributed.

Today we have the duty to stand by the people of Ukraine.

Thank you all very much!


June 3, 2022

Successful restart for RIAS Media Prize Awards ceremony in Berlin

After a two-year absence due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the RIAS Media Prize Awards ceremony returned to the big stage in Berlin on Thursday with 17 prize winners from 2020, 2021 and 2022 being honored at a gala celebration moderated by Petra Gute in central Berlin. Below is a collection of pictures from the ceremony with keynote speakers Ambassador Amy Gutmann and Culture Minister Claudia Roth along with journalists and friends of RIAS who attended the anniversary event at the Französicher Dom in the heart of Berlin.


June 3, 2022

Gutmann, Roth pay tribute to RIAS at Media Prize ceremony 

USA Ambassador to Germany Amy Gutmann, RIAS Berlin Commission honorary co-chairwoman

American Ambassador Amy Gutmann and German Culture Minister Claudia Roth paid tribute to the history of the RIAS (Radio in American Sector) radio and tv broadcast network based in West Berlin as a beacon of democracy and the “voice of the free world” that millions of Germans in Communist East Germany and West Berlin listened to during the Cold War-era — in speeches at a gala RIAS Media Commission awards ceremony moderated by Petra Gute in Berlin on Thursday evening in front of an audience of 200.

The two honorary chairwomen of the German-American RIAS Berlin Commission, which was founded 30 years ago to keep alive the spirit of the famous radio and TV station, both drew parallels between the war in Ukraine and its suppression of free speech and a free press to the decades-long work of RIAS in helping to overcome the Cold War divisions of Europe from the late 1940s through the end of the era with the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 — which precipitated the reunification of Germany less than a year later and the winding down of RIAS in 1993.

Culture Minister Claudia Roth, RIAS Berlin Commission honorary co-chairwoman

“As history shows, even in the most closed-down societies, ultimately one of the most difficult things for a tyrant to suppress is freedom of speech and the truth — it will get out,” Gutmann said in her address to the gathering of journalists, award-winners, board members and other dignitaries at the in the Französicher Dom in central Berlin.

“That the truth will get out  is documented by the story of RIAS. Throughout the Cold War, RIAS was a thorn in the side of the government of the GDR (German Democratic Republic) and of the Soviet Union. Why? Because it was a source of honest news. It was also a source of great jazz, as you heard today, and great popular music. And some people tuned in for the music but they also heard the honest news. Millions of listeners in the east and west tuned in, yes for jazz and rock ‘n roll and entertainment and that also is important, but also for the truth. There was a crack in the wall. The journalists at RIAS helped to make history. They were always there, reporting live for all to hear. Let me tell you that is not only history, but that certainly is part of my personal history. Were it not for RIAS, were it not for the cracks in the wall, I would not be here to be standing here today.

Gutmann, whose father fled from his German hometown of Feuchtwangen at the the start of the Nazi-era as a 17-year-old 85 years ago, also paid tribute to the 17 RIAS Berlin Commission prize winners, who were selected by an independent German-American jury from competitions in 2020, 2021 and 2022.  The gala ceremony had been postponed in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gutmann also said she was pleased to tell her German counterpart as honorary chairwoman of RIAS Berlin Commission, Claudia Roth, that the United States is doing all it can to restore and improve relations with Germany. She said it was important for the two countries to remain close allies. Gutmann also returned to the theme of journalism, saying a free press and free speech were vital for democracy. She called journalists “champions of democracy” who should never lose sight that responsible journalism help to build civilian and free societies.

“It is a great honor for me to be here…and so it is a great honor to join Claudia and be part of this wonderful profession, reporting on issues that matter for people on both sides of the Atlantic, and to say to you all, as President Biden has said: America is back. We are back with our German allies. And we are really honored and proud and I am personally honored ad proud to be here so thank you for that.”

June 2, 2022

Media Prize ceremony features on “Abendschau” local news broadcast

The 2022 RIAS Media Prize awards ceremony on June 2 was featured in the RBB Abendschau news program on Thursday evening. Brief excerpts of keynote speeches from Ambassador Amy Gutmann of the United States and State Secretary Claudia Roth of the German government were included in the 35-second news segment of Berlin’s leading news show on Thursday evening that was aired before the ceremony even finished.

You can see the news clip on this website. The story on the RIAS awards ceremony moderated by Petra Gute begins at the 29-second mark and runs to the 1:05-minute mark., https://www.rbb-online.de/abendschau/videos/20220602_1930/nachrichten_zwei.html

RIAS Berlin Commission celebrated its 30-year-anniversary with the first media prize awards ceremony since 2019 on Thursday. Both Gutmann and Roth are honorary chairwomen of the RIAS Berlin Commission, a German-American exchange program for broadcast journalists created 30 years ago with the goal of keeping alive the spirit of the RIAS Radio and TV broadcaster after they went off the air following the end of the Cold War.

The Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel published a story last week about the 30th anniversary of the RIAS Berlin Commission as well — noting that RIAS Berlin Commission was one of several institutions created in Berlin in the early 1990s after the end of the Cold War amid hopes in the once-divided German capital of cementing an American presence even after some 10,000 Allied troops who defended West Berlin’s freedom during the Cold War departed in 1992.

Here is a link to the story in Der Tagesspiegel: https://www.tagesspiegel.de/berlin/30-jaehriges-bestehen-der-rias-medienpreisverleihung-journalisten-in-berlin-fuer-beitrag-zur-deutsch-amerikanischen-verstaendigung-geehrt/28377662.html

 


June 1, 2022

Gutmann, Roth to speak at RIAS Media Prize awards ceremony

Ambassador Amy Gutmann of the United States and State Secretary Claudia Roth of the German government will be the featured speakers at the 30th anniversary celebration of the Berlin RIAS Commission moderated by Petra Gute on Thursday evening in Berlin. Both are honorary chairwomen of the RIAS Berlin Commission, a German-American exchange program for broadcast journalists created 30 years ago with the goal of keeping alive the spirit of the RIAS Radio and TV broadcaster after they went off the air following the end of the Cold War.

Französicher Dom cathedral

The RIAS Media Prizes are awarded each year for outstanding broadcast stories aired in the United States or Germany that touch on transatlantic issues. The ceremony was last held in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic but juries continued to pick winners in 2020, 2021 and 2022 — all of whom will be honored on Thursday evening at a ceremony at the Französischer Dom in central Berlin. All of the winning entries from those three years have been reposted here on the www.riasberlin.org website.

About 180 guests are expected for the ceremony that will also pay tribute to 30 years of RIAS Berlin Commission exchange programs. Nearly 1,800 journalists have taken part in the one- to three-week long fellowship in each other’s countries — 900 Americans and 900 Germans. Many of the top broadcast journalists in both Germany and the United States have taken part in RIAS fellowships or have won the RIAS Media Prize — including Bill Whitaker, Claus Kleber, Peter Kloeppel, Tom Buhrow, Ingo Zamperoni and Jan-Phillipp Burgard.

The first 60 minutes of Thursday’s ceremony will be livestreamed on the Facebook page of the American Swing Dance Band that will be playing music for the first 30 minutes and then throughout the evening. Please see Andrej Hermlin’s Facebook page starting at 6 pm CET (1200 EST) to follow the introductory music and speeches from Amy Gutmann and Claudia Roth.

Französicher Dom cathedral

For more information about the RIAS Berlin Commission or the fellowship, please write info@riasberlin.org


 

June 1, 2022

Faltin wins RIAS TV prize for story on GIs in post-war West Germany 

Sigrid Faltin won the RIAS Media Prize Best TV award in 2022 for her report on the history of the lives of African American soldiers stationed in West Germany in the early decades after World War II who were living alongside and with West Germans called “Ein Hauch von Amerika – die Doku“ or “A Touch of America — the documentary film”. It was a documentary film that was broadcast at the end of a fictionalized four part-series about a small West Germany town near a major US military base after the war and during the early years of the Cold War. It aired on December 21, 2021. The documentary explored the racism that American GIs sometimes experienced in the small West German towns.

This is what the jury had to say about her story: Just when it seemed that just about everything was already known about the post-war history of American GIs in West Germany, Sigrid Faltin and her colleagues have delivered a stirring, fascinating and at times even disturbing look into little-known aspects about life in small West German towns after the United States armed forces arrived — first as occupation forces and then as allies during the Cold War. The documentary uses archival footage and interviews with women who fell in love with and had children with American soldiers to explore their special hardships.

Here is a link to her story: https://www.ardmediathek.de/video/ein-hauch-von-amerika/ein-hauch-von-amerika-dokumentation-s01-e07/das-erste/Y3JpZDovL2Rhc2Vyc3RlLmRlL2Vpbi1oYXVjaC12b24tYW1lcmlrYTEvOTdmNjE5MzctZDk1Zi00MzA0LWJlZmEtYzhmNzUzNGJhOTY5

The binational RIAS Berlin Commission jury was made up of five distinguished journalists from the United States and Germany: Co-chair Michael Gargiulo (WNBC TV, New York, USA), Co-chair Anja Heyde (ZDF/MDR, Berlin/Magdeburg, Germany), Helge Fuhst (ARD, Hamburg, Germany), Yami Virgin (Fox 29, San Antonio, Texas, USA), Christian Wilp (NTV/RTL, Berlin, Germany), Melissa Eddy (The New York Times, Berlin, USA)

The RIAS Berlin Commission is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The RIAS Media Prize ceremony will be held for the first time since in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the annual awards ceremony in 2020 and 2021. An independent jury of journalists continued to pick winners in the television, radio and digital categories for German-American exchange program.


May 31, 2022

Moving Balzer story on NY emerging from pandemic wins Fellow Prize

Vladimir Balzer, a radio journalist at Deutschlandradio and RIAS alumni, won the RIAS Media Prize for best fellow award in 2022 for his story on New York City’s emergence from the difficult times in the Covid-19 pandemic called: “New York is züruck — eine Stadt befreit sich aus der Pandemic” (New York is back – a city liberates itself from the pandemic).

Balzer, who is one of the alumni chapter leaders in Berlin, worked on the story during a RIAS Berlin Commission short-program for alumni in October 2021 with about 30 other alumni from Germany on a special one-week program. It aired on November 8, 2021 on Deutschlandfunk’s prime-time morning news show listened to by millions of Germans every morning.

This is what the jury had to say about his story: In his riveting story about New York City gradually coming back to life after the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic, Vladimir Balzer takes Deutschlandfunk listeners on a heart-warming tour of the city that is so hungry for a return to normalcy in the fall of 2021 just before the United States reopened its gates for visitors from the European Union. Important voices through illuminating interviews with idled Broadway actors, American journalists stuck working only from home, badly ailing 9/11 heroes, and lonely Germans stranded in Manhattan are included in this short-but-sweet journalistic masterpiece put together during a RIAS fellowship program.

https://www.deutschlandfunkkultur.de/usa-lockert-einreisebeschraenkungen-new-york-ist-zurueck-100.html

The RIAS Berlin Commission is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The RIAS Media Prize ceremony will be held for the first time since in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the annual awards ceremony in 2020 and 2021. An independent jury of journalists continued to pick winners in the television, radio and digital categories for German-American exchange program.


May 31, 2022

Deutschlandfunk story on NY in pandemic times wins Radio Prize

Thomas Reintjes and Matthias Röckl won the RIAS Media Prize for best radio story award in 2022 for their story on New York City’s struggles to cope with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic called: “Fear of Losing New York – Auf der Suche nach einer verschwundenen Stadt“ that was aired on Deutschlandfunk and SWR on March 16, 2021.

Here is what the jury said about their story: After Covid-19 shut down the city that never sleeps, left its normally vibrant Broadway theaters dark, forced the myriad of small shops and its famously rich variety of restaurants into a fight for survival, journalists Thomas Reintjes and Matthias Röckl went out with a recording device to explore and describe New York  in a touching, moving and memorable way. Their story “Fear of Losing New York” is a remarkable piece of radio journalism that uses creative techniques and informal spontaneous discussions to paint a picture of a city that is reeling.

Here is a link to their story: https://www.hoerspielundfeature.de/auf-der-suche-nach-einer-verschwundenen-stadt-fear-of-100.html

The RIAS Berlin Commission is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The RIAS Media Prize ceremony will be held for the first time since in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the annual awards ceremony in 2020 and 2021. An independent jury of journalists continued to pick winners in the television, radio and digital categories for German-American exchange program.

 


May 30, 2022

The Daily from NYT wins RIAS Prize for series on far right in Germany

Katrin Bennhold, Clare Toeniskoetter and a team of journalists at The Daily, a podcast at The New York Times, won the RIAS Media Prize for best digital award in 2022 for their five-part series “Day X” on far-right infiltration in the German military that was aired between May 28 and June 24, 2021. The jury was impressed with the series and praised The Daily team for the “powerful series” of podcasts that also became the basis for a series of articles in The New York Times. Bennhold was the host, while Toeniskoetter was the senior producer along with her fellow senior producers Lynsea Garrison and Kaitlin Roberts. The series was edited by Larissa Anderson and Mike Benoist.

Here’s what the jury said about the series: Making the most of its cutting-edge style of podcast journalism and its profound investigative prowess, The Daily has put together a powerful series of stories that sheds light on a secretive nationwide network of far-right extremists who were operating under the radar inside Germany’s military and police forces. The series of stories that also served as the basis of newspaper articles in The New York Times is a sterling example of outstanding investigative journalism.  

The RIAS Berlin Commission is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The RIAS Media Prize ceremony will be held for the first time since in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the annual awards ceremony in 2020 and 2021. An independent jury of journalists continued to pick winners in the television, radio and digital categories for German-American exchange program.

1, Shadow Army?: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/28/podcasts/the-daily/day-x-part-1-shadow-army.html

2, In the Stomach: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/03/podcasts/day-x-franco-a-german-extremism.html

3, Blind Spot 2.0: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/10/podcasts/day-x-germany-neo-nazi-franco-a.html

4, Franco A: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/16/podcasts/franco-a-trial-germany-terrorism.html

5, Defensive Democracy: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/24/podcasts/franco-a-trial-afd-germany.html


May 29, 2022

Deutsche Welle wins RIAS Digital Prize for hard look at US sports

Deutsche Welle’s Janek Speight won the 2021 RIAS Media Prize award for best digital story for his thought-provoking comparison of US professional leagues vs European professional soccer, and puts forward an interesting argument: “Why US sports are more socialist than European football.”

The jury praised Speight: “He 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.”

The RIAS Berlin Commission is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The RIAS Media Prize ceremony will be held for the first time since in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the annual awards ceremony in 2020 and 2021. An independent jury of journalists continued to pick winners in the television, radio and digital categories for German-American exchange program.



May 27, 2022

Burgard wins inaugural RIAS Media “Grand Prize” in 2022

Jan Phillip Burgard, the editor-in-chief of WeltTV and a prolific German author of books about the United States, won the 2022 “Grand Prize” of the RIAS Berlin Commission for his moving story of a German family whose son was killed in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and their connection with their son’s now-20-year-old son — who never met his father. The story also chronicles the family’s fight to have a memorial in Germany for the numerous German victims of the 9/11 attacks — a tireless effort that ultimately leads to the installation of a piece of the World Trade Center steel being displayed as a memorial for the German victims in the courtyard of the US Embassy in Berlin. Burgard was a Washington, DC correspondent for the ARD news network from 2016 to 2021.

The RIAS Berlin Commission is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The RIAS Media Prize ceremony will be held for the first time since in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the annual awards ceremony in 2020 and 2021. An independent jury of journalists continued to pick winners in the television, radio and digital categories for German-American exchange program.

 


May 23, 2022

RIAS Media Prize – Michael Groth from Deutschlandradio

In 2021, the RIAS Media Prize Jury honored Michael Groth for his series of outstanding in-depth features on music in the United States for more than 15 years at Deutschlandradio/Deutschlandfunkkultur. His entry in the 2021 competition “Songs of Love and Protest – the return of political songs in the USA” was a splendid long-form story that epitomized Groth’s work spanning more than a decade to inform Germans about trends in American music. Here is his report “Songs of Love and Protest – Wiederkehr des politischen Liedes in den USA“ that aired on October 30: https://www.deutschlandfunkkultur.de/die-wiederkehr-des-politischen-liedes-in-den-usa-songs-of.3780.de.html?dram:article_id=486565

The RIAS Media Prize ceremony will be held for the first time since in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the annual awards ceremony in 2020 and 2021. An independent jury of journalists continued to pick winners in the television, radio and digital categories for German-American exchange program.


May 22, 2022

RIAS Media Prize “Next Generation Prize” in 2021

The RIAS Media Prize Jury created a special new category for the 2021 Media Prize Competition — The “Next Generation Prize”. It was awarded to Anna Ellmann and Maximilian Osenstätter of Bayerischer Rundfunk for their News WG – series of Instagram stories about political issues for BR (Bayerischer Rundfunk) https://www.instagram.com/news_wg/channel/?hl=de

The RIAS Media Prize ceremony will be held for the first time since in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the annual awards ceremony in 2020 and 2021. An independent jury of journalists continued to pick winners in the television, radio and digital categories for German-American exchange program.


May 21, 2022

RIAS Media Prize best radio story 2020 – Wiebke Keuneke

Wiebke Keuneke won the RIAS Media Prize for best radio in 2020 for her story “Jenseits des American Dream – deutsche Sozialarbeiter unterwegs in den USA“ that was aired on the SWR network. In this radio report she accompanied 12 Berlin social workers on their journey to Chicago and Detroit. She recorded the critical, often skeptical and sometimes shocked impressions that the encounters with the reality of American social work led to.

The RIAS Media Prize ceremony will be held in Berlin in early June for the first time since in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the annual awards ceremony in 2020 and 2021. An independent jury of journalists continued to pick winners in the television, radio and digital categories for German-American exchange program. A total of 17 winners from all three years 2020, 2021 and 2022 will be honored at the ceremony.


May 20, 2022

RIAS Media Prize Winners — Best Digital Video 2020 to NDR in Germany

David Diwiak and Han Park of youth-oriented NDR online-channel STRG_F won a RIAS Media Prize award in 2020 for the best Digital Video for their story that explored the growing market for and appeal of meat replacements, both natural and man-made. From its very first moments, the video report “Fleischersatz: Veggie vs. Labor?” captivated the independent jury with its energy and attitude.

Eating their way through many mouthfuls in the process, the team manages to shed light on the science, business, and ethics of cultured meat, as well as the differing views in Germany and the US when it comes to genetically modified foods. What starts as a humorous taste test quickly evolves into a well-thought out exploration of the current meat alternative offerings, and those soon to come via technological innovations. Interviews, animation, a deep dive into the Californian fake meat start-up scene, and other research are all used with excellent effect, leaving the jury hungry for more from this clever duo of young journalists.

The RIAS Media Prize Ceremony will be held in Berlin in early June for the first time since in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the annual awards ceremony in 2020 and 2021. An independent jury of journalists continued to pick winners in the television, radio and digital categories for German-American exchange program. A total of 17 winners from all three years 2020, 2021 and 2022 will be honored at the ceremony.


RIAS Media Prize Winners — Best Digital Video 2020 goes to NDR in Germany


May 19, 2022

RIAS Media Prize Winners: Whitaker and “60 Minutes” on prison reform

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CBS News’ “60 Minutes” and correspondent Bill Whitaker won the RIAS Media Prize once again in 2020 for their stirring report about prison reforms being enacted in Connecticut and how those reforms were inspired in part by looking across the Atlantic at Germany, the country’s treatment of prisoners and the emphasis placed on rehabilitation.

Below is a segment from the story aired in 2019 that the RIAS Media Prize Germany picked in 2020 as the Best TV story of the year. It was Whitaker’s second RIAS Media Prize in three years after a related story he did looking at German prisons won the 2017 RIAS Media Prize.

The RIAS Media Prize ceremony will be held in Berlin in early June for the first time since in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the annual awards ceremony in 2020 and 2021. An independent jury of journalists continued to pick winners in the television, radio and digital categories for German-American exchange program. A total of 17 winners from all three years 2020, 2021 and 2022 will be honored at the ceremony.

 

 


May 19, 2022

RIAS Media Prize Winners 2020-2022 — links to honored stories

The RIAS Media Prize Ceremony will be held in Berlin in early June for the first time since in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the annual awards ceremony in 2020 and 2021. Nevertheless, an independent jury of journalists continued to pick winners in the television, radio and digital categories for German-American journalism. A total of 17 winners from all three years 2020, 2021 and 2022 will be honored at the ceremony.

Here is the first in the series of winners that RIAS will be posting here on the www.riasberlin.org website. The 2019 report for several TV networks in Texas was done by Monica Quintero and David Wagner during their RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship, including interviews with far-right leaders such as Beatrix von Storch from the AfD party, Syrian refugee Faris Zakri, Deutsche Welle correspondent Frank Hoffmann, and New York Times correspondent Melissa Eddy. Their story won the “Best Fellow Award” in 2020.


May 3, 2022

Washington DC alumni chapter meets Goethe Institut

The Washington DC alumni chapter of the RIAS Berlin Commission had a get-together with the Goethe Institut in Washington recently at which American journalists and some of the staff of the Goethe Institut had the chance to talk about a variety of issues.

From left: Sandra Adams, Andreas Ströhl, James Morrison, Elaine Miller, Larry Miller, Kathrin Engler, Matthew Friedman, Esther Ciammachilli of WAMU’s Morning Edition, Bill Gilcher, Verena Hütter, German artist Mischa Kuball, Amy Kardel and Timon Fleiter.

The group was welcomed for the rooftop gathering by Goethe Institut Director Andreas Ströhl and WUSA9 reporter/anchor Larry Miller — the RIAS Berlin Commission chapter leader in Washington DC.

Verena Hütter, Director of Information Services North America Goethe-Institut Washington, helped host the event with the RIAS alumni and said the event included a  “Learn German in 15 minutes class” with Goethe’s German teacher Paul Perterer — the lesson was a special treat for the American journalists.

A total of 15 people attended the Cultural Mixer.  Apart from the German lesson, it featured a thoughtful discussion regarding current news events, like the war in Ukraine and the mass, sniper style shooting that was happening in Northwest DC during the event itself.  Some of the journalists had to leave early to help cover the shooting. During their German lesson, the RIAS journalists learned small phrases and greetings like—“Where are you from? How do you feel?”
They also talked about the relationship between the German and English languages, how words in German are enunciated and the German alphabet.  What was fascinating to the Americans is how the instructor at Goethe taught German.  He focused on phrases first. He said they delve into grammar last. Their approach focuses first on speaking the language and then the rules.
“I’m really excited our first joint event went so well,” said Miller, who had to hurry back to his station to cover the breaking news story. “I think having a partner in Goethe-Institut Washington made the experience enjoyable and rewarding for everyone. I’m looking forward to planning our next event with Goethe-Institut in the fall. I think getting a taste of the German language really enhances our connections to Germany and RIAS.”
Miller added it was exciting to have Esther Ciammachilli of WAMU at the event because she will be joining a new group of fellows in Germany in June.  “As we look to enhance the alumni experience in DC, we feel it’s important that soon-to-be fellows and those interested in RIAS attend our events as well,” he said.  “It allows us to answer questions about the experience, discuss our plans as a chapter and provide support.”

“We had the very best time ever with our RIAS friends – amazing people and journalists who’ve been to Germany with RIAS or who will head to Germany with RIAS this year,” Hütter said. “Our dear RIAS friends are always welcome to join us on our rooftop terrace at the Goethe-Institut in Washington. After this unforgettable Happy Hour, my heart was full from all of the wonderful conversations with these extraordinary people who keep the German-American friendship strong.”

The Goethe Institut and the RIAS Berlin Commission have been working together in recent years on the Big Ponder series. RIAS alumni have been among the contributors to the award-winning podcast series. Please write to: info@riasberlin.org for more information on the Big Ponder.


April 15, 2022

Impressions from German Students on ERP Program to the United States

A group of 15 journalism students and young journalists took part in a newly created three-week fellowship to the United States in March and April. The students, 10 of whom were on their first trip to the United States, spent a week together in New York meeting with American journalists, local and state political leaders such as New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, political activists such as Black Lives Matter leader Chivone Newsome, newsmakers like best-selling author and former Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, community leaders, sports figures such as Jürgen Klinsmann and organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and its director Scott Richman that works to stop hate crimes.

The German journalists also visited the NBC, Bloomberg and Vice newsrooms, the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and the Hasidic Jewish section of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The German students, nine of whom are based in eastern Germany states, then visited eight different universities in the Midwest and Southwest for two weeks to learn more about journalism training and campus life in the heartland states of the United States: University of Oklahoma, Texas A&M, New Mexico State University, Arizona State University, Indiana University, Southern Illinois University, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and University of Minnesota.

The ERP program was created with support from the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany and was funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Economy and Energy (BMWi) Ministry. Here are the impressions of the three-week program from the students:

Lara Jäkel, Free University Berlin  (Texas A&M)

If I had to name one take-away from the countless impressions of the RIAS program, it would be the enormous diversity of the United States. During our meetings and conversations in New York, we learned about the different perspectives and ideas that each of the guest speakers like Black Lives Matter NYC founder Chivona Newsome or former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen brought to the table. Along the way, we explored many parts of the city – from Harlem to the Hasidic Jewish quarter in Brooklyn – getting a sense of their very own history and characteristics. These experiences alone would have been enough to talk about for weeks – but the program had only just started. Leaving the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple behind, a nine-hour trip took me to College Station, Texas. Compared to New York, things couldn’t have been more different: Not to reinforce clichés, but the first thing I heard at the airport was actually “Howdy”, spoken by a man wearing a cowboy hat. There is not a single building that is higher than three stories in College Station, and don’t hold your breath waiting for public transport… What fascinated me most about the town, though, was the sense of community emanating from this place and its residents. From celebrating their (very successful) sports teams to gene-modifying carrots to make them maroon (Texas A&M’s signature color) instead of orange, the “Aggies” are definitely serious about their school spirit. And even in this seemingly small and homogenous place, the opinions I heard ranged from die-hard conservatism to liberal and progressive views. Considering that I have only been to two of the 50 + 1 states, this at least gives a hint at how much diversity can be found in the United States.

Daniel Heyd, ntv/RTL Journalism School  (University of Oklahoma)                                     It was an indescribably eventful time. Three weeks full of impressions and one highlight followed the next every day. When I think back, it is unbelievable what was on the program, how many interesting spots and people were visited and how many exciting conversations were held. Sometimes it was lunch with Michael Cohen, then visits to the editorial offices of ARD from Bloomberg and Vice. The first five days in New York already provided a very detailed insight into the media landscape of the USA and the mentality of the people. Then it was off to Oklahoma and the impressions overflowed. Seminars at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, trips to the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, an afternoon with the homicide squad in Tulsa, a meeting with the mayor of Oklahoma City, a visit to a regional high school and various meetings with local journalists at their TV stations. Oklahoma impressed me not only because of its indescribable hospitality, but also because of its diversity. The people, the history, the landscape and the culture were brought closer to me from day to day. A detailed insight into the Midwest that I would never have gotten either as a tourist or as a journalist. It was in all an indescribable time. Every day I spent in the U.S., whether on the East Coast or in the Midwest, brought me closer to the local people, broadened my horizons tremendously, and helped me learn about and better understand the country. I will forever be grateful to RIAS for this opportunity and becoming part of the RIAS network through it. The program and the contacts made will have a great impact on my personal and professional life – if they haven’t already.

Emma Matthea Lübbert, University of Leipzig  (University Wisconsin-Oshkosh)

The first thing I did after arriving back in Germany was look up flights to New York City. Although the RIAS experience left me speechless, all I could think about was going back. From the VIP tour of the Empire State Building to visits at VICE, CBS, Bloomberg and ARD – our time in New York was even better than I imagined in the last two years. Every day was a new learning experience, mixed with fun in local bars and restaurants in the evenings. Even though getting up at 7 in the morning felt wrong on some days, every minute of the program was worth it and a once in a lifetime experience. We were blessed with amazing speakers all over the political spectrum and got a real insight in how journalism and politics work in the USA. Even though I was sad to leave the big apple, my time in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was just as enjoyable. Thanks to our amazing and lovely hosts – Joel Waldinger and Barb Benish – our experience in Wisconsin was a delightful experience. I will never forget my time in the states with RIAS.

 

Rieke Smit, University of Applied Sciences Magdeburg-Stendal                                          (New Mexico State University)

I’ve gained so much experience in a short amount of time that I’m still processing it. Talking about the past few weeks really makes you realize the insights we’ve had both in New York and at Station Week. After all, who can claim to have had breakfast with Michael Cohen for 2.5 hours, in the service of the Abyssinian Church personally welcomed by Reverend Dr. Butts, or speaking to “the voice of the subway” Charlie Pellett at Bloomberg.

The Station Week in particular has significantly broadened my view of the USA, which I visited for the first time with this program. Spending time in New Mexico, in a region that is shaped by the border with Mexico, showed me the everyday reality of a situation that the German media often only shows when there are problems. I also got to know a university course that produces live news shows that are as professional as some newsrooms in Germany. But what impressed me the most was the openness and friendliness with which we were greeted everywhere. We were able to ask any questions and always found a way to discuss things on an equal footing with our counterparts. The word exchange will be capitalized in what is expected to be a challenging program and being part of the RIAS network already feels like part of a global journalistic family. It was an impressive 22 days.

Adrian Liehr, University of Leipzig   (Indiana University)                   

After two years of hoping that the RIAS program could still take place after the corona-related cancellation in 2020, the time had finally come – for three weeks we were able to experience the USA from very different perspectives. In the first nine days, we got to know New York on a journalistic and political, but also on a social and cultural level. I count the conversations with Phil Murphy and Michael Cohen, the visit to the Broadway musical “Come from Away”, the evening harbor cruise and the visit to the church service in Harlem among my absolute highlights. Due to the abundance of appointments, I could go on with this list. I have become a fan of New York and would like to return there soon. The second part of the trip took me to Indiana University in Bloomington. There I had the opportunity to accompany the reporters of the local TV and radio station in their work and at the same time get a feel for life in the Midwest and the lifestyle there. This is very different from the omnipresent hustle and bustle of Manhattan. All the people I met were open and interested in me. The American hospitality and the sincere interest in my personal background and life in Germany were particularly noteworthy. This resulted in great conversations that I will remember for a long time. All in all, the time in the USA was an incredible experience that will leave a lasting impression on me. On the one hand, the three weeks felt far too short, but on the other hand, due to the many program points, I sometimes had the feeling that I had already been in the country for three months. The entire group also contributed to this, and this experience will be forever associated with them.A big thank you goes to the RIAS team and especially Erik Kirschbaum for organizing and making this special trip possible!

Marita Wehlus,  Deutsche Journalismus Schule Münich   (Indiana University)

The encounters with politicians, media professionals, activists and students that make up the RIAS program gave me a glimpse into the American reality that I will likely draw on for a long time. I got to see, in that one week in New York and the following two in Bloomington, Indiana, a country that is torn and traumatized and hopeful and relentlessly open. Hearing from Chivona Newsome (BLM New York) why, for her, the police will always be a racist institution gave me food for thought, as did Phil Murphy (Gov. of New Jersey), who made me feel for the first time how professionalized the demeanor of politicians in the U.S. is. There were so many moments in this program that showed me new perspectives. Seeing the life of a small, Democratic pinpoint of a town in Indiana, in the middle of a very red-voting state, was probably one of the most interesting. I saw students applaud Ann Coulter (right-wing author) while she described the “bloody, godless” French Revolution as the origin of liberalism. I sat across from a Democratic state senator who, despite being in the absolute minority, is trying to influence legislatures and asked me if I could explain to her how Trump happened in 2016. And I had the opportunity to speak with Dan Coats (Republican, retired senator), who spoke to students about how bipartisan collaboration no longer seems possible, how everything has become a war. Despite all this tension, there were also the magnificently talented journalists from WTIU/WFIU, who not only produce award-winning documentaries (I think in part because there are no longer police scanners in their newsroom to cover every blue light story), but are also a prime example of cross-media producing. The new generation of journalism students is no less impressive. And finally, it was an unforgettable experience above all because in almost every encounter I and we encountered critical reflection, but also a desire for debate and so much interest in our perspective.

 Sarah-Maria Köpf, Martin-Luther University  Halle-Wittenberg (Texas A&M)

Three weeks in the U.S. – one in New York, two in Texas – gave me an insight into the country and its media landscape that I would never have experienced without RIAS. After all, how often do you get the chance to meet the governor of New Jersey or talk to Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen? I was particularly pleased that it was possible to visit the news rooms again after the tough restrictions imposed by the pandemic and that we were thus able to get an even closer picture of the work of journalists – starting with NBC and Bloomberg in Manhattan and ending with Vice in hip Williamsburg. But my absolute highlight was having lunch with Black Lives Matters NYC co-founder Chivona Newsome, where we talked about activism and everyday racism. Even after our trip, the day will remain in my memory for a long time to come

In College Station, I was able to take exciting journalism seminars at Texas A&M University and was pleasantly surprised by how practical and career-preparatory the courses were. In several seminars, I had the opportunity to talk with students and share more about the German media system and my own journalistic work. In the process, we discovered that the demands on young journalists and our own expectations and motivations are not very different from one country to the next. I was also impressed by the college newspaper “The Battalion,” which produces a new print edition every week with fewer than 20 students, as well as writing additional online and social media articles. I was also impressed with the local ESPN TV sports station, which is a very professional and well-structured media outlet at the university. College sports in general are writ large at Texas A&M. I was able to experience how much the students here cheer on the “Aggies” live at a baseball game, which was truly a unique experience. I will definitely need a few more weeks to process this exciting trip with RIAS. One thing is for sure though, it has changed my view of the USA and I have gained a better understanding of past and current events in the country.

 Tom Wagner, Humboldt University Berlin (Southern Illinois University)

 Due to a very early flight and my inability to sleep sitting up, I arrived in New York extremely tired. Every day I promised myself in the morning to go to sleep early that day. Nevertheless, I never arrived at our hotel before midnight, because this city never sleeps and I now understood that I did not want that here either. All the fascinating personalities and places we visited every day and the extremely interesting conversations we had there, as well as the endless possibilities in the evening were such unique and thrilling experiences that I didn’t want to miss a single second. Being born and raised in Berlin, I am usually glad that people mostly mind their own business. Therefore, I was a little worried about the friendliness and openness of the Americans and especially the New Yorkers as friends had warned me in advance. But very quickly I got used to this open-heartedness and enjoyed talking to strangers and learning from them about the city, the country and the people. Experiencing this country, which you think you know so well from movies and television, in this way was eye-opening and enriching. Looking back, probably no event describes the impressions of this trip as much as the visit to the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where deep social conflicts and the indestructible will to look ahead and to make the best of the situation together are so close to each other.These and other experiences will probably take me a while to fully process.

Jessica Schäfer, University of Applied Sciences Magdeburg-  Stendal (University of Minnesota)

Two years later than originally planned, the time had finally come: My first trip to the USA started. I didn’t really believe it until I landed at JFK and looked out the window of my hotel room at the Empire State Building. Thanks to RIAS and my great group, I spent ten unforgettable days in New York, where one highlight followed the other! My personal highlights include attending a service at Abyssinian Baptist Church, visiting various U.S. newsrooms – including Bloomberg and Vice -, meeting New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen each for an in-depth conversation, and watching an NBA game at Madison Square Garden.

I spent my Station Week in Minneapolis – the city of Prince. There, too, I experienced many things every day. With my host Scott, I visited a wonderfully arranged photo exhibit about the murder of George Floyd, which gave me insight into the residents’ perspective. I gained insight into the educational system of  American universities at the Hubbard School of Journalism, participated in seminars such as Newscast Producing, Multimedia Production & Storytelling, and TV/Radio Reporting. I attended the Midwest Journalism Conference, where I discussed journalism, politics, various cultural topics and differences between the U.S. and Germany with American journalists. The two highlights during my stay in Minneapolis were the visits of the radio station MPR and the TV station Kare 11, which belongs to NBC. There I received a detailed explanation of the daily work of the news and sports editors. I was allowed to spend the whole day there following their work flow while asking them lots of questions. All in all, I am incredibly grateful that I was able to take part in this RIAS program and that I gained so many exclusive and inspiring insights into the U.S. media landscape, politics and culture.

 Florian Sädler, Axel Springer Academy Berlin, (University of Oklahoma)

As the RIAS program was coming closer, I had tried to not get too excited about it. After all, the whole thing had been scheduled four times before, dating back to our original trip in March 2020. Two years, countless waves of Covid and all these cancelled flights later, it only hit me that this really was about to happen when I left JFK Airport and found myself actually in New York City. Three weeks later and I haven’t really had time to process anything of what we experienced in the States. From Day 1 do Day 21, there were hardly any breaks, sometimes not even to grab a proper meal. Most days we didn’t get back to our hotel room or apartment until somewhere between 10 PM and midnight, just enough to catch a bit of sleep to be in somewhat presentable shape to do it all over again the next day. When we ventured out into the city – or, during part two of the program, into the countryside – we did everything from meeting with a Governor, meeting with a host of High School students in a poverty-riddled area of Oklahoma City or with Donald Trump’s former attorney to visiting Afghan refugees, multiple NBA games or a Gospel Church to taking tours through an ultra-orthodox Jewish Quarter in Brooklyn, the Empire State Building or a Streetfood Festival in a Village in Cherokee Nation. There hasn’t been one boring day. We got to talk with so many different people and visit so many different places that, within only a couple of days, it became hard to remember everything that had happened up to this point. Or even yesterday, for that matter (which is quite the luxury problem, I guess). It all just melted into a very enjoyable and memorable blur. I’m somewhat glad I didn’t get my expectations up before I stepped onto the plane. That way, I was even happier for the way it all worked out. Adding to that, the concept of spending one week in New York City and then spreading out across the Midwest worked wonders. Nothing better to get a feel for the contrasts that shape this country than going from Manhattan straight to Norman, Tahlequah or Kingfisher, Oklahoma. The more time I’ve spent in the US, the less I believe anyone can really explain this country. Especially foreigners. Still, through all the different impressions I got through this RIAS journey, I feel like I can understand what makes different Americans tick and why a little bit better than before. Nothing more to ask from a three-week exchange program.

Amy Woyth, Mittweida University of Applied Sciences (Wisconsin-Oshkosh)

After years of waiting and waiting, in March the time had finally come to board my flight to New York City – “I’ll believe it when I’m actually there,” I had said for the past weeks. And it was been everything I had hoped for and more. After a week-long schedule in NY with too many appointments and highlights to count, it was time to embark on a trip to the Midwest. Although I didn’t have particularly high hopes for a small town in Wisconsin, it rounded the trip out perfectly. My host family, whom I can now call my godparents, was the most amazing family I could have wished for, showing me the city and fulfilling my bucket list for the States together with me. Even though I have been to the States multiple times with my own family, Oshkosh, WI really showed me what American life is like. The program was successful in its mission: I have learned so many things about the US, its people and its customs, that I will now need a few months to process everything I was so privileged to have experienced.

Leonie von Randow, Axel Springer Academy, (Southern Illinois University)

Never before have I met so many interesting people and absorbed so much input in such a short time like during the week in New York. Every day was packed with appointments that a journalist can only dream of: We met feisty individuals like Arthur Aidala, radio host and lawyer for Harvey Weinstein, or Michael Cohen, former lawyer and close confidant of Donald Trump. We had lunch with the incredibly impressive and personable Black Lives Matter activist Chivona Newsome and asked Clare Toeniskoetter, editor at the New York Times hit podcast “The Daily,” about her work. On Sunday, we attended a very rousing service at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and began to better understand religion in America. I am filled with all the unique experiences and wonderful time I got to spend with Erik and the other RIAS fellows – and I look forward to meeting many other RIAS alumni in Berlin or anywhere else in the world.

 Friedrich Steffes-lay, Free Tech Academy, Berlin (Arizona State University)

Two years of waiting because of Covid, but every day of patience was worth it! The time in the USA was so intense and informative that I still haven’t processed everything. For me, too, the background discussions with ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and Governor Phil Murphy will be remembered above all, but also the deep insights into US journalism in the newsrooms of Bloomberg, VICE and WNBC. During my university station week, I dove deep into Phoenix local politics and met people with a wide variety of views. I was allowed to learn how professional (investigative) journalism is done on campus – and got active myself with an interview with a German consul general. But my personal highlight is definitely my research on human trafficking in Phoenix, which even took me behind the closed doors of a local rescue center. All of that was initiated by a conversation with a politics professor at Arizona State University. But the program wasn’t just a great experience on the journalism side. In New York and Phoenix, I was able to reunite with several friends I had already made through RIAS three years ago – and I will see some of them again soon in Germany.

Jana Glose, German Sport University Cologne  (University of Oklahoma)

After Corona prevented me from going to the U.S. in the 2020 election year, my RIAS program started together with other journalism students from all over Germany almost 700 days later in New York, the city that never sleeps. And I’ll say this right away: there really wasn’t all that much sleep during the days in the city, but it was more than worth it. I got to know America and especially American journalism from an exciting side. Through the numerous conversations with journalists, activists and politicians, as well as through visits to editorial offices, including Bloomberg, the ARD studio and Vice, I was able to develop an understanding of American life and the American media landscape. The in-depth conversations and discussions showed me ideas, innovations and perspectives, but also fears, concerns and problems within America’s population. My personal highlights in New York were attending a Rangers hockey game, having lunch with Black Live Matters New York founder Chivona Newsome in the Harlem neighborhood, speaking with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphey, and seeing the musical Come from Away. Topped off with interaction with the other participants, the RIAS program in New York was a memorable and highly educational experience.For my University Week I went to the University of Oklahoma. A huge campus with TV studios with daily news and weekly sports shows, a cafeteria like in Harry Potter and a football stadium with room for 90,000 visitors are just a few impressions that remain with me. The university offers students a wide range of opportunities to prepare for a career in journalism. I was particularly impressed by the fact that the professors are strongly committed to helping all students find a job after graduation or, if possible, before. Unfortunately, after two days in Oklahoma, I had to make acquaintance with the American healthcare system and spend the rest of the week in bed. But that was also an experience, even if, unlike the others, I could have easily missed.

Simon Lanzerath, University of Cologne (Southern Illinois University)

Before the trip, I was worried about American democracy and transatlantic relations, especially after the storm on the Capitol and four years of Trump. After this trip and the many conversations with political actors, students, but also people on the street, I know: our partnership is strong and so is the will to defend democracy. What it takes is mutual understanding. Through the RIAS program, we were able to improve this understanding – among Germans as well as Americans.

Erik Kirschbaum, Executive Director, RIAS Berlin Commission

Spending time in the USA with a group of German journalism students on a newly created ERP exchange program with the RIAS Berlin Commission has been a truly delightful experience, perhaps in part because most had never been to the country before and brought unbridled enthusiasm to learn more. They arrived with open minds and left three weeks later with their heads filled with memories, valuable new discoveries about the USA and perhaps about themselves too. And because they came so well-prepared and with so much curiosity, their talks with American journalists, politicians like New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, African-American leaders like Chivone Newsome, Jewish leaders like Anti-Defamation League NY Director Scott Richman and German-American sports celebrities like Jürgen Klinsmann, the conversations were outstanding.

The ERP program is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany. It has been funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Economy and Energy (BMWi) Ministry.


April 7, 2022

On RIAS trip to USA, German students get involved in college life across country

Fifteen German students were able to learn more about the United States and journalism training at eight leading American universities in the Midwest and Southwest on a newly created RIAS Berlin Commission program. Several of the students were invited on local campus and radio TV shows to talk about their experiences in the United States or compare life in Germany to the United States while others met local groups of students, or local political leaders.

Three students from Germany spent two weeks in Carbondale, Illinois visiting Southern Illinois University and host Fred Martino, who took part in a RIAS program to Germany 20 years earlier. Tom Wagner, Leonie von Wagner and Simon Lanzerath talked for 30 minutes on Martino’s talk show about what they’ve learned in the United States and how pleasantly surprised they are about the openness and friendliness of Americans they have met during the program, which started in mid-March with a first week together as a group in New York. Here is their interview:

At Arizona State University in Tempe, Friedrich Steffes-lay was invited to talk about working in journalism in Germany on the campus radio station on the “Blaze Radio Show”. He also talked about the cultural differences between the United States and Germany as well as differences in the media in the two countries. Steffes-lay also had the chance to meet local councilwoman Ann O’Brien to talk about local issues as well as why she believes Arizona has become a swing state in U.S. elections and could become even more polarised in the future.

At New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, Rieke Smith was able to take part in classes where former MNSU university students talked about how they got their start in journalism in the United States after graduating and talking about their experiences on the job. She also joined a student news team covering an event where homeless people were getting free haircuts for the local campus news station.

At the University of Oklahoma, Daniel Heyd and Florian Sädler had the chance to listen to a speech from former President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien. They also had the chance to visit the Tulsa police department and have a meeting with its police chief and press officer as well as meeting the department’s homicide department.

At Indiana University, Marita Wehlus and Andrian Liehr attended a speech by President Trump’s former head of intelligence Dan Coats, who had also been the U.S. ambassador to Germany during George W. Bush’s presidency. They also met Paul Helmke, the former leader of the Brady Campaign to tighten gun control laws in the United States.

At the University of Minnesota, Jessica Schäfer attended courses on radio journalism from Scott Libin, a RIAS alumni and the former chairman of the RTDNA in the United States. She also spend a day at KARE 11 TV station in Minneapolis, learning how their evening news show is produced. She worked in the sports department at the station as well as in the control room. Schäfer also had the chance to spend a day at MPR radio.

At Texas A&M, Sarah-Maria Köpf and Lara Jäkel had the chance to see the local TAMU newscast being put together. They also visited the local ESPN TV sports channel station where the baseball game they watched was being covered on television.

The ERP program is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany. It has been funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Economy and Energy (BMWi) Ministry. There is a reciprocal program to Germany for American students studying journalism or a related field that focuses on the role of broadcast journalism and the role it played during the Cold War, especially in Berlin.


April 2, 2022

German students learn more about U.S. journalism in Midwest, Southwest

RIAS Berlin Commission students on ERP program Leonie von Randow, Tom Wagner and Simon Lanzerath (from left) visit WSIU TV news station in Carbondale, Illinois

Eight groups of German journalism students and young journalists are spending two weeks visiting leading American universities and journalism programs in the Midwest and Southwest on a RIAS Berlin Commission program that was launched thanks to a grant from the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Economy Ministry. In groups ranging from one to three, the German students are visiting the University of Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Southern Illinois University, New Mexico State University, Arizona State University, Indiana University, University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to learn more about how young Americans learn the tools of their journalism trade.

RIAS Berlin Commission student-journalist Friedrich Steffes-lay (third from right) visits American journalism students at the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at Arizona State University.

The Germans — 10 of whom are making their first trip to the United States — have learned that most large American universities have their own campus TV station, radio station and newspaper. The student broadcasting stations are often part of the public broadcasting system in the United States and their work is sometimes fed into the national news broadcasts on PBS TV or National Public Radio (NPR). It has been an eye-opening experience for the German students, who have got to see first-hand how American journalism students get lots of hands-on experience reporting issues on their campuses and in their local communities.

Daniel Heyd and Florian Sädler (front row, center) visit a high school in Norman, Oklahoma to talk about Germany and transatlantic relations

Among the highlights alongside the program was a talk given by Florian Sädler and Daniel Heyd to more than 100 local high school students in Norman, Oklahoma about life and the political situation in Germany.

In Indiana, Marita Wehlus and Adrian Liehr got a chance to meet State Senator Shelli Yoder, a Democrat. Even years after the 2016 Trump win, she is still not sure how it happened, asking the RIAS fellows what their take on it is. She furthermore told the fellows about how some Republican candidates in Indiana are now calling themselves “Conservatives” to show they are even further to the right than the Republican party as a whole. She also explained to the Germans how Democrats were able to stop an attempt to ban Critical Race Theory instruction in schools despite a Republican majority in the state senate.

German student-journalists Adrian Liehr (left) and Marita Wehlus (right) visit Indiana State Senator Shelli Yoder, a Democrat, during their fellowship at the University of Indiana.

Wehlus and Liehr have also had the chance to visit the Channel 9 newsroom in Cincinnati, Ohio, where their station week host Sara Wittmeyer previously worked. They also visited journalism classes at Northern Kentucky University, talking to the American students about how journalism is taught in Germany and how the media system in Germany is organized compared to the United States.

In Arizona, Friedrich Steffes-lay had the chance to visit the Howard Center at ASU thanks to his host Michelle Ailport, who had taken part in a reciprocal ERP program to Germany in 2019. At the Howard Center at ASU, Steffes-lay learned that students work on investigative journalism projects and sometimes actually publish scoops that are so important that they are later used by major media outlets, such as The New York Times.

At Southern Illinois University, Leonie von Randow, Tom Wagner and Simon Lanzerath took part in a 30-minute interview on the local PBS station with host Fred Martino about a variety of transatlantic issues.  They were also interviewed about their highlights of the RIAS Berlin Commission ERP student program as well as their thoughts on the January 6, 2021 siege of the Capitol building in Washington DC. The interview will be aired on PBS stations in May.

At the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Amy Woyth and Emma Lübbert helped work as “honorary staff” members on the latest edition of the student newspaper the “Advance Titan”. Woyth also served as “floor director” at Titan TV news.

German student-journalist Jessica Schäfer (right) visits journalists from South Dakota and Minnesota during a journalism conference in Minneapolis during her ERP-RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship.

In Minnesota, Jessica Schäfer visited “Newcast producing”, “Advertising Law”, “TV/Radio Reporting” and “Multimedia Production and Storytelling” seminar courses for journalism students at the University of Minnesota. She was also invited to attend the Midwest Journalism Conference, where she met a number of other journalists who have plans to take part in RIAS Berlin Commission programs to Germany and who have hosted German journalists in the past.

At Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, Sarah-Maria Köpf and Lara Jäkel attended media writing courses where students discussed articles that had appeared in the most recent edition of the campus newspaper, the “Battalion”. They have also visited courses in the political and media departments to talk about differences between the German and U.S. media systems as well as the RIAS Berlin Commission exchange programs. They also visited the Bush Presidential Library, the newsroom of the “Battalion” and attended a guest lecture from Pew Research Center.

The ERP program is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany. It has been funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Economy and Energy (BMWi) Ministry. There is a reciprocal program to Germany for American students studying journalism or a related field that focuses on the role of broadcast journalism and the role it played during the Cold War, especially in Berlin.


March 31, 2022

German journalists’ impressions of USA after 3-week exchange program

A group off 10 German journalists spent three weeks in the United States in March, learning more about the political, economic, cultural aspects as well as sports. They were in Washington and New York for one week each and then spent a third week visiting small American radio and TV stations across the country. Here are their impressions of their journey:

Nazan Gökdemir, ZDF Arte

What a fantastic and unforgettable experience! One week in Washington, one week in New York. More than 35 meetings with journalists, politicians, activists, lobbyists, pollsters, a walking tour through the Hasidic Jewish neighborhood of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, a play on Broadway…My personal highlights were the visit to the White House and the Sunday Mass in Harlem. Goosebump moments! From time to time, there were also spontaneous meetings, among others with former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. Every single encounter, every single item on the packed RIAS agenda was a unique and enriching experience. Sometimes hopeful, sometimes depressing, always impressive!

Although I have been to the USA several times, thanks to RIAS I got new insights into a torn country full of contradictions. In direct, honest and critical conversations with journalists, I became aware of how rough and tough the competition within the U.S. media landscape is and how much opinion-oriented news broadcasts can corrode trust in facts and truth and thus ultimately also pose a danger to democracy.Our educational trip was overshadowed not by Corona, as I had originally feared, but by the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. Russia’s President Putin has not only posed new challenges to the transatlantic relationship, but also strengthened it. I think the RIAS exchange program is more important than ever. As a RIAS alumni, I am now happy to be available to our U.S. colleagues as a contact person – and to answer questions about the country, its people and its media with as much openness, enthusiasm and conviction.

——————–

Christian von Rechenberg, ZDF, heute-journal

“It’s all about people” – that was the answer of Bill Whitaker from CBS to my question about what makes his program 60 Minutes the best investigative magazine in the USA. The fact that I was able to put my questions to a top interlocutor again on day 10 of the RIAS trip had long been normal. And once again made the answer all the more valuable: It’s all about people – get to the people. That’s how I would sum up the two weeks with RIAS. We didn’t talk about things, we talked to the people they affected: with a former Republican congressman, for example, we talked about Trump and “the storm.” With the co-founder of Black Lives Matter NYC, we talked about structural racism in the US and the anger within the movement. Eye-to-eye, critical, honest, engaged.

Each of these meetings expanded my knowledge, my understanding, my image of the USA. All of the interlocutors were happy to go far beyond their own horizons with us. We were able to curiously ask ourselves about the polarization of society, unlimited freedom of speech, social peace, the future and the past of the USA.

In addition, there was a very fine accompaniment: I will not forget the church service in Harlem, nor the guided walk through the Hasidic community in Brooklyn. We even climbed the fence of the White House. This program is hard to beat in terms of content. However, it is a pick packed daily schedule that we generally walked off(!). The RIAS program is not a pleasure trip, you have to be aware of that. It is demanding and exhausting, it requires discipline and sometimes patience. If you have both, you will return home with satisfaction and an inner smile. And maybe a catchy tune by Bruce Springsteen (ask Erik for details 😊).

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Katharina Hamberger, Deutschlandfunk

Two weeks, a thousand impressions – which have greatly shaped my image of the USA. Originally, I was supposed to go to the USA with the RIAS Berlin Commission already in March 2020, but then Corona intervened. At that time, the United States was still a country shaped by an incumbent President Trump – now we have seen what traces these four years have left behind, but also why this was possible at all. Our interlocutors, from left to right, from conservative to progressive, gave us many insights into a country that is deeply divided. They painted a picture of a society with deep rifts running through it – and hardly anyone looked to the future with optimism. We also got to know the U.S. as a country in which many of the developments are also related to history: among other things, a two-party system that makes compromises difficult and favors populism, a promise of freedom that at the same time relies so much on the self-responsibility of each individual that many fall by the wayside, an understanding of Freedom of Speech that does not even know a limit in Holocaust denial.

We also got to know a media landscape in which, on the one hand, the agencies – such as Reuters – operate, whose top priority is to be as neutral as possible. On the other hand, we learned that American media are also a mirror of society and that everyone can choose their view of the world. As a public service journalist, I particularly remember the visit to NPR, which showed me how happy we can be about our ÖRR system and not have to constantly collect donations. But we also got to know many open-minded people who were willing to give us insights that you would never get on a vacation; committed journalists who showed us the conditions under which they work, who shared their thoughts with us, who discussed things with us and answered all our questions. We were given insights into the country’s most important think tanks, which were also a challenge to us because they represented a very broad spectrum between conservative and liberal. I was also particularly impressed by the discussions with ADL, AJC and Black Lives Matter.

Of course, Russia’s attack on Ukraine also shaped the two weeks in the US. The events were a topic at almost every meeting. On the one hand, because they show once again the fragility of democracies and the ruthlessness of autocracies, on the other hand, because the EU, Germany and the USA also play a special role in this conflict – and it was exciting to hear the view on it again from another, an American perspective. It was an impressive 14 days.

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Carolina Chimoy, Deutsche Welle, International Correspondent

This is perhaps one of the most exciting times in transatlantic relations. The war in Ukraine has changed and accelerated many things.  The struggle between democracies and autocracies has led to a turning point in transatlantic relations, which were strained by the previous U.S. administration. The United States and Germany are now more united than ever. 

 Having the opportunity to conduct in-depth background interviews with high-level political actors, experts and civil society representatives in the U.S. during these exciting times is a gift for any journalist. Whether it was the conversation with the president of the American Jewish Committee, who, as the son of Holocaust survivors, interestingly sees Germany as a leading power in Europe right now, or Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer, who recognizes similar traits in Putin as he did in his former client. They have all helped to sharpen the political picture on the international stage and the implications for bilateral relations between Germany and the United States. 

 In domestic politics, Germany and the United States also face similar challenges: growing inequality and polarization threaten to destabilize democracy from within as well.  Being able to discuss these conversations and thoughts among a group of highly qualified journalists made this week unforgettable. I would have loved to have accompanied the group back to Washington. Thank you for a very enriching week in New York.

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Nadine Jantz, Welt TV

What a three weeks: Meeting with former Congressman Charlie Dent, visiting Bloomberg, lunch at Katz Deli, background talk with EU Ambassador to the United Nations Olof Skoog and coffee with Donald Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen. And that’s just a small sample. We were able to meet over 35 people from a wide variety of backgrounds during that time – including a visit to Broadway and a boat trip on the Hudson River.  My personal highlights: the visit to the White House (see photo), the church service in Harlem and a lunch with the founder of Black Live Matters New York, Chivona Newsome, in the Harlem district of New York.

Prior to the trip, I had hoped to gain insight into a wide variety of areas and learn more about the American perspective on major contemporary issues. At that time, I did not know that the current topic would be the Ukraine war. A week before the trip began, Putin’s troops invaded Ukraine. And German-American relations suddenly became closer than they had been for a long time. Whether it would stay that way, how the new German government would be received in the U.S., and what could help to stop Putin were all questions we had more than once during the course of the trip.

On the one hand, the many conversations gave hope about the fact that the West is just moving together so cohesively, but also left many question marks about how long that will last. Regardless of the international issues, the many appointments also showed how torn the USA is. There were no answers as to how this can be solved with a two-party system.  What remains are many new contacts and an insight into the USA that I would not have had without RIAS.

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Okka Gundel, ARD Tagesthemen

America First? No. First Time America. At least for me. My first time in the USA. At the age of 47. Thanks to the RIAS program, it was a privileged, exclusive, and fabulous first glimpse of this country. Unique! My feeling for this country is similar to the American society itself. Divided. Inspiring and disturbing at the same time. United States that is anything but united. A democracy that doesn’t seem to be a real democracy. Beautiful Washington. Dazzling New York. Plain Texas. Many of our influential, impressive interviewees had a pessimistic view of their homeland. By contrast, the grassroots I was privileged to encounter in many Uber rides through the Texas metropolitan area of San Antonio struck me as surprisingly optimistic and content. Upside-down world. A world that is so modern and progressive on the one hand and so backward on the other. While here in Germany we have to fear that the garbage will not be picked up because the wrong item ends up in the wrong garbage can, in the U.S. the throwaway society happily lives on. In the hotel, every single piece of cutlery is shrink-wrapped in plastic, and on the streets SUVs and pickup trucks are used for every little journey. Mother Earth – I am perplexed and worried about you! More than ever. I had also been worried beforehand about whether I would be able to stand two weeks in a group. A class trip with classmates and teachers I didn’t know. Unnecessary. I enjoyed the campfire atmosphere. Very much so. When I suddenly found myself alone in San Antonio after a very intense time in human community, I felt a kind of phantom pain. I missed my group. Thank you RIAS for all the impulses. For the profound ones, the lively ones and the thoughtful ones. Thank you for a very special experience. Content and interpersonal.

My station week in San Antonio, Texas. After the fast-paced and exciting time in Washington and New York, everything seemed very slow and unexciting. A bit of a culture shock. My host, Yami Virgin, is a dazzling personality and an excellent investigative TV reporter.  One afternoon, Yami sent me via Uber to a baseball stadium on the prairie. There I met her station’s sports reporter. A very pleasant blind date. At first, Chuck tried to explain the rules of baseball to me. But soon we digressed to his life as an American and mine as a European. A profound encounter in the setting of a high school baseball duel.   Every night we were out to dinner. Yami and me. And at least one of her friends or colleagues. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, at unadorned truck stops along the highways, wonderful restaurants hid night after night. It was interesting and gave me a feel for the way of life there.  After the “sensory overload” of Washington and New York, Texas was altogether disillusioning. And yet so enriching. Within three weeks I was able to experience a large keyboard of us-American culture. The truth may lie somewhere in between.

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Andreas Büttner, Welt TV

I applied three years ago, but the last two years were cancelled because of Covid, and now it finally worked out: The RIAS USA Journalism Program. Due to the long wait, the anticipation was now even greater and it was also a good thing that we could participate in this program only now. So we spontaneously had the chance to visit the White House and to watch US President Biden taking off with his Marine One. For me the absolute highlight of this trip! Or the church service in Harlem, which was on the official program for the first time and where the gospel choir blew us away just as much as the president’s helicopter.

Every day new appointments with personalities like Michael Cohen, former lawyer of US President Trump. Every day interesting stories, like that of Frieda Vizel, a dropout from the Hasidic Jewish community in Williamsburg. Every day great conversations with correspondents from Spiegel, ZDF and Deutsche Welle. Of course, the best view of the White House was provided by WELT, where the colleagues from the public broadcaster could learn a thing or two (see photo).I would like to thank RIAS for this unforgettable program, the life-changing experiences and the wonderful group full of great people with whom I was able to complete this trip. 

Station Week Los Angeles: I had the great honor of completing my Station Week with Frank Mottek, “The Voice of Business News in Los Angeles.” On my first day, I was a guest on his radio show “Mottek On Money” on KABC. There I talked about the German perspective on the Ukraine war, rising gasoline prices and the new Tesla Gigafactory. My first appearance in English, an exciting experience. I also met a TV journalist from KTLA, who was in Ukraine until recently, and the fire department from Berlin, who paid tribute to the late L.A. County mayor and friend of the fire department at a memorial service.  On my last day, I was allowed to be a journalist on the red carpet of the Irish Oscar party in Hollywood. There I helped out an American colleague as a cameraman because he had problems with the tripod. German-American understanding in journalism, which would never have been possible without RIAS!

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Sven Christian, Spiegel Video     

The first time in 15 years I had to wear a tie again. Lost bet. But the occasion was more than appropriate: We were allowed to visit the White House, look behind the scenes and see the president at least from afar. We met hardliners in think tanks, discussed with woken journalists and activists, and were spiritually enchanted by a church service in Harlem.

This trip exceeded all my expectations. In terms of content, one highlight chased the next. But it was often the supposedly less spectacular meetings that moved me the most. The one with the quietly accomplished correspondent Jeff Mason, who ushered us into the White House. With Bill Whitaker, who told us about smart TV journalism. With BLM founder Chivona Newsome, who didn’t become an angry citizen despite systematic oppression. To name just a few.  All this gives us courage to continue reporting well, honestly and fairly. We have noticed in many conversations that this is more necessary than ever before. 

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Nadine Bader, ARD

Being overshadowed by Russia’s war in Ukraine, the RIAS program im March 2022 excelled at profound talks about international politics and about the importance of transatlantic relations. Arguing with a fellow from conservative Hudson Institute about whether NATO has underestimated the importance of deterrence is just one example.Meeting with an expert from Brookings Institution gave us more insight into internal policies, Congress and its role in solving staggering policy problems such es economic inequality and structural racism.Numerous talks with US journalists enabled us to gain better understanding of US media markets. These meetings also gave deeper insight into how German politics (for example the long resistance to halt Nord Stream 2) are perceived in the US. Discussions with German correspondents completed this outstanding program. One of the many highlights certainly was the visit to the White House.

Besides all these profound talks in Washington DC and New York, our visit to the Big Apple provided an insight into the diversity of this breathtaking city. Meeting with Chivona Newsome, cofounder of Black Lives Matter Greater New York, is just one example. My highlight by far was our tour with Frieda Vizel in the Satmar Hasidic community in Jewish Brooklyn. The station week in Sioux Falls with Dakota News Now rounded off my RIAS-experience. The editorial team was very welcoming and open-minded. They showed me how they produce several hours of news broadcast per day. For instance, I accompanied a reporter doing a package on the upcoming mayoral elections. On my last day, I even met polarizing South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem at a press conference about cyber security. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to ask her, why she wants to ban Critical Race Theory at all schools and universities in the state. Next time! Overall, the RIAS program in Washington DC, New York and Sioux Falls gave me a deep insight into the diverse and partly polarized US society. Thank you!

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Theresa Greim, Bayerischer Rundfunk

How many high-level, diverse and in-depth background discussions can you manage in nine days? To make a long story short: More than 35. (That’s not counting the many sightseeing highlights.) I wouldn’t have thought it possible to gain so many new and, above all, enriching insights in such a short time. In my journalistic work, I deal with U.S. topics almost every day, but no reportage, no background report or correspondent talk can even come close to what the encounters in these one and a half weeks of RIAS program achieved: To gain a deeper understanding of what moves people in the U.S., how they see themselves, what conflicts, values and visions drive them, and also how the U.S. perceives Germany and Europe. I was particularly surprised by the openness of our interlocutors. Almost all of the conversations were a genuine, open dialogue. I was also impressed by how warmly and enthusiastically the U.S. RIAS alumni looked after us. Whether at the graduation ceremonies in Washington and New York or during my Station Week in Boston – I always felt welcome and look forward to continuing to cultivate these valuable new contacts in the future. Or to put it in the words of Washington DC Alumni Chapter Leader Larry Mill er: You’re family now.

Station Week Boston: My RIAS host in Bo ston, Yasmin Amer, gave me a warm welcome. Although newsroom work continues to be hampered by Corona and most seats at WBUR are orphaned, Yasmin did her best to show me as much as possible. This included the morning 9 a.m. conference, plus the meeting for the Boston radio show; I was then able to watch the results of the issues being implemented live in the studio. I got to be part of the planning and preparation for the nationally broadcast show “Here and Now”, and also got to watch the show live in the studio. Yasmin took me to pitch a new podcast idea. I also got to talk at length with and look over the shoulder of the newsroom and News Anchor, which, being a news anchor myself, I was especially excited about. Yasmin also gave me a tour of Harvard, where she participated in the Nieman Fellowship last year/year before last. We also talked about similarities and differences in our work. Yasmin is very open and gave me many interesting insights into the work of a radio station on the US East Coast. Some colleagues at WBUR have shown great interest in joining the RIAS program in Germany. Yasmin’s response was always, “You really should do it. It’s great.”

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Erik Kirschbaum, Executive Director RIAS Berlin  

Seeing the United States through the eyes of German journalists – some of whom have never been to Washington or New York before – is always a special treat for me as the executive director of the RIAS Berlin Commission.  Even after six years, 12 programs and accompanying more than 150 German journalists to the USA, there are always new discoveries and experiences to make. It’s their incurable curiosity, their insatiable appetite to learn more about the country that for good or worse plays such an oversize role in their lives and their healthy skepticism of the American way of life (the ubiquitous ‘disposable plastic’ mentality is a massive culture shock for visitors from Germany every time) that makes it a joy, and honor, to lead groups of 10 to 15 Germans around Washington and New York for two weeks twice each year. The two weeks in Washington and NY are always packed full with meetings before many of them depart for a third week on their own visiting a small American radio or TV station in the Midwest or Southwest to see another side of America. It’s a demanding and exhausting schedule of up to five meetings/dinner talks each day. But who could say no to a last-minute offer to visit the White House press room? Or would anyone want to turn down an opportunity to see a gospel choir perform at a stirring church service in Harlem? Every group is different. Every group presents new challenges. Every group has a different program schedule. Thanks to our American alumni Adam Reiss, Tiffany Zeno and Michael Gargiulo and support from Jeff Mason and Larry Miller in Washington, the March 2022 group had the best and busiest program ever – and I was lucky enough to be along for the ride.


March 28, 2022

German students explore New York, USA political landscape on ERP program

Fifteen German students on a new German-American exchange program spent a busy nine days in New York and New Jersey learning more about the United States, especially the political, economic and social aspects of the country. The students will spend the next two weeks in smaller groups of one to three visiting American university campuses and their journalism studies departments in Oklahoma, Texas, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Mexico and Arizona.

Meeting New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy at his offices in Trenton was a highlight for many of the students — especially when Murphy spent the first 15 minutes of the hour-long meeting introducing himself individually to all 15 students and asking them detailed,

well-informed questions about their home universities in Germany, most of which are in the formerly Communist east. Murphy also explained how he had brought many ideas he picked up in Germany as the U.S. Ambassador in Berlin (2008-12) to his job leading New Jersey — such as the Duales Ausbildungsystem – or “dual training system” for skilled workers in Germany as well as the country’s emphasis on renewable energy and off-shore wind power plants.

The German students — 10 of whom were on their maiden voyage to the United States — had a total of 22 meetings and appointments in their nine days in New York. Another highlight was the chance to meet best-selling author Michael Cohen, who long served as ex-President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, at a breakfast meeting around the corner from his Park Avenue apartment. The students peppered Cohen with well-informed questions and the meeting lasted far longer than scheduled.

On two unforgettable visits to Harlem, the students learned more about racism and racial inequality in the United States from the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Chivone Newsome during a riveting hours’ long lunch meeting. They also learned secrets about the “Supper Club” at the famous Red Rooster restaurant found downstairs — where Madonna’s hair nearly caught on fire recently before the manager Charlies saved the day and former Senator Hillary Clinton had celebrated at a recent private party. Also in Harlem on a Sunday, the students were warmly welcomed guests at a communion service at the world-famous Abyssinian Baptist Church –thanks to an introduction from RIAS alumni Tiffany Zeno of WNBC TV.

Other highlights for the students in New York included a walking tour of the Hasidic Jewish section of Williamsburg, Brooklyn guided by Frieda Vizel, a former member of the sect, talks with German Consul General David Gill about the political environment in the United States and the image of Germany in the USA, as well as with Broadway actor Michael Fatica. They also met the New York/New Jersey director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Scott Richman to learn more about its battle against hate speech and about German culture in the United States from Goethe Institute New York director Jörg Schumacher.

Michael Lysak of Bloomberg News took the students on a two-hour tour of Bloomberg News headquarters and explained how the company started just 40 years ago by Michael Bloomberg, who also later became the mayor of New York City, as a start-up a day after he lost his job at an investment bank. Bloomberg, Lysak explained, still has an ordinary desk in the middle of the broadcasting section of the newsroom because radio remains his favorite news source.

The student journalists also had the chance to pick the brains of ARD New York correspondent Christiane Meier and ARD radio network correspondent Peter Mücke, Fox News producer Tyler Speicher, Vice News correspondent Hendrik Hinzel, New York Times The Daily senior producer Clare Toeniskoetter, WNBC TV anchor Michael Gargiulo, talk radio show host Arthur Aidala, WNBC producers Omar Atia and Tiffany Zeno. They also had the chance to watch a popular talk show by Arthur Aidala live that included a long interview with one of the students from Leipzig. The group also saw a New York Knicks basketball game, the Broadway musical “Come From Away” and took a Circle Line cruise to learn about the history of Lower Manhattan, the East River and Ellis Island.

The program is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany. It has been funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Economy and Energy (BMWi) Ministry. There is a reciprocal program to Germany for American students studying journalism or a related field that focuses on the role of broadcast journalism and the role it played during the Cold War, especially in Berlin.


March 22, 2022

Students from Germany start three-week exchange program to USA

A group of students from Germany on a newly created German-American exchange program to the United States began their three weeks in the United States with a meeting-filled week in New York. The program, which is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany, has been funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Economy and Energy (BMWi) Ministry. The German students, many of whom are from eastern Germany and studying journalism, will spend their final two weeks in the United States visiting journalism studies programs at the University of Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Southern Illinois University, Indiana University, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, University of Minnesota, New Mexico State University and Arizona State University. Here is further information about the students:

Amy Woyth, Mittweida University of Applied Sciences

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Amy Woyth is a media management and journalism major at the University of Applied Sciences Mittweida in eastern Germany. Alongside her studies, she works as an editor for an independent online magazine and as a marketing associate for an IT-company in her hometown of Leipzig. She is also active as a freelancer on cultural issues. After she graduates in 2023, she plans to pursue a career in multimedia journalism, and is especially interested in reporting on broader topics like politics and culture.

Emma Matthea Lübbert, University of Leipzig

Emma Matthea Lübbert is working on her Bachelors thesis in Communication and Media

page1image44876400Science, and will graduate in 2022. She is working as a social media author for the ARD Podcast “Machiavelli – Rap and Politics”. She also is an author/host at the WDR radio station “Cosmo”. She also does volunteer work at the “TinCon”, a media convention for the youth interested in journalism and media. She plans to continue career in musical and political journalism as well as digital storytelling in Cologne.

 

Adrian Liehr, University Leipzig

Adrian Liehr is studying for a Master in Communication Management at the University of

page1image44881808Leipzig. He will graduate in 2023. Adrian has a background in journalism, as he has experience working at his university radio station and has been working in sports journalism for over four years.

 

Sarah-Maria Köpf, Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

Sarah-Maria Köpf will graduate with a master’s degree in digital journalism in
2022 from Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg. She is also working an
online editor at Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR). She did her bachelor’s degree

page1image44882016in communication and media studies at the University of Leipzig and also
completed one semester at Miguel-Hernández University of Elche (Alicante) in
Spain, studying journalism and audiovisual communication. Sarah has also worked for the local newspaper in Leipzig, the campus radio station Mephisto 97.6 and the online editorial of GRAZIA magazine.

Jessica Schäfer, University of Applied Sciences Magdeburg-Stendal

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Jessica Schäfer is a student of Social Health Journalism (M.A.) at UAS Magdeburg- Stendal and will graduate in 2022. She received a bachelor’s degree in Media Literacy: Audiovisual Culture and Communication from the University of Magdeburg. During her studies she has worked for several German media outlets such as the public broadcast service rbb, a local city magazine and GQ Germany. After graduating Jessica wants to work for a magazine preferably in the field of sports, lifestyle or music.

Rieke Smit, University of Applied Sciences Magdeburg-Stendal

Rieke Smit recently received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of

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Magdeburg-Stendal and is currently studying for a masters in international humanitarian action. She has also worked for several German media companies, including ZDF public TV and is currently working at the German news agency DPA. Rieke’s goal is to work abroad with a focus on international politics.

Tom Wagner, Humboldt University Berlin

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Tom Wagner is studying history and English at Humboldt University Berlin and will graduate in 2022. He is also working on the sports desk of ZDF’s MorgenMagazin in Berlin as a content manager. After graduating, Tom wants to become a history and English teacher or focus on a journalism career. He has also worked in the moderation and community management for Welt.de, a major German online newspaper. He is especially interested in politics and sports.

Florian Sädler, Axel Springer Academy Berlin

Florian Sädler works at “WELT”, one of Germany’s biggest newspapers. After completing an

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apprenticeship at a publishing company and working as a freelancer for various newspapers and online media, he swapped studying History/British & American Studies for a chance to join “Axel Springer Akademie”, a top journalism school. His coverage has ranged from the European refugee crisis to the French Foreign Legion to the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Lara Jäkel, Free University Berlin

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Lara Jäkel is a North American studies major at the Freie Universität Berlin and will graduate in 2022. During her studies, she worked for different regional and national media, among others for Welt and Spiegel Online. She is also taking part in a scholarship program of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation (JONA) that supports young journalists through seminars and workshops. Her goal is to work for national news media with a focus on politics. She is especially interested in international politics, economics and history.

Simon Lanzerath, University Cologne

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Simon Lanzerath graduated at University of Cologne in October 2021 and recently received a master’s degree. He now works at Radio Erft, a German local radio station near Cologne. Besides his studies, Simon has participated in a journalism program of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation. Simon’s passion is radio, but he has also experience in TV journalism. He did an internship at public broadcasting network ZDF in 2021. He has also done an internship in the press section of a major company and worked for various radio stations, a local newspaper and a business platform focusing on a young audience.

Friedrich Steffes-lay, Free Tech Academy, Berlin

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Friedrich Steffes-lay is an editor at WELT. He works in the social media resort and writes mostly about pop culture and politics. Before joining WELT, he was part of the staff of the music magazines “Musikexpress” and “Rolling Stone” and finished a two-year traineeship at FreeTech Academy, formerly known as Axel Springer Academy.

Marita Wehlus, German School of Journalism Munich

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Marita Wehlus is a freelance journalist from Munich who graduated from the GermanSchool of Journalism in 2020. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and worked in radio, local reporting and factchecking (with a Facebook media partner). Her reporting focusses on telling stories about people, culture and society. In addition, she works in developing new digital formats for broadcaster Deutsche Welle and teaches Design Thinking for journalists.

Daniel Heyd, n-tv / RTL Journalism School Cologne

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Daniel Heyd is a trainee at the 24/7 commercial news network “n-tv,“ with a focus on politics and economics. Prior to his traineeship, he studied Journalism (BA) and Sports Economics (MA) in Cologne as well as worked for various networks and newspapers in Germany. He is especially interested in international politics, and he is a sports enthusiast.

Leonie von Randow, Axel Springer Academy Berlin

Leonie von Randow recently finished a two-year traineeship at FreeTech Academy, formerly

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known as Axel Springer Academy in Berlin. She is a reporter/producer at WELT TV, one of Germany’s leading all-news channels. There she creates video reports on a wide range of topics for WELT TV, ProSieben, Sat1 and Kabel Eins. Leonie also is an on-air reporter and has covered topics such as the German federal elections in 2021 or Germany’s COVID vaccination campaign.

Jana Glose, German Sport University Cologne

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Jana Glose is studying Sport, Media and Communications (MA) at German Sport University in Cologne and currently taking part in a journalism scholarship program of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation (JONA) at SUNY Cortland as an exchange student for one semester. She finished her
Bachelor’s degree in Media Management and Journalism at Jade University of
Applied Sciences Wilhelmshaven in 2020. She has gained experience as a
freelancer for local newspapers, a business portal and through internships in
radio and television. Most recently, Jana worked at ARD “Sportschau.de” and an online portal for women in sports.


March 18, 2022

RIAS group on discovery tours in Washington DC, New York, across USA

RIAS Berlin Commission journalists outside White House press room

A group of 11 broadcast journalists from Germany are in the midst of a three-week exchange program to the United States. The best and brightest of German broadcasting spent a whirlwind week in Washington DC with visits to the White House, ZDF Television, WAMU public radio, Der Spiegel, Deutsche Welle, Pew Research and the German Embassy among others. Some of the guest speakers included Ken Weinstein (Hudson Institute), Jeff Mason (White House Correspondent Reuters), David Bruns (Washington Post), James Rosen (Newsmax), Larry Miller (USA9), Esther Ciammachilli (WAMU), Ines Pohl (DW), JJ Green (WTOP) and Scott Neuman (NPR).

The group then traveled to New York for another full week of appointments, starting off with a rousing service at the Abyssinian Baptist Church with its famous choir in Harlem, followed by talks with WNBC (Michael Gargiulo), NBC (Adam Reiss), Michael Cohen, Black Lives Matter New York co-founder Chivona Renee Newsome and New Amsterdam News publisher/editor Elinor Tatum. They also visited the Hasidic Jewish section of Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn on a walking tour with Frida Vizel, the Goethe Institute for a talk with Jörg Schumacher, with Bill Whitaker of CBS News’ “60 Minutes” and German Consul General David Gill along with Ambassador Olof Skoog, head of the European Union delegation at the UN.

Bill Whitaker of CBS News “60 Minutes” talks with German journalists outside his offices in New York

With coronavirus restrictions in New York being gradually lifted, the group was able to get inside Bloomberg News for a talk and tour from Michael Lysak — getting the chance to see former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg sitting and working at his small desk in the middle of the newsroom like everyone else around him. The German journalists also learned more about efforts to fight and stop hate crime in the United States with Scott Richman of the Anti-Defamation League and learned more about crisis communication from Juda Engelmayer at the famous Katz’s deli. The group also met David Harris of the AJC, Hendrik Hinzel at Vice and Clare Toeniskoetter of the New York Times podcast The Daily.

Frieda Vizel takes German journalists on a walking tour of the Hasidic Jewish section of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Two journalists, who speak Russian, that were planning to take part in the program were forced to postpone their participation at the last-minute due work demands connected to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Six members of the group are heading off for a “station week” visiting RIAS alumni from the United States at smaller stations across the United States — from Texas to South Dakota and Boston to Los Angeles. The next standard three-week RIAS program is planned for October and a one-week special program for alumni and senior editors is planned for late October in Washington DC. Please write info@riasberlin.org for further information.

Here is a list of the March 2022 RIAS group:

Nazan Gökdemir – ZDF/Arte – Mainz/Strasbourg

Katharina Hamberger, Deutschlandfunk radio – Berlin

Theresa Greim, Bayerische Rundfunk radio Munich

Sven Christian, Spiegel TV — Berlin

Andreas Buettner, Welt TV – Berlin 

Christian von Rechenberg, ZDF TV – Mainz

Nadine Bader, ARD TV – Berlin 

Okka Gundel, ARD TV – Cologne, Hamburg

Nadine Jantz, Welt TV – Berlin 

Carolina Chimnoy, Deutsche Welle – Washington 


March 8, 2022

Jury commendations for 2022 RIAS Media Prize winners

The RIAS Berlin Commission’s independent jury has picked five winners from the United States and Germany for its 2022 RIAS Media Prize competition and came to the following conclusions below about the winning entries. The 30th annual award is presented by the German-American exchange program and celebrates the best of transatlantic broadcast journalism.

The jury made up of five distinguished journalists from the United States and Germany selected five winners in TV, Radio and Digital Media categories submitted from across the United States and Germany on March 5, 2022. The German-American jury comprised: Co-chair Michael Gargiulo (WNBC TV, New York), Co-chair Anja Heyde (ZDF/MDR, Berlin/Magdeburg) as well as Helge Fuhst (ARD, Hamburg), Yami Virgin (Fox 29, San Antonio, Texas), Christian Wilp (NTV/RTL, Berlin).

Jury Commendations

Grand Prize – Jan Philipp Burgard, “Leben und Sterben am 11. September – eine Familiengeschichte “(WeltTV), September 4, 2021

“Life and Death on 9/11″ is the moving story of how two German-American families an ocean apart struggle to overcome a terrible loss that binds them while also moving on with their lives with hope in their hearts. A young investment banker from Germany was among those who perished tragically on 9/11. His American fiance was pregnant with their child. Jan Philip Burgard takes viewers on an emotional journey with the banker’s fiance returning to the New York apartment they shared for the first time in 20 years. Their 20-year-old son speaks movingly about growing up without his German father. The banker’s parents in Germany also appear, still deeply pained by the loss. The revealing, yet sensitive portrayal of one family anchored  in America and Germany is an outstanding story and poignant reminder that Germans and other foreigners were among those who died on 9/11

Here is a link to Burgard’s story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYQGRMqMklg

 

RIAS TV Award – Sigrid Faltin “Ein Hauch von Amerika – die Doku“ (ARD), December 1, 2021

Just when it seemed that just about everything was already known about the post-war history of American Gis in West Germany, Sigrid Faltin and her colleagues have delivered a stirring, fascinating and at times even disturbing look into little-known aspects about life in small West German towns after the United States armed forces arrived — first as occupation forces and then as allies during the Cold War. The documentary uses archival footage and interviews with women who fell in love with and had children with American soldiers to explore their special hardships.

Here is a link to the story: https://www.ardmediathek.de/sendung/ein-hauch-von-amerika/staffel-1/Y3JpZDovL2Rhc2Vyc3RlLmRlL2Vpbi1oYXVjaC12b24tYW1lcmlrYTE/1/

RIAS Radio Award  Thomas ReintjesMatthias Röckl “Fear of Losing New York – Auf der Suche nach einer verschwundenen Stadt“  (Deutschlandfunk/SWR), March 16, 2021

After Covid-19 shut down the city that never sleeps, left its normally vibrant Broadway theaters dark, forced the myriad of small shops and sent its famously rich variety of restaurants into a fight for survival, journalists Thomas Reintjes and Matthias Röckl went out with a recording device to explore and describe New York in a touching, moving and memorable way. Their story “Fear of Losing New York” is a remarkable piece of radio journalism that uses creative techniques and informal spontaneous discussions to paint a picture of a city that is reeling.

Here is a link to their story: https://www.hoerspielundfeature.de/auf-der-suche-nach-einer-verschwundenen-stadt-fear-of-100.html

RIAS Digital Media Award

Katrin Bennhold, Clare Toeniskoetter, “Day X“ , five-part podcast on The Daily (The New York Times), May 28-June 24, 2021

Making the most its cutting-edge style of podcast journalism and its profound investigative prowess, The Daily has put together a powerful series of stories that shed light on a secretive nationwide network of far-right extremists who were operating under the radar inside Germany’s military and police forces. The series of stories that also served as the basis of newspaper articles in The New York Times is sterling example of outstanding investigative journalism.  

1, Shadow Army?: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/28/podcasts/the-daily/day-x-part-1-shadow-army.html

2, In the Stomach: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/03/podcasts/day-x-franco-a-german-extremism.html

3, Blind Spot 2.0: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/10/podcasts/day-x-germany-neo-nazi-franco-a.html

4, Franco A: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/16/podcasts/franco-a-trial-germany-terrorism.html

5, Defensive Democracy: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/24/podcasts/franco-a-trial-afd-germany.html

 

RIAS Fellow Award

Vladimir Balzer, “New York ist zurück – eine Stadt befreit sich aus der Pandemie“, Deutschlandfunk, November 8, 2021

In his riveting story about New York City has gradually been coming back to life after the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic, Vladimir Balzer takes Deutschlandfunk listeners on a heart-warming tour of the city that is so hungry for a return to normalcy in the fall of 2021 just before the United States reopened its gates for visitors from the European Union. Adding important voices with illuminating interviews with idled Broadway actors, American journalists stuck working only from home, badly ailing 9/11 heroes, and lonely Germans stranded in Manhattan are included in this short-but-sweet journalistic masterpiece put together during a RIAS fellowship program.

https://www.deutschlandfunkkultur.de/usa-lockert-einreisebeschraenkungen-new-york-ist-zurueck-100.html

Special Jury Prize

Ines Pohl, Deutsche Welle, special commendation for outstanding transatlantic interview with George W. Bush, Deutsche Welle, July 14, 2021

George W. Bush does not give many interviews anymore and as he explained to Deutsche Welle’s Ines Pohl in a rare meeting with a journalist the former President explained why he stays out of politics now – and likes to focus on hobbies such as painting portraits, including one of Angela Merkel. Offering his candid take on a wide range of important issues affecting Germany and the United States, the interview that was part of DW’s documentary on Merkel made international headlines in July 2021 and is an outstanding illustration of how a one-on-one conversation can shed light on current topics as well as historical subjects. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-QcTTngCeo

Special Jury Prize

RIAS Media Prize jury meeting

March 7, 2022

Five German, American stories picked as RIAS Media Prize winners in 2022

The RIAS Berlin Commission announced the winners of this year’s RIAS Media Prize Awards on Monday, March 7, 2022. The 30th annual award is presented by the German-American exchange program and celebrates the best of transatlantic broadcast journalism with up to 10,000 EUR in prize-money awarded.

The jury, made up of five distinguished journalists from the United States and Germany, selected five winners from the TV, Radio and Digital Media category entries submitted from across the United States and Germany on March 5, 2022. The German-American jury comprised: Co-chair Michael Gargiulo (WNBC TV, New York), Co-chair Anja Heyde (ZDF/MDR, Berlin/Magdeburg), as well as Helge Fuhst (ARD, Hamburg), Yami Virgin (Fox 29, San Antonio, Texas), Christian Wilp (NTV/RTL, Berlin).

Conditions allowing, RIAS Berlin Commission will host a gala ceremony on June 2, 2022 in Berlin to pay tribute to the winners from the 2022 competition as well as the 2020 and 2021 contests that were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The RIAS Berlin Commission, created after the legendary Radio in American Sector (RIAS) broadcaster went off the air in 1993, has been operating exchange programs for more than 1,900 German and American broadcast journalists since 1993 with the aim of promoting transatlantic understanding in journalism and keeping alive the spirit of the Cold War-era radio and TV broadcasting network.

This year’s prize winners are:

Grand Prize – Jan Philipp Burgard: “Leben und Sterben am 11. September – eine Familie Geschichte“ (WeltTV), September 4, 2021

RIAS TV Award – Sigrid Faltin & Team: “Ein Hauch von Amerika – Dokumentation“ (ARD), December 1, 2021

RIAS Radio Award  – Thomas ReintjesMatthias Röckl: Fear of Losing New York – Auf der Suche nach einer verschwundenen Stadt“  (Deutschlandfunk), March 16, 2021

RIAS Digital Media Award – Katrin Bennhold, Clare Toeniskoetter: “Day X“ , five-part podcast series on The Daily (The New York Times), May 28-June 24, 2021

RIAS Fellow Award – Vladimir Balzer: “New York ist zurück – eine Stadt befreit sich aus der Pandemie“, (Deutschlandfunk), November 8, 2021

Special Jury Prize:
Ines Pohl: Deutsche Welle, special commendation for outstanding transatlantic interview with George W. Bush, Deutsche Welle, July 14, 2021


March 2, 2022

RIAS exchange programs resumes in 2022 with three-week U.S. fellowship

Eleven broadcast journalists from Germany will spend three weeks in three U.S. cities on a RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship from March 7th to 25th. The exchange programs were idled for the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic before resuming partially in October 2021. The March program for German journalists to the United States is the first of seven RIAS Berlin Commission programs in 2022 as the fellowship returns to its full schedule.

The following journalists will spend one week together in Washington DC, one week together in New York and then several will spend a third week on individual visits to American RIAS journalists at TV and radio stations from San Antonio, Texas, Tyler, Texas, Dallas, Los Angels and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Nazan Gökdemir, ZDF (Mainz, Germany)/ARTE (Strasbourg, France) 

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Gökdemir is a news anchor and journalist. She anchors the “Heute Journal Update” on German public network ZDF. She also anchors the news program „Arte journal“ at German-French TV network ARTE, based in Strasbourg.

Nadine Bader, ARD TV (Berlin)