News & Events


July 3, 2019

Second RIAS summer exchange program for US college students starts in Berlin

Fourteen U.S. college students and recent graduates heading into broadcast journalism spent the first week of their three-week summer exchange program on a busy tour of media, political and cultural stops in Berlin this past week. The program is designed to expand horizons and shed a light on the role that RIAS (Radio in American Sector) played during the Cold War as well as give the young American journalists a chance to meet German journalists and learn more about the industry in Germany

The students from 10 different universities and 10 states from Oklahoma to Washington state and from Louisiana and Wisconsin to Arizona, North Carolina and New York got a chance to meet German journalists such as Cherno Jobatey (ZDF), an anchor and reporter for ZDF public broadcasting network who told riveting stories about journalism and culture in Germany.  They also met Andreas Rickmann, the head of growth at Bild.de’s online newspaper, as well as with Richard Meng, a former journalist and RIAS board member who offered illuminating insights about the future of journalism in Berlin in their talks. They also toured the Stasi prison, the remnants of the Berlin Wall at Bernauer Strasse, the Reichstag and met with students studying journalism and mass media from Berlin’s Free University during their first week in the German capital.

The American students will travel to Hamburg on Thursday and Friday to meet RIAS alumni and learn more about German public broadcasting at NDR as well as meet with journalists from Der Spiegel news magazine. They will also meet with Hamburg-area alumni for an informal get-together to celebrate the 4th of July holiday.

Taking part in the pioneering new program that aims to bring American students to Germany each summer to learn more about the country, the students will also get the chance to meet artist Kani Alavi — who was a driving force behind the creation of the East Side Gallery open-art art gallery painted on the east side of the Berlin Wall in the chaotic days right after the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989.

The students read extensively and watched films about Berlin, Germany and the Cold War to get ready for program even during their final exams period in the spring. Their extensive preparation helped them better understand stops to the Stasi museum, the Stasi prison, the RIAS building, the journalism department at the Free University of Berlin  and the Springer Akademie, a finishing school for young journalists at one of the country’s leading publishing companies where they will meet young German journalists.

Trips to Leipzig, Potsdam, the Glienicker Bridge where Cold War spy swaps took place, a new Berlin spy museum, Deutsche Welle TV headquarters, the English-language KCRW radio station in Berlin, and to the broadcast media capital of Germany in Cologne are planned for the second and third week.


Here is a list of the U.S. students participating in the program:

  1. Jude Ahmed, Western Washington University
  2. Michelle Ailport, Arizona State University
  3. Juliana Amos, Queens College, North Carolina
  4. Jillian Carafa, Syracuse
  5. Jen Cartwright, Western Washington University
  6. Sinclaire Jacobs, University of Oklahoma
  7. Molly Kruse, University of Oklahoma
  8. Ariana Lasher, University of New Haven
  9. Michael Makowski, University of Wisconsin
  10. Christian Nunley, University of Oklahoma
  11. Kingsley-Reigne Pissang, University of Wisconsin
  12. Nick Scheffler, University of Minnesota
  13. Erin Snodgrass, Loyola, New Orleans, Louisiana
  14. Alison Walker, Emerson University, Massachusetts



July 1, 2019

Here are some observations from a group of RIAS Berlin Commission journalists who spent two weeks in Germany, Prague and Brussels in June 2017

Jeremy Chen, Reporter/MMJ, KESQ NewsChannel 3, Palm Springs, California

Being a part of the RIAS Berlin Kommission was an incredible experience that far exceeded the high expectations I had for the program. Being able to pick the brains with German and other European-based journalists, along with the movers and shakers in German and European politics provided invaluable insight I never would have imagined I would get. Hearing from both sides of the German political spectrum with the Green Party and the AfD Party gave a unique perspective on the country’s complicated politics. Not only did it allow me to learn more about Europe, and also the US itself through the eyes of Europeans. Thank you, RIAS for the opportunity to embark on this journey.”


Heather Dorf-Dolce, producer ARD bureau, Washington DC

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to be part of the RIAS program. As an American Journalist who works for German Journalists in Washington DC, this was invaluable insight into Germany. The program created a congruous connection between politics and history. It was fascinating to walk the Berlin wall with the artist from the East Side Gallery, and also meet with the AFD. The joining of history and the present is a wonderful way to learn. To speak to a member of the Green party, while walking his neighborhood, was a perfect way to understand his platform.  Meeting with Chancellor Merkel’s press secretary, and then to combine it with a walking tour with a Syrian Refugee, was eye opening. The program brings history to life and puts it in context with current political situations.  Meeting German Journalists and seeing their work environment was a fantastic way to bring everything we learned together. They were insightful, open and it is wonderful to make new contacts.  Last but certainly not least, Erik and the group, what a marvelous, smart, curious group of journalists, I look forward to growing my connections with all of them and collaborating with all the RIAS Alum for future projects. Can I come again?“

Larry Miller, anchor, WUSA9, Washington DC

“As a self-described ‘thrill-seeker,’ I found my latest and most exciting adventure in my two-week RIAS Fellowship in Europe. Over the course of 14 days, my colleagues and I traveled to three countries, five cities and interviewed countless newsmakers and journalists in Europe. 

By far, the most exciting opportunity was talking with Beatrix von Storch, Co-leader of Germany’s AfD party.  We discussed immigration, climate change, and the rise of far-right politics.  Few journalists have had to opportunity to engage the party on real policy issues affecting Germans.  We were granted such an opportunity.  I also developed a real connection to history—touring the East Side Gallery and visiting the Germany Embassy in Prague that was once home to thousands of East German refugees.  Its one thing to read about past events in history books. It’s another to trace those important moments in time with your own feet. RIAS is committed to widening the knowledge and skills of journalists, both in Germany and the United States.  I am truly grateful for the opportunity, the knowledge, the experiences, and new lifelong friendships.”

Roseanne Gerin, English News Editor, Radio Free Asia, Washington, DC

“The RIAS journalist exchange program was a fantastic opportunity to take a deep dive into German history and to learn about the country’s media, politics, and economy. The participants had rare access to prominent European journalists, politicians, and other powerbrokers through numerous meetings, briefings, and interviews in Germany, the Czech Republic, and Belgium. Among the program’s highlights were briefings at the headquarters of the European Union and NATO in Brussels. Thanks, RIAS, for a wonderful learning experience!”

LaCrai Mitchell, CBS News, New York/South Carolina

When I first learned that I’d been accepted into the RIAS Berlin Fellowship, I was beyond thrilled for what I knew was going to be the experience of a lifetime. What I wouldn’t have guessed is how participating in the program would change my career aspirations in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. Being immersed in the different cultures that characterize Berlin, Dresden, Prague, and Brussels re-awakened a love and appreciation for international reporting and politics that I hadn’t felt since studying abroad years ago. Meeting journalists like Jaafar Abdul Karim who discussed the lack of diversity in the German media landscape and political leader Beatrix von Storch who discussed the AfD party’s views on everything from refugees to climate change, clearly highlighted similarities and differences in the German and American media landscapes and political climates in ways that I know will positively improve the lens from which I tell stories. For that reason, I’d like to truly thank the RIAS Berlin Commissioners, Erik, Isabell and the rest of the RIAS team—not only for an incredible learning experience but for equipping me with firsthand knowledge that I know will make be an even better journalist as I embark on my next big assignment: the U.S. 2020 presidential election!


Kathy Walker, News Director, KOA NewsRadio, Denver, Colorado

Thank you RIAS! My world view has expanded, my connections to German journalists has begun and the gratitude I have for the foresight of the RIAS Commission is complete.   As part of the #RIAS group of June ’19, I learned so much about German politics and history, and the role of radio and television in all of Europe since the Cold War.  From meeting great journalists to members of the diverse community of Berlin and topping it off with visits to the EU and NATO, I can’t name my favorite experience.  It was all great! Please know that the entire experience has enriched me and is motivating me as I return to my work as News Director of KOA Radio in Denver, CO.  Most of all, I have new friends found in the profound joy of a fantastic learning experience.   


Susy Castillo, Reporter, KTSM, El Paso, Texas

The RIAS Fellowship is a life changing program that inspires me to be a better journalist and all around person. Speaking with politicians, journalists, and people with one of kind experiences has helped me view the world a little bit different. While it was my first trip overseas, it was a very busy schedule that seems like a lengthy course on American-German relationships condensed into just two weeks. As much as we are different, we are also the same when it comes to politics, media, and life. I am grateful to have also been able to ask questions on camera of how people from the other side of the world view issues in my hometown which is allowing me to bring those stories to my community. Thank you RIAS. Even though RIAS is no longer on air, it’s still changing people’s views and lives in a positive way.  


Roxanne Scott, Reporter at WABE News, Atlanta

I thank the RIAS Berlin Commission for giving me a glimpse of Europe through politics, media, history and culture. Highlights for me included the East Side Gallery, the walking tours of Kreuzberg and Neukolln and going to the POLITICO office in Brussels. I also loved the informal gatherings, such as having a homemade dinner with a German journalist; I enjoyed talking about everything from podcasts to public radio to HARIBO gummy bears. RIAS has helped me re-imagine my career and affirmed that I’m on the right path of telling international stories. Thank you RIAS for the spark!


Gina Presson, Producer, WEDU,  North Boulevard Tampa,

Many thanks to RIAS for this transformational experience that took me back to the land of my birth and allowed me to see it through new eyes! It was a magnificently crafted tapestry of textures, histories and experiences.  We had unfettered access to both newsmakers and news veterans, representing diverse voices across the political and social spectrum.  It was an intimate, in-depth and insider look at the complicated dynamics in Germany and the European Union. This is particularly important, given this time of change, resulting from the recent European parliamentary elections, all providing rich fodder for many potential news stories.

 Our meetings ranged from the press secretary working with Chancellor Merkel, the head of the ARD party, and a former councilman from the Greens Party, to a survivor of the Stasi prison, a Syrian refugee and the artist who founded the East Side Gallery painted on remnants of the Berlin Wall. I loved the blend of meetings focused on both historical and current events. Given my family history, born to an American ASA soldier living in Herzogenaurach, it was amazing to see the Allied museum in Berlin, including its photographic exhibit of life for American GI families in Germany. They very much resembled my family photos.

 It was also an extraordinary experience to visit the major media outlets in Germany and to hear from their leaders. In a more informal way, I enjoyed getting to know the German journalists over dinner and drinks. Finally, what a wonderful experience to get to know such outstanding American journalists, led by our fearless leader, Erik Kirschbaum. He is a walking encyclopedia of information from both sides of the Atlantic. As an American who has lived in Germany for many years, Erik has a unique perspective on both of our cultures.

 In a nutshell, the RIAS family fosters transatlantic relationships, deeper understanding of both our cultures and their interdependence, as well as lifetime friendships. It also is the source of many news stories to encourage greater understanding among our viewers, readers and listeners. Thank you for including me in this rare company.  

Ryan Prior, Cross-Platform Associate Producer, CNN, Atlanta

The RIAS fellowship was a life-changing opportunity to meet directly with many leaders in important positions running the free world, as well as the journalists who cover them in Politico, the Economist, and many others. In an increasingly globalized world, it’s vital that as many journalists as possible develop this kind of first-hand knowledge of the enduring institutions in liberal democracy. As democratic back-sliding occurs across Russia and Hungary as well as Germany and the US, it’s vital that the next generation of journalists can understand how inextricably all of our lives are woven. RIAS provides this in a way that no other professional program I’ve been involved with has done.

Without question, the meetings at the Bundestag, German Embassy, European Union, and NATO, as well as my budding friendships with each of the fellows, have inspired me to push harder as an internationally minded journalist. RIAS helped revitalize me and to understand the importance of the work I do each day at CNN. My RIAS experiences will be front of mind on a daily basis, influencing the way I write, produce, and think on both domestic and international stories for many years to come.

Dean Kurth, Fox News, New York

“The Spring 2019 RIAS program included an exceptionally talented group of American journalists who continuously inspired me as we were provided incredible access and insight into the world of European politics, media and culture.”

Leah Donnella, NPR, Washington

This trip gave me the rare opportunity to step away from the day-to-day grind of journalism and actually think about some bigger questions: Why do we do what we do? How can we do it better? What assumptions do we make as journalists in the U.S., and how are people in other contexts challenging those assumptions? Meeting with German journalists who are covering many of the same issues that we are (rising nationalism, climate change, immigration, elections) forced me to look at these topics from a different perspective. The conversations were sometimes challenging, but always illuminating. It was also fascinating to be in a city that’s so immersed in history – and to learn about how Berlin in particular (and Germany more broadly) is grappling with its complicated past. So much to think about, and so many parallels to the U.S. Even though this program packed in a lot of very full days, I came back to my newsroom feeling refreshed and grateful to be working in this field.

Michelle Morgante, freelance journalist, Los Angeles

As someone who grew up when Berlin was still divided, being able to visit Germany as it is today allowed me to comprehend that life can only be understood backwards – and lived forwards. The fortitude of the Germans – and the Europeans in general – to embrace history as a means of caring for the future left an impression on me that I hope to spread. I am deeply thankful to have been part of this experience. This fellowship is one of the most important programs I can imagine for journalists and for anyone who cares about the political and social future of our world. Thank you, RIAS, for preserving this increasingly meaningful experience.




June 17, 2019

Journalists from the United States and Germany connected for several alumni get-togethers in Germany and Brussels during the last two weeks. The 13 US journalists were on a whirlwind two-week trip to four different cities — Berlin, Dresden, Prague and Brussels — and met their German counterparts in Berlin and Brussels.


The high-spirited and good-natured alumni reunions with the visiting U.S. fellows  were organized by alumni chapter leaders in Berlin and Brussels.

The Americans also had the chance to talk with experts at NATO headquarters in Brussels, learning more about the challenges and different views within NATO on defense spending, David Herszenhorn.

Before flying to Brussels from Prague, the American journalists spent a busy 24 hours in Prague learning more about Radio Free Europe and the important work that the journalists there are doing for radio/tv/social media productions. Radio Free Europe is the closest thing out there to what RIAS did during the Cold War — beaming news, information and music into Communist East Germany from its offices in West Berlin.

In Prague the Americans also visited the German embassy, site of the famous October 1989 events that contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, and met with an enterprising German journalist, Kilian Kirchgessner, who covers the Czech Republic and Slovakia for various German media outlets.

While still in Germany, the Americans spent 24 hours in Dresden learning more about the Frauenkirche church in the heart of Dresden that was painstakingly rebuilt in recent decades after being destroyed by Allied bombers in 1945. They also learned more about the rebuilding efforts continuing in Dresden, a grand city on the Elbe River that has been compared with Florence in Italy. They also visited a Volkswagen factory in the heart of Dresden that is now producing electric Golfs.

While in Berlin, the Americans had a fascinating tour of the Neukoelln section of town where many refugees from Syria and the Middle East have settled, turning the Main Street once known as Sonnenallee into Arab Street.  They also toured the section of Kreuzberg with local Greens political leader Oezcan Mutlu, which has long been a multicultural neighbourhood where many Turkish immigrants to Germany live.

The Americans also had lively discussions with a leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and with journalists working at RBB InfoRadio station with Benjamin Eyssel and Maria Luz from Deutsche Welle. They also had the chance to learn more about the work of Deutsche Welle in Berlin with editor-in-chief Ines Pohl.

ARD anchor Ingo Zamperoni stopped by to talk to the American fellows along with Economist correspondent Tom Nuttall and Berlin political consultants Julius van de Laar. German-Iranian artist Kani Alavi told the story about the East Side gallery and how he and courageous artists from around the world quickly painted their artworks on the east side of the Berlin Wall before it could be torn down – and how the East Side Gallery has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Berlin.

June 4, 2019

13 US journalists take part in RIAS Berlin Commission program in Germany, Prague, Brussels

Thirteen US journalists arrived in Berlin on June 2 for a busy two-week RIAS Berlin Commission program in Berlin, Dresden, Prague and Brussels. The American journalists are from TV and radio stations across the United States: Texas, California, Washington DC, New York, North Carolina, Georgia and Colorado.

They hit the ground running on June 3 with a visit to the historic RIAS building where the legendary Cold War-era “Radio in American Sector” (RIAS) that beamed its news, information and music across East Germany was headquartered.

They had a riveting talk with Jaafar Abdul-Karim, a journalist for Deutsche Welle, and then an interesting meeting at ARD’s capital city offices in the heart of Berlin with RIAS alumni Daniel Pokraka, Dagmar Pepping and Michael Stempfle, where they learned more about the differences between public broadcasting in Germany and the United States. Despite sweltering heat in Berlin with temperatures hitting 32 degrees Celsius, the RIAS fellows also took a tour of the Reichstag parliament building during a busy week in Berlin where the
centre-left Social Democrat party was in turmoil after its leader abruptly resigned

This week in Berlin the Americans will also meet a leader of the AfD party, Beatrix von Storch, German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer, Greens politician Oezcan Mutlu, RIAS Berlin Commissioner Richard Meng, Deutsche Welle editor-in-chief Ines Pohl, Deutsche Welle anchor and RIAS alumni Brent Goff and RBB InfoRadio with RIAS alumni Benjamin Eyssel, Economist correspondent Tom Nuttall, political campaign consultant Julius van de Laar, and Clean Energy Wire director Carl Mohn.


They will also have get-togethers with German alumni from the RIAS Berlin Commission program and tour the Stasi prison in Hohenschoenhausen as well as visit remnants of the Berlin Wall at Bernauer Strasse.

During the second week, the program moves to Dresden for a tour of the city, the Frauenkirche and a modern Volkswagen factory where electric Golfs are produced, then to Prague for a visit to the German Embassy and Radio Free Europe before finishing up in Brussels with visits to NATO headquarters, the EU headquarters and talks with journalists from Politico, Deutsche Welle and ARD.

Here is a list of the American fellows:

  1. Susana Castillo, reporter KTSM-NBC, El Paso, Texas
  2. Jeremy Chen, reporter KESQ TV, Palm Springs, California
  3. Leah Donnella, NPR, Washington DC
  4. Heather Dorf-Dolce, freelance TV producer ARD and others in Washington DC
  5. Rosanne Gerin, Radio Free Asia, Washington DC
  6. Dean Kurth, Fox news TV in New York
  7. Larry Miller, USA9 TV in Washington DC
  8. LaCrai Mitchell, 60 Minutes, CBS News in New York
  9. Michelle Morgante, NPR West managing editor, Los Angeles
  10. Gina Presson, WEDU TV, Tampa, Florida and instructor East Carolina University
  11. Ryan Prior, CNN, Atlanta, Georgia
  12. Roxanne Scott, Georgia public radio, Atlanta
  13. Kathy Walker, KOA News Radio, Denver, Colorado (and RTNDA board member)


May 24, 2019


RIAS more important than ever, according to speakers at Media Prize Awards ceremony

About 200 RIAS Berlin Commission alumni, board members, former employees and friends of the legendary Cold War-era radio and TV station celebrated the 2019 RIAS Media Prize awards at a gala ceremony in the RIAS building on Thursday evening hosted by Helge Fuhst, program manager at Phoenix TV and a RIAS alumni himself. RIAS chairman Peter Limbourg, the Director-General of Deutsche Welle, and co-chair Christina M. Higgens, the Minister Council for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, spoke about the important role that the bi-national organisation continues to play. RIAS Berlin Commission Executive Director Erik Kirschbaum paid tribute to the work of newly created alumni chapters in Cologne, Hamburg, Berlin, Washington DC and New York that have helped keep the spirit of RIAS alive.

“If the RIAS Berlin Commission didn’t already exist, it would definitely have to have been invented by someone by now,” said Limbourg, who was filling in for RIAS Berlin Commission honorary chair Monika Grütters after the Federal Government’s Commissioner for Culture and the Media was held up at a European Council meeting in Brussels. “It’s enormously important.” Limbourg also urged journalists to report as accurately and factually as possible in an era that has become increasingly polarised. .

Higgins said that disagreements in some areas between the United States and Germany should not harm the transatlantic friendship between the two countries: “There are no easy answers to the many tough challenges that we face, and that’s why the free debate between our countries is more important than ever before…The willingness to debate and even disagree it is therefore not a negative. it is a sign of partnernship. And that’s why you may find the US government has been very vocal about asking all NATO members, including Germany, to ensure the safety of our energy supply, telekom networks and our national defence.”

Higgins added that Rick Grenell, the U.S. ambassador who is also an honorary chairman of RIAS,  has stressed that Germany and the United States are “on the same page”.

“In the United States and Germany our societies do allow for this free exchanges of ideas,” she said. “And when it comes to liberty, human rights and freedom of the press we are on the same page. It’s important that we continue to fight together for freedom of the press as a fundamental right and RIAS is absolutely part of that story and part of that shared commitment.”

She added:  “RIAS has stayed true to its mission. The Commission reaches a broader audience and a wider selection of media outlets and platforms than ever before. RIAS journalists cover a broad range of political social and cultural topics from all possible angles. It represent a diversity of opinions to a diverse audience and that promotes accountability and it does indeed spark public debate. if you follow our twitter feed, we like to spark public debate at the US embassy.”

In his speech, Kirschbaum noted that 737 Americans since 1992 have now taken part in one to three week fellowships in Germany, many of whom were in Europe for the first time. Also 885 German journalists have taken part in the fellowships in the United States, some of whom for the first time. There were 78 fellows on six programs in 2018, which was 24 more fellows than in 2017.


May 20, 2019

RIAS Media Prize Awards Ceremony takes place on May 23

The RIAS Berlin Commission will hold its annual RIAS Media Prize Awards ceremony on May 23. The annual awards ceremony celebrating 27 years of the German-American exchange program and the best of transatlantic broadcast journalism will take place at 7 p.m. at the RIAS Funkhaus.

Professor Monika Grütters, honorary chair of RIAS Berlin Commission and the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, will hold the keynote speech and Helge Fuhst, a RIAS alumni and member of the Media Prize jury, will serve as master of ceremonies. There will also be a reception after the ceremony. RIAS alumni are also invited to take part in a panel discussion and alumni gathering on May 24 at 4:30 p.m. at the RIAS building.

This year’s prize winners are:

Rias TV Award

Barbara Biemann, James Jacoby, Anya Bourg, John Goetz: „Facebook out of control?“

https://www.daserste.de/information/reportage-dokumentation/dokus/videos/facebook-ausser-kontrolle-video-102.htm The documentary “Facebook Out of Control” shows just how much power the company wields over its 2.2 billion users. The filmmakers have brilliantly put together previously unpublished material to take a deep dive into the psyche of its founders and  the question of whether the world’s most powerful company is bringing people together or driving them apart.

Rias Radio Award:

Tom Schimmeck „ Fake-factories – making profit with false reports”


Donald Trump has been shrugging off criticism as “fake news“ ever since his first press conference as President-elect. He has used that term often to discredit the media. But now it has led to a larger debate about what is true and what is fake.  The documentary “Fake factories” impressively illustrates that debate and offers viewers insights into the business of truth.

Rias Digital Media Award:

Roman Lehberger, Alexander Epp, Roman Höfner: “The ‘Atomwaffen Division’. Insights into America’s most dangerous Neo-Nazi group”

http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/neonazi-zelle-atomwaffen-division-das-hass-netzwerk-a-1225341.html This chilling story explores how the violent American Nazi terror group Atomwaffen Division is making ominous in-roads into other countries, including Germany.

Rias Fellow Award (Radio):

Eberhard Schade: „Co-Living in the USA – the all-inclusive apartment of your dreams?”


This entertaining story, produced during Eberhard Schade’s participation in the RIAS USA program, is an insightful exploration of what happens when gentrification meets contemporary career culture – forcing people well-beyond college into dorm-style living arrangements.

May 14, 2019

Alumni program planned for 30th anniversary of Berlin Wall falling

The RIAS Berlin Commission is planning two big alumni events for US fellows this year and two big events for German alumni. All alumni are invited to annual RIAS Media Prize Awards ceremony in Berlin on May 23 at the RIAS Funkhaus and alumni will have a panel discussion and another  gathering at the historic RIAS building on May 24.  Please write to info@riasberlin.org for more details on the two get-togethers in Germany.

There will also be several alumni get-togethers in San Antonio, Texas at the RTDNA Excellence in Journalism convention on September 5-7, including a reception on September 6, a breakfast gathering and a panel discussion on September 7 RIAS panel – “So you want to be a journalist and travel the world for your stories? From the Texas border to Mexico to the Croatian border to Serbia, we can help you.” It’s open to all RTDNA members and non-members can obtain a special day-pass rate by registering here: https://www.spj.org/eij-register-oneday.asp  RIAS will offer $100 travel stipends for all RIAS alumni traveling from out-of-town to who take part in at least 2 of the 3 alumni events. Please let us know if you’re interested and will be attending.

The highlight of the year will be a new one-week alumni program in Berlin for about 30 U.S. alumni in early November that will be timed to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. The co-financed program will  include just two two-hour appointments in the mornings and an evening get-together with local alumni. Afternoons will be kept free for alumni to do reporting on 30 years of German unification or the Berlin Wall or alumni networking on their own with German alumni. The November alumni program will start on November 5 and run to November 11. RIAS will pay for hotels and program costs in Berlin while alumni themselves will pay for their own flights.  RIAS is planning to have a reciprocal alumni program in Washington DC/West Virginia in late October 2020 shortly before the U.S. elections for 30 German alumni.

Please let us or your local alumni chapter – which will be nominating many of the participants – know if you are interested in taking part. The November program is designed to encourage and support all those alumni-building efforts.  Alumni who have been active in the alumni network, have supported RIAS or are planning to work on stories on the fall of the wall are especially encouraged to take part. There is no formal application form. Please send a short email to info@riasberlin.org explaining  why you would like to attend that alumni week for the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall and what, if anything, you are planning to report on for your network back home.

April 2, 2019

RIAS Berlin Commission fellows from Germany get crash course on trip to USA

A group of 14  journalists and academics from Germany recently completed a three-week RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship to learn more about politics, media and life in the United States. At stops in Washington DC and New York City during the first two weeks, the fellows met congressmen such as Mike Doyle (D-Penn) and Charlie Dent (R-Penn) as well as experts at Pew institute. They also had riveting talks with journalists such as Stacey Samuel (NPR), JP Burgard (ARD), Stefan Niemann (ARD), Martina Buttler (NDR), Martin Ganslmeyer (ARD), Bill Whitaker (CBS), Clare Toeniskoetter (The Daily at the New York Times), Michael Garguilo (WNBC), Tiffany Zeno (WNBC), Adam Reiss (NBC) as well as Germany’s ambassador to the United Nations, Christoph Heusgen. The fellows spent their third week at small and large stations across the United States. Below are some of their impressions of the fellowship:

Ann-Kathrin Horn, Deutschlandfunk Nova, Station week in Houston, Texas

Egal, wie gut man glaubt, die USA zu kennen und “zu verstehen”: Es erfährt sich anders und besser vor Ort, im Gespräch mit denen, die Politik machen oder mitgestalten und denen, die diese Politik für die Menschen in den USA journalistisch aufbereiten. Faszinierend waren die journalistischen Kontraste: Der Radio Nachrichten-Mann bei Bloomberg rattert alle paar Minuten die neuesten News ins Mikrofon, während die Journalisten bei der Fernsehsendung „60 Minutes“ sich mehrere Wochen Zeit nehmen für Hintergrundberichterstattung. Die erfolgreichsten Zeitungen vertrauen auf eine sehr neutrale Auflistung von Fakten und Äußerungen, die TV-Newsshows auf extrem meinungsgeladene Inhalte. Was wir gesehen haben, ist ein gespaltenes, irritiertes, verunsichertes Land, das dadurch allerdings nichts von seiner Kraft eingebüßt hat. Aus Obamas “yes, we can” ist mittlerweile vielleicht eher (wieder) ein “yes, we do” geworden.“

Cornelia Gerhard, Phoenix TV, station week in Tulsa, Oklahoma

“Von Washington und New York in den mittleren Südwesten der USA nach Tulsa, Oklahoma zur Stationweek. Starke Gegensätze: Die urbane, eher liberale Ostküste mit den großen politischen Themen, Sitz vieler dominierender Medienunternehmen und dem ländlichen, meist konservativen Oklahoma, wo Religion eine wichtige Rolle spielt und woher der mutmaßlich am weitesten rechts stehende Senator stammt. Es war eine sehr intensive und lehrreiche Zeit mit vielen unterschiedlichen Facetten dieses riesigen Landes. Das vielfältige Programm hat es möglich gemacht. Am wertvollsten war der Austausch mit vielen ganz unterschiedlichen Gesprächspartnern: mit Politikern, Menschenrechtsgruppen, Diplomaten, Meinungsforschern, Kolleginnen und Kollegen aus den USA, aber auch aus Deutschland, die entweder in den USA arbeiten oder unserer hoch sympathischen Gruppe angehörten. Ein Austausch, den ich sehr gerne fortsetzen möchte. Danke dafür Rias!”

Gesa Eberl, NTV/RTL, short 3-day station week in New York City


“Für mich ist mit dem RIAS Frühjahrsprogramm für Rundfunkjournalisten ein Traum in Erfüllung
gegangen! So viele lehrreiche und sinnvolle Einblicke und Kontakte im Bereich Politik, Wirtschaft, Gesellschaft und Medien in kürzester Zeit und perfekt organisiert, gibt es kein zweites Mal! Und wer kann schon von sich behaupten, daß er als deutschen Journalist innerhalb von drei Tage bei MSNBC, WNBC und der “Daily Show mit Trevor Noah” gearbeitet hat! 🙂 Vielen Dank RIAS!”

Lutz Harbaum, RTL Aktuell – Station week in Bloomington, Indiana

Drei Wochen, ein Land, 100.000 Eindrücke. Erster Stopp: das Gehirn des Landes. Eine Woche Washington. Wir treffen: Politiker, Think Tanks, Meinungsforscher. Zweiter Stopp: das Herz des Landes. Eine Woche New York. Wir treffen: Journalisten, Meinungsmacher, Strippenzieher. Dritter Stopp: die Seele des Landes. Eine Woche in einer Redaktion, mitten in den USA. In meinem Fall: Bloomington, Indiana. Dort, wo die Autos dick sind, die Burger fett und die Menschen stolz. Drei Wochen, ein Land, 100.000 Eindrücke. Was für eine Erfahrung. Danke, RIAS!“

Jan-Peter Bartels, Hessische Rundfunk HR TV, Station Week in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

“The RIAS program was an amazing experience for me, I came back filled to the brink with new impressions and information! It was a great look behind the scenes, into the minds and workings of all the people we met. And there were a lot of fascinating people who we met: politicians, thinkers, decisionmakers, journalists… Getting to talk to them, hearing their side of the story and discussing it in our group, gave me many new perspectives and insights. I really appreciate being given this opportunity, enjoyed it immensely and made new friends. I don‘t think there‘s a better way to learn about the USA.”


Maria Regis, MDR TV, Station week in South Carolina

„Es war nicht meine erste Reise in die USA aber mit Abstand die intensivste! Besonders gut gefallen haben mir die abwechslungsreichen Termine mit unterschiedlichsten Gesprächspartnern und natürlich der Blick hinter die Kulissen großer Medienunternehmen. Die offenen und spannenden Gespräche haben mir neue Impulse für meine journalistische Arbeit gegeben. Wir wurden immer herzlich empfangen und als Freunde verabschiedet. Ich werde diese Zeit nie vergessen. Ein großes Dankeschön an die RIAS-Kommission für die tolle Vorbereitung und das vielseitige Programm!“




Christian Avital, WDR Radio and RTL TV, station week in San Francisco, California

„Die Vielseitigkeit des Programms hat mich einfach nur begeistert. Ob die politischen Hintergrundgespräche in Washington, die Kollegengespräche bei der New Yorks Times, bei CBS oder NBC und nicht zuletzt meine Station Week beim öffentlich-rechtlichen Radiosender KQED in San Francisco: dieses Programm hat meinen beruflichen und auch privaten Horizont definitiv erweitert. Die drei Wochen in den USA haben mir aber noch eines gezeigt: Herr Trump ist zwar fast jeden Tag Thema in den Nachrichten dort, es gibt aber noch so viel mehr, über das die amerikanischen Kolleginnen und Kollegen berichten. Und das ist gut so.“ 




Anna Müllerleile, HAMBURG ZWEI – station week in Los Angeles, Kalifornien


„In den drei Wochen mit dem RIAS Programm habe ich so viel erlebt wie sonst in einem halben Jahr nicht. Eine unglaubliche und intensive Zeit. Washington, die Stadt bei der sich alles um Politik und das Weiße Haus dreht, New York – die Stadt, die niemals schläft, mit spannenden Besuchen bei der New York Times, 60 Minutes mit Bill Whitaker bis hin zum kompletten Kontrastprogramm beim Kochen für Obdachlose. In meiner station week ging es für mich von der Ost an die Westküste, ähnliche politische Einstellungen – ganz anderer Lifestyle. Während ich in New York alles zu Fuß gegangen bin, wurde in Los Angeles alles gefahren. Mal eben zu CBS gehen und ein Interview mit einem amerikanischen Serienstar führen, in LA kein Problem. Danke für diese tolle Zeit, die ich mit RIAS erleben durfte.“

Benjamin Eyssel, RBB Radio, Station Week in Seattle, Washington

“Die drei Wochen in den USA waren die lehr- und erlebnisreichsten Wochen seit Langem: Der
beste Mix aus Politik, Gesellschaft, Medien, Unterhaltung und Landeskunde – mit einer tollen Gruppe. Schade, dass man nur einmal am Programm teilnehmen kann.”





Christoph Tanneberger, ARD-aktuell, Hamburg – Station week Cincinnati, Ohio

„Wer über ein Land berichten will, der möchte es sich natürlich auch erschließen. Am allerbesten geht das, indem man eigene Erfahrungen sammelt. Das Rias-Programm hat dazu unzählige Gelegenheiten geboten: Begegnungen mit Menschen, die sich politisch und gesellschaftlich engagieren oder in den Medien aktiv sind. Treffen mit Leuten, die das Land, wie es heute ist, mit prägen und gestalten. Drei Wochen in den politischen und kulturellen Zentren der USA und in einer eher ländlich geprägten Region. Eine unvergessliche Zeit, die mir Amerika, seine Politik und seine Gesellschaft greifbarer gemacht hat.“


Andreas Teska, WDR Köln, Station week in Bloomington, Indiana 

„Geht das? Ein Land in drei Wochen, Theorie und Praxis? Politiker, Vertreter der Zivilgesellschaft, Wissenschaftler, Medienschaffende in den Filterblasen in Washington und New York? Und dann auch noch ganz normale Menschen in den Bundesstaaten, die sonst nur überflogen, überhört und übersehen werden? Ja, geht! Was bleibt? Trump ist ein Problem, vor allem aber eine Reaktion auf Probleme, die sich angestaut haben. Und deswegen könnte er sogar wiedergewählt werden. Und wo bleibt das Positive? Präsidenten kommen und gehen, aber die Menschen im Land bleiben, und der persönliche Kontakt zu ihnen ist durch nichts zu ersetzen. RIAS macht es möglich. Ich kann das Programm allen uneingeschränkt empfehlen!“




María Luz Moraleda, Deutsche Welle, Station week in San Antonio, Texas

“For my first time in the US, I couldn’t have had a better start then with the RIAS program. Every appointment we had was unique and gave us the opportunity to understand a little bit more about such a big country full of contrasts. For me, beginning in the Capital, and seeing first-hand how politicians, organizations and journalists work was a great idea. Later, during my station week, I had the opportunity to go to the Southern border with Mexico and report for DW. The RIAS program provided me with a  better understanding what different local citizens along the Border think about migration issues, which are spoken about (and tweeted about) daily from D.C.  What I enjoyed most was the exchange of experiences and thoughts, not only with open-minded American Journalists in New York, but also among the German journalists from VERY different backgrounds. If I had to sum up this amazing trip with just one Spanish word, I would say…’¡Excelente!’.” 

Marcel Machill, University Leipzig 

„Die Mischung macht’s! Es war genau diese Kombination aus Politik, Hintergrundgesprächen und Medien, die die Zeit in den USA so wertvoll gemacht hat. Wertvoll deshalb, weil ich aus erster Hand in den Gesprächen mit Kongressabgeordneten, bei den Diskussionen in den Think Tanks und beim Erfahrungsaustausch mit den journalistischen Kolleginnen und Kollegen erfahren konnte, was die Vereinigten Staaten in den vergangenen 20 Jahren so sehr verändert hat. Auch bei den Medien-Besuchen war der Mix aus ehrwürdigen und vorbildlichen Institutionen wie „60 Minutes“ bei CBS und den neuesten Entwicklungen bei der New York Times, NBC oder dem schnelllebigen Bloomberg genau richtig. Und last but not least war auch die Balance in der Teilnehmergruppe aus erfahrenen und jüngeren Kollegen, aus privaten und öffentlich-rechtlichen Medien sowie den unterschiedlichen Ressorts so gut angelegt, dass the whole experience zu einem exzellenten melting pot aus Eindrücken, Austausch und einer ordentlichen Portion transatlantischer Gemeinsamkeit werden konnte.“M


March 27, 2018

Alumni chapter events in March in Hamburg, Berlin, Washington DC and New York

March was a busy month for RIAS Berlin Commission alumni chapters in Germany and the United States.

RIAS Berlin Commission board member Melissa Eddy talks about her work for the Commission and at the New York Times in Germany with Jiffer Bourguingon, a former correspondent for Der Spiegel in Washington DC

Two of the biggest alumni chapters, in Hamburg and Berlin, held a series of interesting evening events with local organizations in Germany’s two largest cities to talk about transatlantic issues while alumni chapters in Washington DC and New York City held get-togethers at popular restaurants with German participants on the spring program to the United States. The idea behind the alumni chapters is to keep the spirit of the RIAS Berlin Commission alive for former participants, RIAS media prize winners, guest speakers to RIAS programs and friends of RIAS. There are no membership fees and the chapters as well as their meetings and events are organized locally by a network of volunteers.

There were about 25 American alumni members and RIAS media prize award winners such as Bill Whitaker of CBS in both of the U.S. cities who joined the 14 German RIAS participants for spirited discussions on Friday March 8 in Washington DC and on Friday March 15 in New York City. The events were organized thanks to the energy from U.S. chapter leaders Marissa Melton, Michael Garguilo, Clare Toeniskoetter and Stacey Samuel as well as U.S. coordinator KC Schillhahn. The alumni events in Hamburg — organized by chapter leaders Nadine Gries and Michail Paweletz — and Berlin — which was organized by Vladimir Balzer, Petra Gute and Anja Heyde — were also well attended. The Cologne alumni chapter is planning an evening get-together on April 3.

In Hamburg, RIAS Berlin Commission board member Melissa Eddy, who is also a correspondent

Jiffer Bourguingon (from left) with Melissa Eddy, Michail Paweletz and Nadine Gries

for The New York Times in Berlin, took part in a lively panel discussion on March 20 with Jiffer Bourguingon, a former correspondent for Der Spiegel in Washington DC, at an alumni meeting at the Villa Heine at the Elbe. The event was held in cooperation with the Business Club Hamburg for the first time and widely considered a great success with about 10 Hamburg-area RIAS alumni attending, including two-time RIAS fellow Ingo Zamperoni, and another 12 guests from the Business Club Hamburg. Melissa Eddy talked about her work in Germany for The New York Times, the mission of the RIAS Berlin Commission and her ties to the organization — where she as a board member she volunteers her time to help pick participants for programs in the United States. She also regularly gives talks to American participants coming to Germany.

Other topics included and discussed in the Q&A were President Trump and the media, the Nordstream 2 pipeline and the growing field of Democratic candidates ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
RIAS alumni taking part in the Hamburg get-together were:
Charlotte Horn (NDR)
André Schünke (ARD/NDR)
Ingo Zamperoni (ARD)
Peter Eichenberg (NDR)
Edith Heitkämper (NDR)
Stephan Brünjes (NDR)
Heike Keuthen (NDR)
Patrick Döcke (ARD)
Katja Schultze-Brüggemann (NDR)
Kai Küstner (NDR)
Michail Paweletz (ARD)
Nadine Gries (NDR)

In Berlin, the local Alumni Chapter joined the new American Academy Director Terry McCarthy for a “fireside chat” at the historic villa in the banks of Wannsee on Wednesday evening, March 6. More than a dozen members of the Berlin chapter gathered in the splendid library of the American

Berlin alumni chapter meets with American Academy Director Terry McCarthy at the historic American Academy villa on the banks of Wannsee

Academy to talk about current issues as well as learn more about the subjects from current resident fellows:

Fred Donner, Professor of Near Eastern History in The Oriental Institute and Department of Near Estern Language and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, who is researching “Arabyc Papyri for the Early Islamic Period (7th century)”. He talked about how that was connected to Islam today.
George Frampton, Co-Founder and CEO, Partnership for Responsible Growth, Washington DC, talked about his project “Carbon Pricing: The Future of US Climate Policy”.
RIAS alumni taking part in the Berlin get-together were:
Petra Gute (RBB) 
Anja Heyde (ZDF)
Vladimir Balzer (Deutschlandfunk)
Rita Lauter (Zeit Online)
Dirk Steinmetz (frei)
Karl Hinterleitner (ZDF)
Ute Kindler (frei)
Elena Kuch (HH) NDR
Kristin Joachim (ARD Hauptstadtstudio)
Michael Rötzscher (RBB)
Mirja Fiedler (Deutsche Welle)
Michael Stempfle (ARD Hauptstadtstudio)
Gerlind Vollmer (Deutsche Welle)
Dorte Störmann (RBB)
Jasmin Teerforth (Leiterin Bewegtbild / Redaktion der Bundeswehr)
Michael Wagenbach (ZDF)
Caroline Kuban (Deutschlandfunk)

March 15, 2019

RIAS fellows meet Oppenheim, Whitaker and Heusgen among others on US trip

Fourteen journalists from Germany have been meeting American journalists, politicians, Pentagon officials and experts from think tanks on a whirlwind three-week tour of the United States on a RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship. The journalists on the spring group tour had the chance to talk with Noah Oppenheim, president of NBC news, in New York after a packed day of meetings at WNBC, NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo at Rockefeller Center brilliantly led and organized by RIAS alumni Tiffany Zeno, Adam Reiss, Michael Gargiulo and Bryan Weakland.

The Germany-based journalists also had the chance to talk to Bill Whitaker of CBS’s “60 Minutes” at his office following a tour of the CBS news studios. The group was later in the audience to watch a taping of “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee”. Bloomberg’s broadcasting operations were explained to the group at another stop by Michael Lysak.

Another highlight during the New York week was a talk with Ambassador Christoph Heusgen at the German Mission to the U.N., who talked about Germany’s role in the world and the country’s seat on the U.N. Security Council as a non-permanent member. The fellows also had the chance to meet homeless and financially strapped New Yorkers at the St. James Church on Madison Avenue, preparing and serving lunch for about 120 people.

Another RIAS alumni, Clare Toeniskoetter, of the New York Times The Daily gave the fellows

insights into the success of the podcast that has attracted millions of listeners in just two years. They also talked with German journalists working at the New York Stock Exchange Heike Buchter and Markus Koch.

Before traveling by Amtrak to New York from Washington DC, the German journalists also had the chance to talk with congressman Mike Doyle (D-Penn) and former congressman Charlie Dent (R-Penn), who talked about some memorable disputes with President Trump. Despite unseasonably frigid weather and even snow in Washington, the fellows made the most of the week in Washington DC with talks at the Pew Research Center, the Women’s Media Center, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the CATO Institute, Freedom House and a behind-the-scenes tour of the Capitol.

They also had the chance to tour the Pentagon and ask spokesman Eric Pahon a battery of questions.

The journalists also had the chance to learn more about the media landscape in the United States thanks to talks at NPR led by RIAS alumni Stacey Samuel, at Deutsche Welle led by Alexandra von Nahmen and the ARD office with Martin Ganslmeyer, Martina Buttler, JP Burgard, Stefan Niemann The week in Washington was capped off with a get-together with about 30 US based German journalists and US alumni.

The German journalists will spend their final week at individual stations across the country together with RIAS alumni – from Tyler, Texas to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Los Angeles to Seattle, San Antonio and Houston as well as Tulsa, Oklahoma, Bloomington, Indiana, and Cincinnati, Ohio

Here is a list of the fellows taking part in the March program to the United States:

  1. Christian Avital, ARD radio and RTL television, Cologne
  2. Jan-Peter Bartels, HR TV/online, Frankfurt
  3. Benjamin Eyssel, RBB radio, Berlin
  4. Renate Friedrich, NTV Cologne5
  5. Cornelia Gerhard, Phoenix TV, Bonn
  6. Lutz-Philipp Harbaum, RTL television, Cologne
  7. Ann-Kathrin Horn, Deutschlandfunk Nova radio, Cologne
  8. Sarah Kelly, Deutsche Welle TV, Berlin
  9. Marcel Machill, University of Leipzig
  10. Maria Luz Moraleda, Deutsche Welle TV, multimedia, Berlin
  11. Anna Muellerleile, Hamburg Zwei radio, Hamburg
  12. Maria Regis, MDR TV/online, Leipzig
  13. Christoph Tanneberger, NDR/ARD TV/Social Media, Hamburg
  14. Andreas Teska, WDR TV/Radio, Cologne

February 27, 2019

The RIAS BERLIN Commission is proud to announce the winners of this year’s RIAS Media Prize Awards. The annual awards ceremony celebrating 27 years of the German-American exchange program and the best of transatlantic broadcast journalism will take place on Thursday, May 23 at 7 p.m. at the RIAS Funkhaus in Berlin. All RIAS fellows and past winners are invited to attend the ceremony and ensuing reception in the historic building.

Jury members during their deliberations at the RIAS building in Berlin. From left to right: Jamie Coughlin (US filmmaker), Anja Heyde (ZDF), Petra Gute (RBB), Christian Wilp (RTL, NTV), Susan Stone (NPR) and (via Skype from New York) Michael Garguilo (WNBC TV). Not pictured: Helge Fuhst (Phoenix).

The jury made up of seven distinguished journalists from the United States and Germany met in Berlin to pick the worthy winners in TV, Radio and Digital Media categories. An award for the best fellow story was also picked by the jury. Once again, the jury members were impressed with the high quality of entries in this year’s competition — a total of more than 70 entries were considered in the three categories.

The jury included: Anja Heyde (ZDF), Christian Wilp (RTL, NTV), Petra Gute (RBB), Susan Stone (NPR), Jamie Coughlin (US filmmaker) and Michael Garguilo (WNBC TV in New York), who took part via Skype. Also contributing to the jury’s deliberations was Helge Fuhst (Phoenix).

RIAS alumni are also invited to take part in a panel discussion and alumni gathering on Friday, May 24 at 4:30 p.m. at the RIAS building.

This year’s prize winners are:

Rias TV Award

Barbara Biemann, James Jacoby, Anya Bourg, John Goetz: „Facebook out of control?“
October 30, 2018, ARD TV, 70 minutes


“If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s most populous nation.”

The documentary “Facebook Out of Control” shows just how much power the company wields over its 2.2 billion users. The filmmakers illustrate the enormous influence the company has on politics worldwide yet also how Facebook takes so little responsibility for the divisions it has created. The filmmakers have brilliantly put together previously unpublished material to take a deep dive into the psyche of its founders and  the question of whether the world’s most powerful company is bringing people together or driving them apart.

Rias Radio Award:

Tom Schimmeck „ Fake-factories – making profit with false reports”

November 18, 2018, NDR Info radio; 54 minutes


Donald Trump has been shrugging off criticism as “fake news“ ever since his first press conference as President-elect. He has used that term often to discredit the media. But now it has led to a larger debate about what is true and what is fake.  The documentary “Fake factories” impressively illustrates that debate and offers viewers insights into the business of truth. In a thoroughly absorbing way, the feature shows how millions of Facebook, twitter and WhatsApp users can be manipulated when fed with fake news, leaving behind confused societies that are seeing the erosion of a common ground for information and debate.

Rias Digital Media Award:

Roman Lehberger, Alexander Epp, Roman Höfner: “The ‘Atomwaffen Division’. Insights into America’s most dangerous Neo-Nazi group”

August 27, 2018, RTL (Spiegel TV).


This chilling story explores how the violent American Nazi terror group Atomwaffen Division is making ominous in-roads into other countries, including Germany.  A gripping report on the most fanatic of right-wing groups told through innovative usage of digital media that pushes the boundaries of online storytelling.

Rias Fellow Award (Radio):

Eberhard Schade: „Co-Living in the USA – the all-inclusive apartment of your dreams?”

July 16, 2018, Deutschlandfunk Kultur, 20:08 minutes


This entertaining story, produced during Eberhard Schade’s participation in the RIAS USA program, is an insightful exploration of what happens when gentrification meets contemporary career culture – forcing people well-beyond college into dorm-style living arrangements.  This cautionary tale about the tech and real estate sectors in San Francisco and New York is relevant for other urban areas, particularly in Germany.


February 22, 2019

Germany-based journalists heading to USA for March fellowship

RIAS fellows visit ARD studio and ARD Correspondent in Washington (and RIAS) alumni JP Burgard during October 2018

Fourteen broadcast journalists based in Germany are heading to the United States for a three-week RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship that starts on March 3. The journalists will spend a week visiting congressmen from both the Republican and Democratic parties, media outlets such as NPR and Deutsche Welle, think tanks such as Pew Research Center, the Women’s Media Center, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the CATO Institute and the Freedom House. They will also visit the Capitol building and the Pentagon.

Their week in New York City will include meetings with journalists on Wall Street, at the NBC headquarters, the New York Times, Bloomberg and CBS News. They will also meet the CEO of the AJC David Harris and the director of programs at the Tenement Museum, Kathryn Lloyd. The group will also meet Christoph Heusgen, Germany’s permanent representative to the United Nations.

RIAS fellows meet former Republican congressman Charlie Dent in Washington

The fellows will then spend the third week visiting with American broadcast journalists at their stations across the country, from Bloomington, Indiana, to Bend, Oregon, from San Antonio, Texas, to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, Cincinnati, Tulsa are also station week destinations for some of the German journalists. Others will spend a week in Tyler, Texas and Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Here is a list of the fellows taking part in the March program to the United States:

  1. Christian Avital, ARD radio and RTL television, Cologne
  2. Jan-Peter Bartels, HR TV/online, Frankfurt
  3. Benjamin Eyssel, RBB radio, Berlin
  4. Renate Friedrich, NTV Cologne5
  5. Cornelia Gerhard, Phoenix TV, Bonn
  6. Lutz-Philipp Harbaum, RTL television, Cologne
  7. Ann-Kathrin Horn, Deutschlandfunk Nova radio, Cologne
  8. Sarah Kelly, Deutsche Welle TV, Berlin
  9. Marcel Machill, University of Leipzig
  10. Maria Luz Moraleda, Deutsche Welle TV, multimedia, Berlin
  11. Anna Muellerleile, Hamburg Zwei radio, Hamburg
  12. Maria Regis, MDR TV/online, Leipzig
  13. Christoph Tanneberger, NDR/ARD TV/Social Media, Hamburg
  14. Andreas Teska, WDR TV/Radio, Cologne

January 29, 2019

Call for applications for summer exchange program for students 

After its successful launch in 2018, the RIAS Berlin Commission’s three-week summer exchange program for college students will be back again in 2019. Students of journalism, international relations or associated subjects who have some broadcast journalism experience or are interested in careers in broadcast journalism are welcome for the fellowship. The deadline for applications is February 16, 2019.

During the first three weeks of July, participants will meet with leading political analysts, journalists, think tank representatives and other experts in Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg and Leipzig. They will visit German government institutions, historical sites, and universities, enabling them to and deepen their knowledge of central issues in transatlantic affairs and gain a more personal understanding of German politics, media and history. The program runs from June 30, 2019 to July 19, 2019.

The program is funded by the Transatlantic Program of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, with additional financing from the RIAS Berlin Commission. Participants receive round trip air travel from their home states to Germany, ground and air travel in and across Germany, and hotel accommodations during the program. Some meals are also provided during the program.

Participants will leave the US no later than June 29th and return no sooner than on July 20th. They may arrive earlier or later than these dates, but must cover any additional costs themselves. Each participant will be required to contribute €500 to help cover the cost of the program and must pay for their own meals.

The application deadline is February 16, 2019. Leading applications will be interviewed by skype or FaceTime before the final selection of the program participants is made in March. You can download the application form here. 

Please send end your application materials in electronic format (PDF preferred) to info@riasberlin.org by February 16, 2019.

January 18, 2019

RIAS Alumni Donations Doubled in 2018

Private donations to the RIAS Berlin Commission nearly doubled in 2018 to a total of just under 8,000 euros with contributions coming from more than 50 alumni and friends of RIAS in Germany and the United States.  Those donations will help make it possible to expand the programs in 2019. All donations raised from alumni and friends of RIAS are being used directly and entirely for additional spots on the exchange programs for journalists between the United States and Germany.

There were a total of 78  journalists on exchange programs in 2018, which was up from 54 participants in 2017. The RIAS Berlin Commission is hoping to expand further to a total of 100 exchange program participants in 2019 with a special expanded one-week senior editors and alumni program  November to celebrate, mark and report on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The donations in 2018 included 5,365 euros from 30 alumni and friends of RIAS in Germany and $2,545 from 24 alumni and friends of RIAS in the United States. There was a wide range from individual donors in 2018, from $50 to $500 in the United States and 30 euros and 2,000 euros in Germany.

The alumni chapters set up in Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, Rhine-Main, Brussels, New York, Washington and Los Angeles are helping spread the message on donations. With more than 1,600 alumni over the last quarter century, the RIAS Berlin Commission is hoping to double the amount of donations once again in 2019.

The main RIAS Berlin Commission’s annual Media Prize awards ceremony will be held on May 23 at the RIAS building in Berlin. There will also be a panel discussion and alumni get-together the following evening in Berlin on May 24. All alumni are cordially welcome to attend both events. In the United States, alumni get-togethers are planned for Washington DC on March 8 and in New York City on March 15. There will also be a series of alumni events in San Antonio at the RTDNA Excellence in Journalism convention on September 6 and 7.

A heartfelt thanks from the RIAS Berlin Commission to all those friends who made donations in 2018: Kerstin Koretz, Kevin Arnold, Sonja Christen, Helge Fuhst, Juergen Schleifer, Ben Fajzullin, Patricia Adenauer-von Berg, Martin Richter, Birgit Franck, Anne Kristen Sieger, Stephanie Orbach, Louisa Maria Giersberg, And Riekmann, Bartosz Dudek, Charlotte Potts, Matthias Baehr, Oliver Sallet, Maja Freudenberg, Christine Langer, Sarah Schmidt, Peter Twiehaus, Marcel Grzyb, Frank Hofmann, Erik Kirschbaum, Katja Weber, Michael Roetzscher, Anna-Maria Schuck, Felix Wessel, Christian Walther, Jan-Peter Bartels, Sarah Williams, Justin Campell, Marilyn Geewax, Adam Reiss, Stacey Samuel, Miranda Dotson, Stephanie Wolf, Gitzel Puente, Kane Farabaugh, Lane Luckie, Thomas Hawley, Bonnie North, Jessica Prater, Judith Snyderman, Bryan Weakland, Cameron Knowles, Emily Damm, Dustin Stephens, Carol McKinley, Jennifer Macdonald, Michael Gargiulo, Scott Libin, Okawa Hisashi, Helene Finn Kane.


January 7, 2019

Deadline nears for RIAS Media Prize

The deadline for entries for RIAS Berlin Commission Media Prize awards is rapidly approaching — January 15. The RIAS Berlin Commission annually presents awards for excellence in reporting on German-American or transatlantic issues. The awards are given for radio, TV and internet productions which made special contributions to the mutual understanding between the people











of Germany and of the United States. Eligible are all kinds of reports on German topics aired in the US or on US topics aired in Germany or other programs with German-American aspects in the fields of international politics, economics, social issues, cultural developments or current events.

The winners will be honored at the RIAS Media prize awards ceremony on May 23, 2019 at the historic RIAS building in Berlin.Awards are presented in three categories: Radio, TV, and Digital Media. In order to qualify a report must have been on a German topic aired domestically in the U.S. or on a U.S. topic aired in Germany, or be another local, national or international story of mutual interest.Entries from recent and former RIAS Fellows are welcomed, and encouraged. Entries must be radio, television or digital stories aired in 2018 and may be single stories or multi-part series. There is no length requirement. All entries must be submitted electronically, with a URL for the story, and an attached script.

Recent American winners include JP Burgard’s film on ARD and Phoenix TV about climate change in Alaska, Bill Whitaker from CBS’s “60 Minutes” for a story comparing prisons in Germany and the United States, Paige Sutherland of New Hampshire Public Radio about Germany’s handling of drug addiction; also Erik Olsen and Melissa Eddy in 2016, for a pair of stories on nytimes.com: Germany’s Coal Addiction and Germany’s Energiewende.The entry deadline is January 15, 2019. To submit, simply send a link to your story to info@riasberlin.org. Scripts and support materials are optional. Please review the call for entries on the RIAS Awards page for specific rules and details and visit our German/American exchange program page for more information.

Solicitation 2019 (Call for Entrys) as PDF (EN)


Download PDF | Read more…

December 18, 2018

RIAS alumni chapters hold events in Hamburg, Berlin, New York and Washington DC

Alumni groups in Germany and the United States have been busy holding good-spirited alumni meetings, seasonal get-togethers and fundraising activities for the RIAS Berlin Commission.

The Hamburg alumni chapter recently had a fireside chat with U.S. Consul General Rick Yoneoka at his private reisidence in Hamburg that was organized by Nadine Gries (NDR) and Michail Paweletz (ARD). “We had great talks and got to know the Consul General on a more personal level,” said Gries, a RIAS alumni from 2016 of the dozen alumni that attended. “It was a good night for German-America relations and a perfect kick-off event for the RIASBerlin Hamburg chapter.” The Hamburg chapter is planning another alumni meeting in early 2019.



The Berlin alumni chapter and Hamburg chapter held a joint Thanksgiving dinner celebration in Berlin at the Adlon Hotel on November 24 that was attended by 35 people — including RIAS Berlin Commission co-chair Christina Higgins, who is the Minister Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. It was a spirited evening and alumni from both Hamburg and Berlin said they hoped to have more such events together in 2019. The event was organized by Oliver Sallet (Deutsche Welle), Anja Heyde (ZDF), Nadine Tries and Michail Paweletz.

The Berlin alumni chapter will also be joining RIAS Berlin Commission board member Melissa Eddy at the U.S. Embassy on December 18 for an annual holiday reception at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin with other alumni groups.

In New York, the RIAS Berlin Commission alumni chapter kept the German-American spirit alive with a get-together at a German beer hall in the East Village called “Zum Schneider”. New York alumni Clare Toeniskoetter (The Daily at the NYT) and Michael Gargiulo (WNBC TV) report that the New York chapter hopes to start a tour of the five New York boroughs “one German beer hall at a time”.  The next stop is Queens planned for sometime early in 2019.  The New York chapter alumni will also meet the next group of 14 RIAS journalists from Germany on the March 2019 program at a get-together on March 15.

In Washington DC, a group of RIAS alumni got together for a screening of a new 2018 film “The Silent Revolution” in which the Cold War-era radio station “RIAS” (Radio in American Sector) plays a feature role. As Marissa Melton (VOA), who organized the event, noted: “The role that RIAS plays is really pivotal. It’s also great to see it making a difference in people’s lives.”The Washington DC chapter is also planning a fundraising event called “RIAS Rent Party” to try to help raise alumni donations to the $10,000 target for 2018 — or in other words enough alumni donations to add two spots to programs in 2019. Stacey Samuel (NPR) is trying to organize the event at a beer garden in Washington. 

The RIAS Berlin Commission would like to say thank you to the alumni and friends of RIAS for their generous donations: Kerstin Koretz, Kevin Arnold, Sonja Christlein, Erik Kirschbaum, Helge Fuhst, Juergen Schleifer, Ben Fajzullin, Patricia Adenauer-von Berg, Martin Richter, Birgit Frank, Ann Kristin Sieger, Kevin Arnold, Stephanie Orbach, Torsten Beermann, Louisa Maria Giersberg, Arnd Riekmann, Bartosz Dudek, Charlotte Potts, Matthais Baehr, Oliver Sallet, Martin Guenther, Christian Walther, Eva Schmidt, Marcel Grzyb, Mirella Pappalardo, Laura Koppenhoefer, Peter Twiehaus, Kai Wessel, Anne Demmer, Wolker Witting, Susan Blum, Karl-Dieter Moeller, Andrea Lueg, Joerg Machenbach, Katja Weber, Silvia Tiegs, Katharina Borchardt, Dorte Stoermann, Dominik Jozic, Regine Muender, Michael Paweletz, Lane Luckie, Thomas Hawley, Bonnie North, Jessica Prater, Judith Snyderman, Bryan Weakland, Cameron Knowles, Emily Damm, Dustin Stephens, Jennifer Macdonald, Michael Gargiulo, Scott Libin, Okawa Hisashi, Helene Finn Kane.


December  7, 2018

Observations from U.S. journalists on program studying migration, border security in Europe

Lee Anderson, KTVZ, Bend, OR
Thank you RIAS Berlin Kommission for a wonderful eye opening week in Germany and Croatia.
I suppose Dr. Hildegard Boucsein put it best during our last “meeting” in the hotel bar in Zagreb, “There is no black and white. There is gray, and many shades of gray”. So true, and definitely displayed during the high level meetings we attended. The small group environment was conducive for great interaction by all. I had a terrific experience. I’m sure my colleagues did as well.

Major General Robert Bodisch, Commander Texas State Guard, Austin, TX
I may be the first law enforcement and homeland security expert to accompany U. S. journalists participating in the RIAS program.  I must “confess” (law enforcement term) that I found the program to be without equal and the knowledge and experience gained from this trip; and having the opportunity to visit with very senior government officials for their perspective on migration and border security issues, was most rewarding and educational.  Hildegard and Erik assembled a superior team of U. S. journalists who proved to be consummate professionals.  The RIAS program provided tremendous educational value and it was an honor to participate in the program.  Hats off to Hildegard and Erik, who were not only great hosts but extremely knowledgeable about the many issues briefed and discussed and were able to provide insightful background and clarifying detail on many of these issues that I had scant knowledge of.

John Burnett, NPR, Austin, TX
We effectively live on an island in the United States. Americans are obsessed with their own concerns and, as journalists, we serve this domestic appetite for news. It is essential, as global citizens, to break out and see other hemispheres and hear about their problems, to help reframe our own. Spending a week with the RIAS roadshow in Berlin, Bavaria and Croatia forced us to acknowledge immigrant and border problems more serious than our own. Moreover, the European backdrop of world wars, genocide, and the Balkan conflicts adds a level of complexity to the whole picture. Thank you, Erik and Hildegard, for extracting us from our journalistic comfort zone, and for swelling our stomachs with some remarkably delicious food and drink!

Tom Hawley, KSNV-TV/Channel-3, Las Vegas, NV
RIAS Senior Editor Tour on Immigration was eye-opening would be an understatement.
Over eight days we were given an in-depth look at the challenges faced by Europe in general and Germany in particular as, almost two million people from the Middle East and Africa have arrived either to flee danger or to seek a better way of life.

We were given incredible access to all sides of the issues. From a political party dedicated to stopping the flow of immigrants, to a governmental agency charged with processing them.  From a Moroccan immigrant discovering a new life as a Berlin municipal worker, to a refugee Kurd from Iran stuck in a camp on the Serbian border with Croatia. It will take some time to process all of the information we were exposed to. I will never look at immigration issues–either in Europe or the United States–in the same way.

Hugo Perez, NMSU News 22, Noticias 22, Las Cruces, NM
The RIAS Berlin Commission has once again proven to be one of the best international journalism exchange programs. This one-week program took us to briefings with nongovernmental organizations, politicians, police and experts in the fields of immigration and border security in Germany and Croatia. It was great to hear about the various immigration perspectives in Germany, Hungary, Croatia and other parts of Europe. Immigration is the hot topic in the United States, I live forty-five miles from the U.S. and Mexico border in southern New Mexico, for me the topic of immigration and border security in this program was super informative. It was great to meet fellow journalists chosen for this exchange program from many regions of the United States. Congratulations to everyone at the RIAS Berlin Commission for a very well coordinated program.

Adam Reiss, NBC, New York, NY
Thank you so much for an amazing unforgettable trip. From Berlin and Munich to the borders of Austria and Serbia. Wow! I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of RIAS and to see the places and meet the fascinating people others will never have the opportunity to see. I have learned so much that will add to my knowledge and better inform my reporting. It was a pleasure spending the week with some of America’s best and brightest journalists. I cannot overstate how much I enjoyed the trip and how it will stay with me for many years to come. I will certainly stay in touch and hope to see everyone soon.

Sara Wittmeyer, WFIU/WTIU, Bloomington, IN
I’ve been involved in the RIAS program for nearly a decade. My newsroom hosts German journalists every year, but it had been a one-way street. November’s trip to learn about borders and migration was my first visit to Europe. Erik’s reading materials provided good background on what the trip would entail, however the experience was so much more than I could have imagined. Our hosts organized an incredible program; no one could argue that even one minute was wasted! During our one-week trip we visited dignitaries from Germany, Macedonia and Croatia. We got access to important think tanks and people working on the front lines trying to make border policy and enforce it. People were forthcoming during our meetings and I developed a new perspective on migration – it’s not just an issue in the U.S. or in the EU, it is a global issue and it’s complex. I appreciated that we had the opportunity to meet with people from all sides of the issue, ranging from the Soros Foundation to the co-leader of the AfD party.

December 4, 2018

RIAS Berlin Commission fellows from USA study border security, migration in Europe

A group of eight American journalists and law enforcement experts recently completed a busy seven-day RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship to learn more about border security and migration in Germany and the European Union. The “senior editor’s” group that included experts on the subjects and RIAS alumni spent the week in Berlin, Munich, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Zagreb and at border crossings between Croatia and Serbia.

Meeting with former Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere
Meeting with Croatian border guards and refugees at Serbian border at the outer edge of the European Union border

As border security and migration is a pressing issue in both the United States and Germany, the American journalists spent the week talking to high-ranking experts from all sides of the subject in

Germany and Croatia to learn more about the situation in Europe.

Meeting Beatrix von Storch from the AfD next in a German parliament building office next to the Reichstag

Guest speakers included former German Interior Minister Dr. Thomas de Maiziere, Federal Academy for Security Policy President Dr. Karl-Heinz Kamp, European Stability Initiative (ESI) think tank founding chairman Gerald Knaus, AfD deputy parliamentary floor leader Beatrix von Storch, Hungary’s ambassador to Germany Peter Gyökös, leading Bavarian Interior Ministry officials, and Deputy Director of the George C. Marshall Center General Johann Berger. The Americans also had talks with Macedonia’s deputy minister of defence Dr. Bekim Maksuti and Croatia’s deputy interior minister Terezija Gras and Croatia’s head of the border police directorate Vlatko Cvrtila.

Meeting German border guards making random inspections of vehicles entering across the Austrian border in southern Bavaria

The journalists on the fellowship, which was organised with the help of RIAS Berlin Commissioner Dr. Hildegard Boucsein, also spent time with Syrian refugees in Berlin who have started a thriving restaurant in the Neukoelln section of Berlin called “Aldimashqi”as well as visiting migrants from Morocco, Syria and Pakistan who are on a three-year job training program at the Berlin Water Works. One year ago, a group of eight German journalists spent a week in Texas on a similar program learning about border security and migration on the Texas-Mexico border. Other stations visited included the new Berlin offices of the Open Society Foundations and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation think tank in Berlin.

Many of the Americans on the trip to Germany and Croatia this year were working on stories for their TV and radio stations back home in the United States, such as this report from NPR journalist John Burnett that aired on “All Things Considered” on November 30.

The fellows in the group included:

  1. Lee Anderson, KTVZ, Bend, Oregon
  2. John Burnett, NPR Southwest, Austin, Texas
  3. Tom Hawley, KSNV-TV, Las Vegas, Nevada
  4. Hugo Perez, New Mexico State University Journalism department and Noticias 22
  5. Adam Reiss, NBC TV, New York
  6. Yami Virgin, KABB/WOAI, San Antonio, Texas
  7. Sara Wittmeyer, WFIU/WTIU, Bloomington, Indiana
  8. Major General Robert Bodisch, Commander Texas State Guard