May 18, 2018

Whitaker urges journalists to keep giving voice to voiceless, hope to hopeless in their work

Award Ceremony RIAS Berlin Kommission 17.5.2018

Celebrated CBS news correspondent Bill Whitaker issued a stirring appeal to journalists in the United States, Germany and around the world to keep working tirelessly to cover the news as accurately and honestly as possible in his keynote speech at the annual RIAS Media Prize Awards Ceremony at the historic RIAS Funkhaus in Berlin on Thursday evening, where six prizewinners were honored for their outstanding TV, radio and digital reports on transatlantic themes.

The “60 Minutes” correspondent and a former winner of the RIAS Media Prize himself, Whitaker noted that journalists and journalism in the United States have faced increased scrutiny and criticism in recent years but that should not slow or stop their efforts to keep digging for the truth. He said it was important to “keep on keeping on” — a phrase from the 1970s emphasising the importance of perseverance in the face of hardship rather than give into despair.

“Bad things happen when nobody’s watching,” Whitaker said in his speech to a gala audience of 200 at the annual awards ceremony that was hosted by RBB journalist and RIAS alumni Petra Gute.

Petra Gute


“Journalists aren’t perfect and journalism isn’t perfect. we make mistakes. But then so do presidents and politicians and so do democracies.” Whitaker noted that a free press is written into the constitutions of both the United States and Germany and noted he had worked as a foreign correspondent in countries, such as China in the late 1980s, where that was not the case.

JP Burgard at RIAS Berlin Kommission awards.


“So what is a journalist to do in this current era of fake news? This era where social media can manipulate our believes and magnify our fears. How do we weather these storms? Something we used to say way back in the ’70s comes to mind: ‘keep on keeping on’. So keep digging, keep looking under rocks, keeping shining lights under the shadows, keep voice to voiceless, hope to the hopeless. Keep reporting with honesty, integrity and facts. When the winds die down, the truth will prevail. It will be clear who is telling the truth and who is not. In the meantime, you, me and all of us: Just keep on keeping on.”

Also speaking at the annual awards ceremony was Deutschlandradio General Director Stefan Raue, who had worked for RIAS TV as a reporter and then as a senior editor, or chef von dienst, for the TV station in the early 1990s. He recalled the history of RIAS as an important and valuable source of information during the Cold War.


The Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassy, Kent Logsdon, also spoke to the guests about how much he enjoyed coming to the annual awards ceremony over the last three years . Logsdon has served as the honorary chairman of the RIAS Berlin Commission for the last 15 months.

ARD correspondent Jan Phillip Burgard, who won the award for best TV film for his documentary
on climate change’s impact on glaciers and islands in Alaska, told the audience how he had

dreamed of one day winning a RIAS media prize award after seeing an earlier trophy won in 2004 by another ARD journalist Claus Kleber in the Washington DC bureau on his first visit to the ARD studio there. “He left it there as a memory of his time there and I saw it when I was a trainee there and was full of awe and admiration of it. And to win one myself now means a lot to me.”

Lara Wiedeking RIAS Berlin Kommission awards.




Lara Wiedeking received the Best TV Short film prize for two films that shed light on major societal and policy differences between the United States and Germany — “Letzte Hoffnung Crowdfunding” (Last Hope Crowdfunding) that appeared on 3Sat and “Public Shaming” that appeared on ZDF heute+.

Arndt Peltner at RIAS Berlin Commission awards







Arndt Peltner won the best radio story prize for his fascinating 28-minute radio feature for Deutschlandradio about the history of barbed wire and the major role it played in the development of the United States — and how it is dividing the country but also society and people from one another.








Kerstin Zilm won the best radio series prize for her series of four radio reports for

Award Ceremony RIAS Berlin Kommission 17.5.2018

Deutschlandradio on the impact that President Donald Trump’s policies are having on some.

Award Ceremony RIAS Berlin Kommission 17.5.2018

Ainara Tiefenthäler and Shane O’Neill won the best digital media story award for their gripping multi-media account “Land of Good – Seeking Asylum in Germany and Finding Hatred”.

The prizewinners also took part in a riveting panel discussion at a RIAS alumni meeting at the RIAS Funkhaus on Friday, May 18 looking at the issue of whether there has been any change in the climate towards foreign correspondents working in the United States in recent years.

RIAS Media Prize Jury picks 5 winners for annual media prize awards

March 2, 2018

The RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION is proud to announce the winners of this year’s RIAS Media Awards. The annual awards ceremony celebrating 26 years of the German-American exchange program and the best in transatlantic broadcast journalism will take place on Thursday, May 17, 2018 at 7 p.m. at the RIAS Funkhaus am Hans-Rosenthal-Platz in Berlin, and all RIAS fellows and past winners are cordially invited to attend the ceremony in the historic building.

The jury made up of nine distinguished journalists from the United States and Germany met in Berlin to pick the winners in TV, Radio and Digital Media categories. The jury members engaged in lively discussions and were duly impressed with the high quality of entries in this year’s competition. It was an interesting year for journalism in both the United States and Germany with the first year of a new U.S. administration and the German federal elections.

The jury was made up of: Melissa Eddy (The New York Times), Anja Heyde (ZDF), Helge Fuhst (Phoenix), Michael Gargiulo (WNBC in New York), Susan Stone (NPR), Melinda Crane (Deutsche Welle), Claus Detjen (German newspaper publisher), Richard Meng (ZDF TV Council), and Christian Wilp (NTV, RTL).

There will also be a panel discussion examining the changing position and role of foreign correspondents in the United States in the lasgt year, and a RIAS fellows alumni meeting in Berlin on May 18.



This year’s prize winners are:

  • Best TV film (long)

Jan Philipp Burgard: Alaska im Klimawandel. Wo Eis und Hoffnung schmelzen, 5.11.2017, PHOENIX, 43 Minuten

In his documentary “Alaska and Climate Change”, Jan Philipp Burgard uses awe-powerful images in Alaska of both vast glaciers that are melting away and the slowing disappearing island of Shishmaref to illustrate his gripping story. The film examines the impact of the new environmental policies in the United States resulting from the shift from the Obama to Trump administrations. Burgard takes viewers on a journey visit indigenous Alaskans who are fighting for their homes and includes protagonists on sides of the issue – the environmental activists as well as the business interests and Republicans who support the deregulation policies of the Trump administration. But he also takes a clear position in support of the enironment and the fascinating habitat that is Alaska.

Best TV (short)

  • 2 films from Lara Wiedeking

Lara Wiedeking:

1) Letzte Hoffnung Crowdfundung

11. Dez., 3Sat


2) Public Shaming

24. Aug., ZDF (heute+)


Using an innovative approach, Lara Wiedeking’s two entries cover complex aspects of life in the Internet Age, while at the same time shedding light on major societal and policy differences between Germany and the USA. Letzte Hoffnung Crowdfundung explores the growing use of crowdfunding to help address shortfalls of the American medical safety net. Public Shaming examines the online ‘outing’ of right-wing supporters following the violent white nationalist gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia. Wiedeking’s fresh voice and energetic style contribute to the strong journalism delivered in two relatively short television features.


Radio winners

  • Best radio story

Arndt Peltner „Barbed wire and gated communities.“ Radio-Feature, 28 min.

Arndt Peltner’s “Barbed Wire and Gated Communities” was picked by the RIAS Media Prize jury as the outstanding radio feature of the year. It explains how freedom is gradually disappearing, piece by piece, because of barbed wire – at least for some. Ultimately, barbed wire is not only dividing the country but also society. It divides people from one another. The effects of the imaginary border drawing influence both the country and people’s consciousness. Arndt Peltner has put a bright spotlight on an important piece of cultural history.

Kerstin Zilm

„Vanlife – Hinter dem Hashtag“; „Kalifornien Speerspitze des Widerstands gegen Trump/Climate Policy: California Leads the Resistance against Trump”;“Red, White and Blue am Spielfeldrand – Sport und Patriotismus in den USA“ ; “Donald Trump und die Sioux – Proteste gegen Öl-Pipeline/Donald Trump and the Sioux – Protests against Oil Pipeline”

“Van Life – Behind the hastag,“ “California leads the resistance against trump”, “Red, White and Blue on the Sidelines, Sports and Patriotism in the United States,” “Donald Trump and the Sioux – Protests against Oil Pipeline”

The jury cited Kerstin Zilm for a series of outstanding radio features. She explains how camping vans have become a way of life for some yet a dream for others. She gives a voice to the resistance movement in California against Trump’s climate policies. She reports on athletes who opt not to stand any longer for the playing of the national anthem but are still patriotic Americans. And she follows Sioux who are demonstrating against a new oil pipeline. All four features masterfully depict how the policies of the U.S. president are changing American society. Kerstin Zilm gets close to her protagonists and gives listeners a chance to learn more about the divisions in the United States.


  • Digital winner

https://www.nytimes.com/video/world/europe/100000005090433/libyan-migrant- bautzengermany.html

Ainara Tiefenthäler & Shane O’Neill: “Land of Good | Seeking Asylum in Germany, and Finding Hatred” 21. Sept., 14:09 min.

This year’s digital media prize goes to Ainara Tiefenthäler & Shane O’Neill for their film “Land of Good | Seeking Asylum in Germany, and Finding Hatred”, aired on the New York Times website as part of the series “Times Documentaries.” The film follows a young man who fled violence in Libya only to become the flashpoint of conflict in the eastern German town of Bautzen. The authors tell a compelling story that explores with subtlety and humanity the complex challenges surrounding immigration, extremism, and social polarization.