News & Events

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

December 1, 2018

RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION mourns death of co-founder Bush

George H.W. Bush, who founded the RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION together with Helmut Kohl

Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, who founded the RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION together with the late German Chancellor Helmut Kohl 26 years ago, has died at the age of 94.

The two leaders, who worked together to end the Cold War and pave the way for German unification in 1990, were also jointly behind the creation of the German-American exchange program for broadcast journalists in 1992 that has carried on the spirit of the famous Cold War-era Radio In American Sector (RIAS) broadcasting network that had served listeners in Berlin and beamed news and music across the border into East Germany until 1992.

More than 1,600 broadcast journalists…

…have taken part in RIAS exchanges over the years.

Dr. Hildegard Boucsein attended the Conference “25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Collapse of the Soviet Union” at the George Bush Library, College Station.

“George Bush and Helmut Kohl had incredible foresight when they created the RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION exchange program 26 years ago,” said the program’s executive director Erik Kirschbaum in a statement mourning Bush’s death on Friday. “And they both remained genuinely interested in the RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION they launched even many years after leaving office. The program has broadened the horizons of nearly 2,000 journalists in both Germany and the United States, but it has touched and even changed many lives as well.”



Bush had met with a number of German broadcast journalists…

…on RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION exchange programs to the United States over the years.

Bush with Former Rias Executive Director Rainer Haster

Kohl had died last year at the age of 87. He was the chancellor of West Germany from 1982 to 1990 and then the leader of reunited Germany until 1998. Bush had praised Kohl, who was often called the architect of German unification, for strengthening institutions of democracy in Germany and beyond in a statement mourning his passing last year. “Throughout our endeavors, Helmut was a rock — both steady and strong. We mourn his loss today even as we know his remarkable life will inspire future generations of leaders to achieve greatly.”


Hasters and Boucsein with Fellows in Texas.
Dr. Hildegard Boucsein at Bush’s office in Houston recently and expressed to her his heartfelt congratulations to the RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION for its first 25 years of transatlantic exchanges.

More than 1,600 American and German broadcast journalists have had the chance to spend time learning about each other’s respective country on the transatlantic exchange programs operated by the RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION over the last 26 years thanks to the endowment set up by the German and U.S. governments under Kohl and Bush in 1992.




Kohl and Bush had both sent letters of congratulations to the RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION six years ago on the occasion of its 20th anniversary.

Bush and Boucsein – Handover of the piece of wall to Bush for the Presidential Library.

Bush wrote of RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION in 2012: “We share your pride in the fact that more than one thousand American and German journalists from hundreds of radio and television stations have already participated in this program, and we wish you continued success in the years ahead. Keep up the good work.”








Kohl wrote in 2012: “I’d like to express my thanks to all those who have helped to make the BERLIN RIAS COMMISSION the successful project that it has become.

” Kohl noted that more than 1,000 journalists from both countries had participated to that point in exchanges. “You’ve got a special responsibility as multipliers in your daily work in helping to actively promote a better understanding of each other’s country.

That was the hope that George Bush and I had when we founded the RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION 20 years ago. Our hopes are as important today as 20 years ago.”

November 13, 2018

Call for Entries for RIAS Media Prize

The deadline is nearing for the RIAS Berlin Commission Media Prize awards for 2018. 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 2018 (Call for Entrys) as PDF (EN)


Download PDF | Read more…

October 31, 2018

Brief comments from RIAS Berlin Commission fellows from Germany in the United States in October 2018

Martin Richter, senior correspondent, Phoenix TV, Bonn

Das RIAS Programm im Herbst 2018 in den USA war für mich eine unglaubliche Erfahrung und Bereicherung meines persönlichen und journalistischen Lebens. Die vielen Gespräche mit Journalisten, Politikern und Verbänden in Washington und in New York unmittelbar vor den midterm elections in den USA haben mir tiefgreifende und hintergründige Einblicke in die amerikanische Gesellschaft gegeben. Neben den vielen hochkarätigen Experten hat mich vor allem die Begegnung mit den bedürftigen Menschen tief beeindruckt. Danke RIAS fur dieses wirklich großartige Programm!

Matthias Baehr, senior producer, Reuters TV

Dass ich mit der RIAS Berlin Kommission kurz vor den Midterms so spannende und vielseitige Gesprächspartner aus Politik und Medien in DC, NYC und LA treffen konnte, war schon eine großartige, manchmal desillusionierende, und oft Augen öffnende Erfahrung. Dass ich dabei aber auch noch so persönlich berührende und bereichernde Begegnungen machen und neue Freunde beiderseits des Atlantiks finden würde, hat mich wirklich überrascht. Umso schöner, jetzt ein Teil der Rias Alumni Familie zu sein

Patricia Adenauer-von Berg, RTL, Cologne

Shortly before the midterms the RIAS program was a tremendous experience for me. It really made me gain depth in US politics and the election system. Seeing how the Democrats fight to get back the house, talking to excellent US journalists and politicians about the transatlantic relationship, President Trump and how the US media deals with the big issue ‘fake news’, really made me think and even more curious. I especially enjoyed talking about how politics in the US and Germany should change to get voters back on track and also what the future of journalism looks like, since we all deal with the same challenges. – Altogether an amazing experience. Thank you so much RIAS Kommission!!


Miriam Steimer, ZDF, Mainz


Meeting politicians of both parties, talking to Americans about the challenges of their everyday lives, watching colleagues from CNN, FOX, NBC, NPR, NYT or VICE do their job
. The RIAS program was a great opportunity for me to have a look behind the scenes – especially as it to
ok place right before the midterm election

Treffen mit Politikern beider Parteien, Gespräche it Amerikanern über ihre Alltagsprobleme und ein Blick hinter die Kulissen von CNN, FOX, NBC, NPR, NYT oder VICE. Das RIAS-Programm hat mir spannende Einblicke ermöglicht – besonders interessant so kurz vor den midterm elections.



Nina Behlendorf, ZDF, Mainz

These three RIAS-weeks in October 2018 were just incredible! There simply is no better opportunity to learn more about the US, about the politicians, parties and people who shape the
country! I really appreciated getting in touch with high ranked experts from politics and media in Washington DC and New York as well as I enjoyed talking with people outside this „bubble“, e.g. at St. JamesOctober 31, 2018 Church, New York or during station week in Bend/Oregon. RIAS truly is a life-changing experience for every journalist and the friendships and networks built-up thanks to RIAS will hopefully last forever!



Peter Schubert, MDR, Erfurt


RIAS – Das waren drei Wochen, die meinen Horizont erweitert haben. Eine intensive Zeit, in der ich einen exklusiven Zugang zum amerikanischen Journalismus und darüber hinaus zu einem ganzen Land bekommen habe. Die Erfahrungen reichen von Of-the-Record-Diskussionen mit

amerikanischen Politikern, Hintergrundanalysen bei der New York Times bis zu Gesprächen über die Erzählstrategie in Vice-Dokumentationen. Das Beste aber waren die Menschen. Wir wurden von unseren amerikanischen Kollegen nie wie Touristen empfangen, sondern wie Freunde.


Nina Lammers, RTL, Berlin


The RIAS Fall program in Washington, NYC and Las Vegas was a mind-opening experience. It was my first time in the US after Trump was elected and I was curious how journalists, politicians and the average people would live and work under his presidency. The various RIAS meetings I attended gave me many different answers to that and so many other questions concerning the American society and its political system. It was an honor to be part of the program.

Christine Langer, SWR3, Baden-Baden


Das RIAS USA-Programm war großartig! Die Einblicke in die US-Politik und Gespräche mit Kollegen und RIAS-Alumni vor Ort haben mein Bild der USA und der US-Gesellschaft verändert und ich verstehe vieles jetzt besser. Wir hatten die einmalige Chance, kurz vor den Midterm-Wahlen 2018 im Land zu sein und mit Demokraten und Republikanern zu sprechen, dazu Besuche bei NPR, CNN, der New York Times und so vielen mehr. So konnte ich viele Kontakte knüpfen und tolle Menschen kennenlernen. Vielen Dank an alle bei RIAS Berlin für diese Möglichkeit und das
intensive Programm vor Ort!
My expectations of the RIAS US-program were exceeded! I got first hand insights of US-politics talking to both democrats and republicans shortly before the midterm-elections 2018. Now I have a much better understanding of US-Politics and got a sense of how devided the country is. Also the talks with RIAS alumni and fellow journalists at NPR, CNN, The New York Times and so many more media companies were really great. I got to meet many awesome people and friends which really helps to build a network. Thank you to everyone at RIAS Berlin for this once-in-a-lifetime experience and the fabulous program in D.C and New York!

Daniel Pokraka, Correspondent, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Berlin

Vor meiner Abreise haben mir viele Kollegen vorgeschwärmt, was für großartige Erfahrungen RIAS einem ermöglicht – und jetzt weiß ich: sie hatten alle recht. Ich habe viel gelernt und viel erlebt, tolle deutsche Kollegen und interessante amerikanische Kollegen und Gesprächspartner kennen gelernt. Pew, AJC, CNN, MSNBC, Ben Jealous und sein Wahlkampf in Maryland – alles spannend und lehrreich und nur ein kleiner Ausschnitt dessen, was ich erleben durfte.

Before I left for the US, some colleagues told me how great RIAS was – and they were right. I‘ve learned and experienced a lot, I met great German colleagues and even interesting US- Journalists and other hosts. Pew, AJC, CNN, MSNBC, Ben Jealous and his campaign in Maryland – everything was interesting and a good lecture about the US.


Steffi Orbach, Correspondent WDR Radio, Cologne







Sorry, RIAS-people. You will have a lot more work to do because of me. Your office will be flooded by application. I keep telling everyone to go on this trip because you get insights you won’t get anywhere else. Plus you make a whole bunch of new friends.



Christopher Wittich, NTV, Cologne

Im Zeitalter der Informationsblase ist es wichtig, Horizonte zu erweitern. Das geht nur mit neuen Kontakten. RIAS hat mir mit dieser Reise die Türen zu einem besonderen Netzwerk geöffnet. Es half mir aktuell bei der Vorbereitung für die Berichterstattung über die Zwischenwahlen in den USA. Vor allem hat sich aber mein Telefonbuch mit neuen Kontakten erweitert, die mir auch in Zukunft dabei helfen werden, die USA besser zu verstehen.

In times where every human being lives in his own information-bubble is it significant to expand horizons. This is only possible with new contacts. RIAS has opened the doors to a new special network for me. Actually it helped me to prepare for the coverage of the US midterm elections. Above all, my phone list has expanded with new contacts. Those contacts will help me to understand the US politics much better in the future.

Catherine Martens, Deutsche Welle, Brussels

I expected it to be a great trip. I was proven wrong. Our exchange program was beyond all my imagination: Notably thanks to the high-profile players from the political, cultural and scientific fields we were able to connect to thanks to RIAS.

As a European, I got a new and greater understanding of what could be the American perspective and in journalistic terms, how American news agenda setting is driven, thanks to our dedicated hosts, be it at CNN, Vice or the New York Times.
Beside that first-hand experience in the field, I am so grateful for all the great contacts with Washington and New York we can rely on if needed. As a new RIAS Fellow, I’m so happy to do my share now and to give something back to this outstanding network by forming a new RIAS alumni chapter in Brussels.

Frank Hofmann, Deutsche Welle, Berlin

When political waters get rough, individual contacts and personal exchange becomes even more important for the transatlantic family. Thanks to the RIAS Berlin Kommission and the incredible autumn 2018 exchange program, I heard outstanding insights and in-depth analysis in an uneasy time, I saw newsrooms I otherwise would have never seen and much more. But most importantly, I have formed bonds with US friends that will last forever.”



Meggin Leigh, Deutsche Welle, Berlin

My trip to New York thanks to Erik Kirschbaum and the RIAS Kommission was an incredible and enlightening experience. Erik and KC Schillhahn Berlin Kommission created a rigorous program which gave us a
up close and personal look into how our US counterparts create television. I highly recommend this exchange program for anyone working in the media industry. Two thumbs up!!





14 Journalists from Germany on deep dive in USA before midterm elections

Fourteen radio and television journalists from Germany got their three-week long #RIASBerlin Commission fellowship in the United States off to a flying start with a packed program in Washington DC.

The reporters and producers from across Germany had the chance to ask Charlie Dent, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, why he recently left politics after years of wrangling with President Trump and learn more about power politics, negative election campaigns every two years, and transatlantic relations.

The Germany-based journalists also learned that from a senior litigator at the ACLU that it will fight for constitutional rights and free speech for everyone— even the KKK. There were also riveting briefings at the PEW Institute that showed there is a wide disconnect between German and American public opinion on many issues.

RIAS alumni Stacey Samuel of NPR gave the fellows several eye-opening briefings at NPR on the political sentiment and racism issues in the United States.

The chair of the Democratic Party in Maryland offered insights into the bruising midterm election campaign at her grassroots headquarters in Maryland while Ralph Dannheisser later told the group why he reclaimed his German citizenship nearly 80 years after he and his family fled Nazi Germany. The fellows also learned more about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The week in Washington was also highlighted with a get-together with 30 American alumni and, as is often the case with broadcast journalists, they were quickly chatting with each other as if they knew each their whole lives.

On Saturday evening the group went to a campaign rally at the University of Maryland to see Democratic challenger Ben Jealous make his case to win governor’s office in November.


Here is a list of the journalists from Germany:

  • Christopher Wittich, NTV
  • Nina Lammers, RTL
  • Patricia Adenauer-von Berg, RTL
  • Matthias Bähr, Reuters Television
  • Catherine Martens, Deutsche Welle
  • Martin Richter, Phoenix
  • Daniel Pokraka, BR radio
  • Peter Schubert, MDR
  • Christine Langer, SWR
  • Frank Hoffmann, Deutsche Welle
  • Nina Behlendorf, ZDF
  • Miriam Steimer, ZDF
  • Steffi Orbach, WDR/Deutschlandfunk
  • Meggin Leigh, Deutsche Welle

Blurbs from the RIAS Berlin fall program 2018

Jessica Prater, CNN New York

“I am thankful for all the journalists, politicians and everyone who took the time to speak with us. The RIAS fellowship allowed me to walk through neighborhoods and newsrooms to gain insight on life in Germany“.








Bryan Weakland, MSNBC, New York

“The RIAS Berlin Kommission has been a life changing experience. I now have a much more in depth understanding of how my German counterparts in the field of journalism do their jobs. I also am now intimately familiar with the German political system and the current challenges and opportunities the country faces. I have formed bonds with Germans that that will last forever. I cannot speak highly enough about this incredible program.“




Gitzel Puente

„I had an amazing opportunity with RIAS to connect with talented journalists and make new friendships! I learned a lot about the current political system in Germany, the rise of the AfD party and integration of immigrants. This experience has helped me see how important transatlantic relationships are when it comes to building bridges between two countries and simply understanding different cultures. Thank you RIAS!




Andrew Lapin, Chicago

“My Rias experience was jam-packed with fascinating dialogues about Germany, the pressing issues facing Europe today, and the role of journalism in our fractured times. I’ve made some great friends and professional contacts, and I’ve gotten something valuable out of every activity my organizers planned. The fellowship on the whole is very accommodating and respectful of people’s time. I hope many more American journalists will have the opportunity to experience what I have here.”

Sage Van Wing, Oregon Public Radio, Portland

“Getting the chance to travel to Germany with RIAS was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m so grateful to have had the experience. I loved the combination of learning about European and German politics, as well as the way journalists here work and think about their jobs. This is an especially important time to be thinking hard about the role of media in our society, and I’m thankful to RIAS for providing that opportunity. Thank you so much RIAS for the amazing adventure and the lifelong friendships!”

Carol Mckinley, Freelance ABC, CBS, Littleton, Colorado

“I spent much of my childhood in Germany, but seeing it through the RIAS adventure as a learning adult was an enriching experience which I will carry with me for the rest of my life. The friendships and work contacts which I made here are invaluable.From meeting a Syrian refugee who risked his life and his heart to leave his homeland for a better opportunity in Germany to the Iraqi painter who turned the Berlin Wall into art expression to meeting with NATO officials and learning about media in Europe, the RIAS trip is one I would recommend to anyone who is curious about the world.“

Justin Campbell, WVLA TV, Baton Rouge, Louisiana:

“RIAS was an incredible experience! You meet so many important people. From high ranking NATO officials to Peter Keup, who tried to flee the GDR in the early 80s, then was imprisoned by the Stasi. Any journalist looking to learn more about Germany, politics and media should take this trip. You’ll make lifelong connections!“

Kane Faranbaugh, Voice of America, Midwest Corresondent, Illinois

“This RIAS experience has been more than rewarding, enriching both my personal and professional life with unique exposure to European and specifically German culture, politics, history, and people. With fresh perspective and insight into current German thought on issues ranging from refugee resettlement and migration to international tariffs, I am now better equipped to report on these topics with real international insight that is current and relevant. Perhaps most importantly to me personally, this experience has reconnected me to the culture and country of my grandparents, and has given me a deeper sense of what my own family living here is experiencing. The connections made with colleagues on this trip and RIAS Alumni around Europe will be the best, and everlasting, souvenir of this incredible experience. It motivates me to be increasingly active in the RIAS alumni network and encourages me to give back to the organization that has given me so much these weeks here in Europe. Thank you for this wonderful experience.“

Latese Clark, WTOP News Radio, Washington DC

“Rias was one the best experiences I have ever had. It’s rare for behind the scene folks to get an opportunity to go out, explore the world and gain more knowledge to help them become better without it being strictly a personal trip. This trip allowed me to that and more and I am forever grateful. Everything I’ve learned and everyone I’ve meet on this trip will help me become such much better in the media industry. Thank you Rias!“

Bonnie North, WUWM Radio, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“I expected the RIAS Berlin Fellowhip to show me how journalism in Germany works. And it did that superbly. What I didn’t expect was the level of access we were granted to politicians, artists, and policy makers. Not only did I get to listen and ask questions, in many cases I was granted an on the record interview to share with my audience at home. These two weeks have been an experience for which I will be forever grateful.“

Kenya Woodard, CTTV, Tampa, Florida

“My experience with the RIAS German-American Exchange Program exceeded my expectations! I’m leaving with more knowledge about German and European politics and media, and am now inspired to pursue international reporting projects.”

Jordan Vesey, Union Docs Center for Documentary Arts, New York (formerly PBS News Hour)

“Exploring Germany with fellow journalists from the RIAS network was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had this year. From tours of ZDF’s virtual studios, to meeting politicians and reporters, to learning about the fraught but mesmerizing history of Berlin, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.“

Judith Synderman, contractor, Washington DC

“Thank you for a phenomenal experience. From the first appointment at Politico EU to the last at Berner Strasser, RIAS delivered. You put together newsmakers and journalists for insightful conversations on contemporary issues. I am grateful to the RIAS alumnae community who gave us behind the scenes access and for the guided tours that added historic context. After two weeks of boots on the ground, I leave with a new appreciation of the German media sphere, valued contacts and new friends.

RIAS Berlin fall program to Germany finishes after busy 2 weeks in 4 cities

Learning more about media and politics in Germany and Europe, 13 American journalists from 10 different states finished a whirlwind RIAS Berlin Commission tour of four cities in 12 days. The Americans lived, traveled, and learned like their European counterparts—walking up to 10 to 15 kilometers per day, traveling throughout the fortnight with only small carry-on luggage on trains, and finding their way around 4 cities almost entirely on their own.

From a meeting at the new NATO headquarters in Brussels where they learned more about cyber security and other challenges facing the alliance to illuminating visits at major tv and radio networks, the American fellows also met with top German politicians in the Reichstag parliament building and the foreign ministry.

While many speakers on the tour expressed concerns about the far right Alternative for Germany party, the Americans got the chance to ask questions directly to one of the 93 AfD members of parliament, Armin Paulus Hampel- a former ARD TV journalist and former student at Northwestern University. Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s transatlantic coordinator Peter Beyer, a RIAS Berlin Commission board member, also met the group and offered insights into the challenges of his job. RIAS board members Richard Meng, Melissa Eddy and Christina Higgins also met the group at various appointments.

Deirdre Berger, the director of the AJC in Germany and a former NPR correspondent, gave an informative and spirited talk to the journalists as did political consultant Julius van der Laar. Other stops and talks included: Deutsche Welle, RTL, NTV, WDR, ZDF, New York Times, Economist, a Syrian refugee in the newly Arabic section of Berlin and the Kreuzberg section with former Greens member of parliament Özcan Mutlu.

German RIAS Alumni in Cologne, Mainz and Berlin also rolled out the welcome carpet for enjoyable evenings out on the town with the RIAS journalists – sharing stories and comparing notes about their jobs and careers in each respective country.

Many of the Americans described how much they enjoyed the major increases in their daily walking distances and moving around entirely on public transportation. As one journalist noted: “I’m glad I started working out on the treadmill before I came here. It really helped.”

The U.S. broadcast journalists come from 10 different states – reporters, producers, anchors and digital specialists from Oklahoma, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Oregon, Colorado, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, New York and Washington DC. They are part of a growing network of more than 1,600 German and U.S. journalists who have taken part in the no-strings-attached RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship programs that were inaugurated in 1992 after the Cold-War era radio and TV network in West Berlin known as “Radio in American Sector“ (RIAS) was switched off.

Here is a list of the U.S. fellows on the fall 2018 RIAS Berlin Commission Exchange Program:

  • Justin Campbell, WVLA TV, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Letese Clark, WTOP News Radio, Washington D.C.
  • Kane Farabaugh, Voice of America Midwest Correspondent
  • Andrew Lapin, Freelance NPR, Michigan
  • Carol McKinley, Freelance ABC, CBS, Littleton, Colorado
  • Bonnie North, WUWM Radio, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Jessica Prater, CNN, New York
  • Gitzel Puente, KJRH, Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Judth Snyderman, Washington DC
  • Sage Van Wing, Oregon Public Radio, Portland
  • Jordan Vesey, Union Docs Center for Documentary Arts, Brookyln, New York
  • Kenya Woodard, CTTV, Tampa, FL

September 20, 2018

13 American journalists tour Germany, Brussels on RIAS exchange program

Thirteen American journalists from 10 different states are visiting four European cities for briefings, interviews and talks with movers and shakers in the fields of politics, media, sports and the arts during a two-week RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship.

The Americans are meeting with station managers, reporters, producers, executives and anchors at German TV networks in Cologne, Mainz and Berlin during the whirlwind tour of important broadcast and political centers in Germany. They have also met with senior officials from NATO and the European Union in Brussels to learn more about how those two institutions work and what challenges they face before taking high-speed trains to Cologne, Mainz and then Berlin.

The RIAS Berlin Commission fellows will spend their second week in Berlin meeting political leaders and other German journalists as well as a German-Iranian artist who helped create the famous East Side Gallery open-air art exhibit painted onto about a one-mile long stretch of the Berlin Wall just after it opened in November 1989. They will also attend a Bundesliga soccer match in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium and visit the former Stasi prison along with the Reichstag parliament building. Some will also be staying for a third week to do individual reporting or spending time visiting a German network on their “station week“.

The U.S. broadcast journalists come from 10 different states – reporters, producers, anchors and digital specialists from Oklahoma, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Oregon, Colorado, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, New York and Washington DC. They are part of a growing network of more than 1,600 German and U.S. journalists who have taken part in the no-strings-attached RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship programs that were inaugurated in 1992 after the Cold-War era radio and TV network in West Berlin known as “Radio in American Sector“ (RIAS) was switched off.

Here is a list of the U.S. fellows on the fall 2018 RIAS Berlin Commission Exchange Program:

  • Justin Campbell, WVLA TV, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Letese Clark, WTOP News Radio, Washington D.C.
  • Kane Farabaugh, Voice of America Midwest Correspondent
  • Andrew Lapin, Freelance NPR, Michigan
  • Carol McKinley, Freelance ABC, CBS, Littleton, Colorado
  • Bonnie North, WUWM Radio, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Jessica Prater, CNN, New York
  • Gitzel Puente, KJRH, Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Judth Snyderman, Washington DC
  • Sage Van Wing, Oregon Public Radio, Portland
  • Jordan Vesey, Union Docs Center for Documentary Arts, Brookyln, New York
  • Bryan Weakland, MSNBC, New York
  • Kenya Woodard, CTTV, Tampa, FL

August 27, 2018

RIAS Berlin Commission alumni reunion and panel discussion at RTDNA’s EIJ conference

All RIAS Berlin Commission alumni and previous media prize award winners are invited to attend the annual USA reunion at the RTDNA and SPJ’s Excellence in Journalism convention on Sept. 28 in Baltimore. The get-together will take place at the EIJ’s conference
at the Hilton Baltimore from 2 pm to 3:30 pm on Friday afternoon before the Paul White Award presentation/reception honouring Bill Whitaker that starts at 5:30 pm.

There will also be a RIAS brunch/panel discussion on Saturday morning, Sept. 29 from 11 am to 12:30 pm looking at the question of “The Decline of International News Reporting in the U.S. – Reasons and Remedies” featuring guest panelists Ralph Begleiter, Stacey Samuel, Jeff Mason and Teri Schulz. Begleiter, a former CNN correspondent, teaches at the University of Delaware; Samuel is a supervising editor at NPR; Mason is a Reuters correspondent covering the White House and had several overseas posting; Schulz works for Deutsche Welle and NPR in Brussels. The panel will be introduced by WNBC New York morning anchor Michael Gargiulo.

Some financial support is available for RIAS alumni members traveling to Baltimore. Please contact kirschbaum@riasberlin.org or schillhahn@riasberlin.org for more details on the get-togethers or the travel cost support.

The aim of the alumni meetings is to keep the spirit of the Radio in America Sector (RIAS) alive and to foster networking and exchange opportunities among the 1,600 journalists in Germany and the United States who have taken part in the RIAS programs since it was launched in 1992. The RIAS alumni also play an important role in identifying and recruiting candidates for future exchange programs. Alumni chapters that meet periodically and organise local events have been set up in the last year in Cologne, Berlin, Hamburg, Mainz/Frankfurt, New York, Washington and Los Angeles.

RIAS alumni are also invited to apply for modest travel support now available to all alumni to return to Germany or the United States to work on stories that will be used by their broadcasters.

August 15, 2018

RIAS Berlin Commission sets exchange program dates for 2019

The RIAS Berlin Commission announced the following dates for exchange programs in 2019:

Germany Spring Program 2019: June 2–14, 2019
Application Deadline: February 1, 2019
Germany Fall Program 2019: September 15–27, 2019
Application Deadline: April 1, 2019

Read more

Since 1994, RTDNF has administered this media fellowship as part of its German/American Journalist Exchange Program with the RIAS. The next application deadline for the 2019 program in Europe is February 1, 2019. For information on the RTDNF Germany fellowship or the RIAS Awards program, visit rtdna.org or contact Mike Cavender at mikec@rtdna.org or Erik Kirschbaum at kirschbaum@riasberlin.org.

July 21, 2018

Fifteen American college students and recent graduates from 14 universities and 11 states across the United States recently completed a three-week summer exchange program in Germany for broadcast journalists organised by the RIAS Berlin Commission with support from the German government’s European Recovery Program (ERP). The students spent time in four different cities — Berlin, Cologne, Leipzig and Potsdam — and had 46 meetings and guest lectures with journalists, media professors, political leaders, sports celebrities, historians, RIAS alumni in Germany and ordinary Germans. Here are some of their thoughts about the new summer exchange program for U.S. college students studying broadcast journalism and related subjects.

Leighty Hanrahan, University of Wisconsin

RIAS was everything that I expected and more! This program gave me unforgettable experiences in multiple German cities, lifelong friendships, and a great ‘Einblick’ into the German media that I never would have found anywhere else.”





Hannah Lee, University of North Carolina

These last three weeks with RIAS have been exciting, exhausting and educational and I am so humbled to be a part of a network of not only talented journalists, but also lifelong friends. I’m thrilled to go back home knowing that I have explored and learned about a political and historical side of Germany that I have never seen before. As a recent college graduate, I know this program has helped me develop a better sense of self and what direction I hope to go in as an American journalist and German scholar.


Adrian Molinar, New Mexico State University

The RIAS program has been an overwhelmingly great experience. After learning about how crucial the station was to the falling of the Berlin Wall, it has become clear that the former radio/tv media outlet is still building bridges. I’d absolutely recommend this experience to anyone interested connecting people.


Shayne Hill, Hillsborough Community College, Tampa, Florida

Getting the chance to travel to Germany with RIAS was honestly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
that I’m so grateful to have experienced! I not only grew my knowledge of journalism, I grew as a person as well. Thank you so much RIAS for the amazing adventure and the lifelong friendships










Gabrielle Calise, University of Florida

From the current state of transatlantic relations and German journalism to Cold War history, I learned about so much during this program. I loved getting to meet so many interesting people, including students from Germany and the USA and journalists at different stations. The program brought me in contact with connections that will allow me to return to Germany later in my career as a journalist. I’m sad to go home after a great three weeks, but I am so
proud to join the RIAS alumni network.


Nick Derberbian, State University of new York at Oswego

As a college student who’s never been abroad to study and experience an entirely new culture, the RIAS program has forever changed my life. Not only was I able to delve into the history of Berlin and Germany as a whole, but I was able to learn and understand a handful of different

perspectives within the journalism field. I will hold these three weeks close to my heart as I was also able to get to know a great group of 14 individuals. I cannot wait to see more growth within this networking group and the many connections I will continue to make thanks to RIAS.

Emily Damm, Texas A&M

I enjoyed learning about German history and culture. The conversations I had with my RIAS fellows alongside my experiences with all the Germans I’ve met here were so impactful. I look forward to my continued relationship with RIAS.






Dylan Srocki, Miami University Ohio

Free press is central to an informed public and to the aims of a democratic society. RIAS stands as a shining example of the close connection between democracy and free press– a media organization that allowed citizens of West Berlin fair and unfiltered coverage of current events despite tension with the Soviet-occupied East. Now, RIAS carries on the legacy of responsible journalism with programs that aim to create more well-rounded professionals by inviting them to a foreign country in order to better understand life outside their normal perspectives. This summer, I was lucky to be part of the first RIAS student program. Through these three weeks, I have learned so much– not just about German media, but about the country in general. Rather than surface information, we dug deep to find out how people really feel about key issues. During this time, I was also able to build relationships with German members of the RIAS network, and become friends with 14 bright young professionals who I’m sure will expand my contacts across the United States. I am proud to be a part of the RIAS family, and enjoyed the opportunity to experience Europe for the first time.


Nicole Browning, Northern Kentucky University

The RIAS Berlin Commission gave me not only a valuable learning experience but also a valuable opportunity to connect with like-minded people. It was all these cultural, historical experiences, as well as invaluable friendships made along the way, that re-sparked my passion for journalism and life.




Mollie Lemm, University of Montana

One of my main takeaways from the RIAS program is how it uniquely impacts everyone, and how each varied perspective contributed to the experience. Growing up in Montana, I have a completely different view of the world than someone who grew up in Kentucky of New York and that really made this program amazing. The more you know about the World and about people, the better you can be as a journalist.


Sam Lichtenstein, Elon University, Elon, North Carolina


Getting a chance to be a part of the RIAS program this summer reminded me of the importance of learning about aspects of a foreign culture through a different lens. This experience provided me the chance to broaden my horizons as well as the platform to have conversations with other students and teachers about significant current events. Overall, the Rias program was not only a great chance to travel but was also a wonderful opportunity to talk with influential leaders in the realm of German politics, media and education.


Pamela Ortega, University of Oklahoma (second from left)

Within the first few days of RIAS I questioned why I was here, I didn’t speak the language nor know much about the culture. Today, I’m beyond thankful to RIAS for taking me out of my comfort zone. RIAS gave me three weeks of knowledge, a look into past history, a group of friends with values I respect, a glimpse at cultural understanding abroad, but most importantly a different perspective to issues that international affect everyone issues like immigration, integration, incarceration, education and defense.




Rose Carr, Western Washington University

The RIAS fellowship is unparalleled in its ability to take young journalists and connect them to professionals in the field. I have thoroughly enjoyed networking with my fellow American peers.Even after this experience, I kow that RIAS will continue to influence my career.


Sophia Saliby, Indiana University

Through the RIAS student program, I met journalists, politicians, and witnesses of history over the course of three quick weeks. The RIAS program broadened my network and my own ideas of just what is possible for my future as a journalist. Travel bridges gaps between people and cultures, and my world feels just a bit closer together, thanks to RIAS.


Dolores Hinckley, University of Florida

The RIAS student program was a unique chance to understand that which sustains the German-American relationship, and that which could endanger it. Through many insightful talks, tours, and discussions, I was able to better grasp why this relationship matters and my role in it as an upcoming journalist. I gained context that matters, not just through the eyes of Germans, but also through the eyes of Americans from across the country in my group.





July 6, 2018

New RIAS summer exchange program for US college students up and running

Fifteen U.S. college students and recent graduates heading into broadcast journalism spent the first week of their three-week summer exchange program on a whirlwind tour of media, political and cultural stops 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 journalism in Germany.

The students from 14 different universities and 11 states from Florida to Washington state and from Texas and Oklahoma to Montana, North Carolina and Kentucky got a chance to talk to former Germany and USA soccer coach Jürgen Klinsmann, the German government’s transatlantic coordinator Peter Beyer, German-Iranian artist Kani Alavi, former West Berlin mayor Walter Momper, and former RIAS general director Helmut Drück among others during their first busy week in the German capital. They also got a chance to see a museum at Stasi headquarters, the Stasi prison, the Berlin Wall memorial on Bernauer Strasse, the Palace of Tears at Friedrichstrasse, the Deutschlandradio headquarters in Berlin and talk to DLR journalist Vladimir Balzer.

Klinsmann, who also helped West Germany win the World Cup in 1990 and scored 11 goals in his three tournaments in 1990, 1994 and 1998 to make him the sixth all-time leading World Cup scorer, talked openly and enthusiastically about the value of such exchange programs.

He pointed out that his first trip to the United States as a young soccer player at the age of 19 opened his eyes to the world outside his small hometown in southwest Germany and changed his life. He talked about his playing career that later took him to play for top European soccer clubs Italy, where he learned Italian, then Monaco, where he learned French, and to England, where he improved his English before he returned to Germany and played for Bayern Munich.

The American students also got the chance to visit Peter Beyer at the German Foreign Ministry, where he talked about the challenges facing U.S.-German relations.

Beyer is also a member of the RIAS Berlin Commission that oversees the RIAS Berlin Commission and spoke about his desire to learn more about the heartland in the United States, efforts that he hopes will be enhanced with the year-long program called “Deutschlandjahr in den USA” starting in October.

Taking part in the pioneering new program that aims to bring 15 American students to Germany each summer to learn more about the country and expanding their horizons, the students also got 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.

He proudly told the students about his idea for his own painting on the East Side Gallery that depicts thousands of delighted East Germans streaming through the opening of the border on that unforgettable evening.

The students on the program read several books and watched many films about Berlin, Germany and the Cold War to get ready for the three-week program. Their extensive preparation helped them better understand stops to the Stasi museum, the Stasi prison, the RIAS building, the German Foreign Ministry, the journalism department at the Free University of Berlin where they met foreign journalists from across Europe under a program run by Dr. Alexander Görke, and the Springer Akademie, a finishing school for young journalists at one of the country’s leading publishing companies where they met young journalists under the tutelage of deputy director Rudolf Porsch.

Trips to 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 week.

The students also got a chance to visit the newly renovated Staatsoper unter den Linden and watch an opera. They also walked past the apartment building where Chancellor Angela Merkel lived before she took office in 2005, has lived during her 13 years leading Germany’s government and will most likely continue living long after she leaves office. They also got a chance to see a riveting multi-media documentary film on the history of the Reichstag building beamed across the River Spree behind the Reichstag on a building used as offices for members of parliament.

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

Nicole Browning, Northern Kentucky University
Gabrielle Calise, University of Florida
Rose Carr, Western Washington University
Emily Damm, Texas A&M
Nick Derberbian, State University of New York at Oswego
Leighty Hanrahan, University of Wisconsin
Samarie Hill, Hillsborough Community College
Dolores Hinckley, University of Florida
Hannah Lee, University of Florida
Mollie Lemm, University of Montana
Sam Lichtenstein, Elon University, Elon, North Carolina
Adrian Molinar, New Mexico State University
Pamela Ortega, University of Oklahoma
Sophia Saliby, Indiana University
Dylan Srocki, Miami University

June 29, 2018

Alumni chapter news — meeting in Cologne, more meetings planned for Berlin
A dozen RIAS Berlin Commission alumni members met in Cologne recently for yet another chapter meeting in the city where the first alumni chapter was formed late last year. Organised by Cologne chapter leaders Martin Richter and Andrea Lueg, the alumni gathered at the Brauhaus Päffgen in Cologne to talk about their exchange programs, journalism in Cologne and the state of transatlantic relations.

Alumni from the last 15 years attended, according to Martin Richter of Phoenix TV who is going to the U.S. on a three-week RIAS program in October. “We had a really good time and everyone talked about what a great time and great experience they had with RIAS,” said Richter. “Everyone is still so enthusiastic about their experiences and we’ll definitely continue having these meetings. We came up with the idea of a WhatsApp group for the chapter to make it easier to share information and organise meetings.”

The Cologne chapter will meet again on July 11 in Cologne at 7 pm with 15 American journalists on the next RIAS program. They’re from 14 colleges across the country. All alumni are invited to come as well. Please write to info@riasberlin.org for more information on the venue.

The Berlin chapter will meet the 15 American journalists in Berlin on the evening of July 6 in Berlin — all alumni are invited to that alumni meeting as well. The 15 young American journalists on a three-week trip to Germany to learn more about the Cold War, RIAS and German journalism. They’re studying at 14 different colleges across the country, from Oklahoma to Montana, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Texas and Kentucky. We’re hoping to have another great evening there together.

June 27, 2018

Americans spent two weeks in 5 European cities learning about journalist, politics, life

Take 14 American broadcast journalists from across the country and send them to five European cities and three different countries on a 12-day trip with a packed schedule filled with talks with journalists, politicians and analysts — and you end up with a memory-filled program that might change their lives. That’s what 14 Americans experienced on a RIAS Berlin Commission exchange program in June — visiting Berlin, Dresden, Prague, Brussels and Bruges on an unforgettable mission to expand their horizons and learn more about Germany and the European Union.

The program started in Berlin on June 11 with meetings with US ambassador Richard Grenell.

After an hour-long talk, Grenell showed the Americans the view from the rooftop of the U.S. embassy that looks out over the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Reichstag building. After that, the group met German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer, Brandenburg member of state assembly Barbara Richstein, John Kornblum at KCRW radio in Berlin, RIAS board member Richard Meng, former Greens member of parliament Oezcan Mutlu, along with visits to Bild newspaper,

Deutsche Welle’s Ben Fajzullin and Meggin Leigh Doody, ZDF’s Mitri Sirin and Bernd Benthin, the Reichstag, the Berlin Story Bunker, the Berlin Wall memorial at Bernauerstrasse, a walking tour with a Syrian refugee, the Stasi prison, as well as an alumni meeting at Stone Brewing with about 25 Berlin alumni.

In Dresden at the start of the second week, the fellows visited a VW factory making electric cars, the Saxony state parliament for a talk about foreigner issues, MDR TV studios; in Prague the highlight was a visit to Radio Free Europe. In Brussels, the group visited ARD correspondent Markus Preiss (also a RIAS alumni) and Deutsche Welle journalists at work along with the European Union with the spokespersons of the trade and immigration commissioners before finishing on June 23. Four stayed for a third week to taking part in “station week” experiences in

Berlin, Cologne and Bonn at Deutsche Welle, RTL, NTV, Deutschlandfunk and WDR. One stayed a third week working on an “extension week” program on a three-part feature for her station in Las Vegas on gun control in Germany.

It was an outstanding group of journalists from across the United States, including states like Oklahoma, Ohio, Nevada, Oregon, Minnesota, Georgia along with California, New York and Washington DC.

Bob Dickey, news director OUTV University of Oklahoma, in Norman, Oklahoma, wrote of his experience on the program: The RIAS Fellowship is a pedigree program that has been spoken of so highly over the years, I did not believe it could match the expectations I’d been given. But I was wrong.

Just on the face of it, the ability to travel to Germany, the Czech Republic & Belgium and meet with journalists and government leaders is a one of a kind opportunity. But it’s more than that. As one of my travel mates mentioned the experience is embellished by a good number of cultural and historical tours and visits. Those are important components of the RIAS “time”. And I’m sure others in the past have said this as well: it is a wondrous group gestalt that does not happen often in adulthood. It is the kind of bonding that happens at summer camp or in a dormitory the first year of college. For a group of journalism professionals with a variety of backgrounds and years of experiences, it is a superb chance to come together, share stories, learn a ton about Germany and modern Europe and make connections and become what I’m sure will be lifelong friends. Thank you RIAS. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Colby Hochmuth, a producer at ABC7, Arlington, Virginia described her experience like this:

Being a part of the 2018 RIAS Berlin Commission Fellowship program was a dream come true. From Berlin to Brussels, there was never a dull moment! I’m looking forward to taking everything I learned from the many guest speakers, German RIAS Fellows, and my journalist colleagues, back to my home station. It was an inspiration to be around such principled and ambitious journalists, and is a reminder of how now more than ever, the world needs good journalism

Stacey Samuel, a supervising editor at NPR in Washington DC, spent a third station week in Cologne visiting with Deutsche Welle, NTV, RTL, and Deutschlandfunk radio — the German version of NPR.

She described the experience on the RIAS Berlin Commission like this: This RIAS journey with you outstanding journalists and beautiful people will forever remain one of my best and happiest life experiences! Wishing you all safe travels back home –with the same sense of enlightenment and inspiration as I’ve gotten from each of you. Auf Wiedersehen.

David Marks, an Interactive Producer at KQED in San Francisco, had this to say:

My experience as a 2018 RIAS Berlin fellow was extraordinary. The chance to meet and engage with German

journalists and German and EU political leaders was truly eye opening, and provided me with a much needed global perspective both on European politics, and American politics from a European vantage point. From our meeting with the German government’s deputy spokeswoman to our meeting with the U.S. ambassador, to the journalist blind date and hearing from a Syrian refugee living in Berlin, the variety of perspectives we got is an experience I won’t soon forget, and it’s one I look forward to taking with me in my work going forward. I also look forward to hosting a German journalist in San Francisco! Vielen Dank!

Rias Media Awards 2018



June 5, 2018

14 U.S. fellows selected for RTDNF/RIAS German-American exchange

RTDNF and the RIAS Berlin Commission have selected 14 producers, reporters, editors and academics from across the country to become Fellows in Europe in two two-week long exchange programs in June to study the political and media landscape in Germany and Europe. They will also become part of a growing network of nearly 1,600 RIAS Berlin Commission alumni from media outlets in the United States and Germany to be part of the longstanding RTDNF/RIAS partnership.

This is the 25th year of the partnership between the RTDNF and RIAS, which has sent nearly 800 Fellows to Germany over the last quarter century. The spring 2018 German/American Journalist Exchange Program will include stops in Brussels, Berlin, Prague and Dresden. Sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission, it will feature briefings with top-level German political and media players, meetings with international journalists and with officials at the European Union headquarters and NATO headquarters as well as meet journalists and editors at Radio Free E
urope headquarters in Prague. They will also meet with RIAS alumni from Germany at get-togethers in Berlin and Brussels.

“The RIAS Berlin Commission exchange program is a great chance for U.S.-based broadcast journalists to get a glimpse of how their counterparts in places like Berlin, Cologne, Brussels and Prague work,” said RIAS Berlin Commission executive director Erik Kirschbaum. “Exchange programs like this are arguably more important now than ever before. There are no strings attached. The only aim is that the trip will help expand horizons.” RTDNF/RIAS’s U.S. coordinator KC Schillhahn will also accompany this year’s spring exchange program group.

Thanks to savings and donations, the programs have been expanding again in recent years. Some of the U.S. fellows this year will be taking part in a voluntary third “station week” to visit German journalists at their networks, watching how they put together and broadcast their stories. Many participants in Germany and the United States later report how the program “changed their lives” and many are now becoming actively involved in local alumni chapters that have been set up in the last year in: Cologne, Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt-Mainz, Washington DC and New York City.

The journalists selected for the June program are:

Karin Caifa, reporter, CNN Newssource, Washington DC
Adam Reiss, reporter, NBC News, New York, New York
Stacey Samuel, supervising editor, NPR, Washington DC
Lisa Weiner, managing editor, WTOP News Radio, Washington DC
Tiffany Zeno, news producer, WNBC/NBC, New York, New York
Bob Dickey, news director OUTV University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
Andres Gonzalez, news writer CNN International, Atlanta, Georgia
Colby Hochmuth, producer, ABC7, Arlington, Virginia
Faith Jesse, reporter, KSNV-NBC, Las Vegas, Nevada
Steve Kaufmann, chief photographer, KTVZ-TV, Bend, Oregon
Scott Libin, RTDNA Chairman, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota
David Marks, interactive producer, KQED, San Francisco, California
Maylan Studart, multimedia journalist, Modern Wall Street, New York, New York
Joe Sampson, senior professor, Miami University, Oxford, OhioSince 1994,

RTDNF has administered this media fellowship as part of its German/American Journalist Exchange Program with the RIAS. The next application deadline for the 2019 program in Europe is November 1, 2018. For information on the RTDNF Germany fellowship or the RIAS Awards program, visit rtdna.org or contact Mike Cavender at mikec@rtdna.org or Erik Kirschbaum at kirschbaum@riasberlin.org.

About RTDNF ?RTDNF, a 501 (c) 3 educational foundation, was created to help RTDNA members embody and uphold the standards of ethical journalism and promote leadership in the newsroom. RTDNF offers the electronic news community professional development opportunities, an open forum for the discussion of ethics, assistance with the development of leadership skills, support of First Amendment issues and the exchange of ideas and perspectives from electronic journalists worldwide. The Foundation also provides scholarships and fellowships to aspiring and early-career electronic journalists.

About RIAS Berlin Kommission?The RIAS Berlin Kommission is a bi-national organization established in 1992 to promote understanding between the United States and Germany in the field of broadcasting. Each exchange program is fully financed by the RIAS Berlin Kommission, a non-profit, non-governmental organization. RIAS was the acronym for Radio in American Sector (RIAS), which beamed news, information and music into East Germany during the Cold War first via radio and then from 1988 as a TV network before it was shut down after the Cold War ended.

May 31, 2018

Big RIAS alumni reunion in Berlin kicks off new RIAS get-together efforts

More than 60 RIAS Berlin Commission alumni took part in a panel discussion and alumni reunion recently at the historic RIAS Funkhaus building in Berlin. The 2018 RIAS media prize winners Jan Phillip Burgard, Lara Wiedeking, Arndt Peltner, Kerstin Zilm, Ainara Tiefenthäler and Shane O’Neill talked about the changes in the United States in the last two years and whether those changes have had any impact on their work as foreign correspondents.

Afterwards, alumni from RIAS exchange programs over the last 26 years had an enjoyable get-together at a local beer garden across the street from the RIAS building that lasted late into the evening. Some RIAS alumni came from as far away as Washington DC and New York while the German alumni came from across the country, traveling from cities such Dresden, Munich, Mainz, Hamburg, Cologne and Baden-Baden. Many met colleagues working in Germany media for other networks for the first time with the common-dominator being they were all RIAS alumni from previous years. Many of those who took part expressed hope that the back-to-back days of alumni events starting with the media prize awards and culminating with a panel discussion and alumni get-together could be the start of a tradition in Berlin each spring.

The alumni meetings are becoming an increasingly important emphasis of the RIAS Berlin Commission. With informal alumni chapters now formed in Cologne, Berlin, Hamburg, Rhine-Main (Mainz-Frankfurt), New York and Washington D.C., RIAS Berlin Commission is hoping that more informal gatherings and individual exchanges between RIAS alumni will happen in the future.

The alumni meetings whether formal or informal are designed to keep the spirit of RIAS and the exchange programs alive even years after journalists take part in the standard program. There are also senior editors programs for alumni to take part in subsequent trips to the United States or Germany as well as new travel stipends available for alumni who are eager to return to the United States or Germany to work on stories or research for their network. Several U.S. alumni have returned to Germany to do reporting on stories and sometimes stayed with German alumni on their reporting trips while a smaller number of German alumni have returned to the United States to work on stories. Please contact your local chapter leaders or write to info@riasberlin.org for more information about the travel stipend program for alumni.


The Berlin chapter alumni will be meeting with the next group of U.S. RIAS fellows on June 14 at an American-style craft brewery in Berlin as well as with RIAS alumni in Brussels a week later. Some in the Berlin chapter will also be going to the U.S. embassy’s annual Fourth of July party on field at Tempelhof Airport. German fellows going to Washington and New York in October will also be holding get-togethers with U.S. alumni in those two cities as well

All alumni are also invited to attend the annual U.S. alumni reunion reception, wh
ich will be held this year in Baltimore on September 28 at the RTDNA’s Excellence in Journalism convention. There will also be an alumni panel discussion on Saturday morning, September 29 in Baltimore as well. For more information please write to info@riasberlin.org


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.


May 16, 2018

RIAS alumni Zamperoni’s new book attempts to explain Trump’s popularity for Germans

One of Germany’s leading evening news anchors Ingo Zamperoni, a RIAS alumni and former ARD TV correspondent in Washington DC, just published a riveting new book in Germany called Anderland that makes a splendid effort to explain why Donald Trump is so popular in some parts of the United States — and could win re-election as President in 2020.

“I think it’s quite possible, even probable, that Trump could win a second term,” Zamperoni , 44, told a crowd of about 200 Germans at a book reading in Berlin this week for the launch of his second book about the United States. In his remarkably balanced book, Zamperoni gives German readers useful insights into why Trump won and may well win again.

“We’ve got a slightly disturbed relationship to the United States,” said Zamperoni, who was in Washington from early 2014 to late 2016. “The antipathy towards the United States and what’s going on there now is probably stronger right now than in any other country. There’s a lot of misunderstandings in Germany about the United States. We think we know the Americans well from having been there on vacation or whatever. But we really don’t.”

Zamperoni made good use of a RIAS fellowship in October 2017 to do research for his book in Texas, Washington DC and New York, among other places — revisiting at times Americans whom he had interviewed for German TV before the 2016 election and found that they were still strong backers of Trump nearly a year after the election. “There was no ‘buyer’s remorse’ among any of those I talked to again,” he said — comments that surprised many Germans.


Zamperoni, who was the keynote speaker at the RIAS media prize awards ceremony in 2017, was first a RIAS fellow on a standard exchange program back in 2004 at the age of 30. He took part on a second RIAS fellowship, a one-week long “senior editor’s program” in Texas, in 2017. After the book presentation, Zamperoni enjoyed a partial reunion with three other RIAS participants on six-member Texas trip Petra Gute from RBB, Vladimir Balzer from Deutschlandradio and RIAS Berlin Commission executive director Erik Kirschbaum. “Trump doesn’t care at all if we in Germany think he’s a fool,” said Zamperoni, whose wife and children are Americans, at the book launch. “The only thing that’s important to him is what his supporters think about him and how he’s doing.”

May 14, 2018

Annual reception and awards ceremony — all alumni invited to attend!

Help us celebrate what has been a fantastic year for the RIAS Berlin Commission! You’re all invited to two big alumni reunion events this week in Berlin – on May 17 and May 18. The 2018 RIAS media prize awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, starting at 7 pm followed by the annual reception afterwards starting about 8:30 p.m. There will also be two big reunion events for U.S.-based fellows at the RTDNA EIJ conference in Baltimore, Maryland on September 28 and 29.

In Berlin this year, we would also like to invite you to a panel discussion and RIAS alumni reunion the following evening on May 18, starting at 4 p.m. The topic of the panel discussion is: “How has the work of foreign correspondents (from Germany) in the United States changed since the election of Donald Trump?” The panel will feature the prize winners based in the United States. That will be held in the Glashalle of the RIAS Funkhaus on the ground floor. Following that all alumni are invited to take part in a reunion buffet dinner at the Pustenblume restaurant and beer garden.

Please do let us know at info@riasberlin.org if you will be able to attend either or both events. Thanks again for all your efforts to help us build up our alumni network and thanks to those of you who been making annual donations to help strengthen RIAS. Building up the alumni network with some 1,600 Germans and Americans in it is really one of the most important things we’re doing right now and we really appreciate your efforts with the local alumni chapters created in recent months in Cologne, Berlin, Hamburg, Washington DC, New York City and now Mainz-Frankfurt.

It has truly been a great year well worth celebrating, as some of the pictures here illustrate. There have been rising numbers applicants as well as rising numbers of participants from both the United States and Germany — thanks in part to your donations and your tireless efforts to help keep costs down. There have been 14 journalists taking part on each trip across the Atlantic this year — up from 10 in 2016 and 12 in 2017.

RIAS Berlin Commission fellows have had many eye-opening meetings with the acting US ambassador to Germany, Kent Logsdon, and the German ambassador to the United States — along with Congressmen and New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, who in a previous post as US ambassador to Germany was an enthusiastic supporter of RIAS Berlin Commission.

We are hoping that more regional alumni chapters can get started in 2018 — please let us know if you’re interested in organising a local chapter in your area. There are many alumni from over the last 25 years who are based in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, Munich and Leipzig. Ideally, the regional chapters will connect with each other and set the groundwork for more individual exchanges.

April 20, 2018

New RIAS alumni chapter formed in Mainz-Frankfurt, Cologne alumni meet

A new RIAS Berlin Commission alumni chapter was inaugurated in Mainz-Frankfurt on April 19 — adding to the list of alumni chapters already up and running in Cologne, Berlin, Hamburg, Washington DC and New York City. The Cologne chapter also had its second meeting the evening before on April 18.


About 10 alumni from past trips and more recent trips gathered in Mainz in a pub near the Rhine River. Reminiscing about their RIAS trips and brainstorming about ways to connect more RIAS alumni across Germany and also in the U.S, the journalists from the tri-state area and networks such as ZDF, HR, and SR expressed hopes and optimism of keeping the RIAS spirit alive even a

decade or more after their trip to the U.S. There is a RIAS alumni community section on the www.riasberlin.org website as well as RIAS Berlin Kommission and RTDNA RIAS Facebook pages where alumni can share information.

In Cologne, the first alumni chapter created in November met for a second time at a pub — also near the Rhine River on a warm and sunny spring evening. The journalists from Germany’s fourth largest city came from many commercial networks such as RTL and NTV as well as from public broadcasting giants WDR, Phoenix and Deutschlandfunk radio as well as Deutsche Welle radio in

Bonn. Even though the Cologne and Bonn RIAS alumni work and live in the same city and region, many had never met each other before and were connecting for the first time thanks to the RIAS alumni chapter meeting.

There are several big alumni events coming up in Berlin. On May 17, the RIAS Berlin Commission will award the annual media prize awards to six award-winning TV and radio productions. After the awards ceremony, all alumni and friends of RIAS are invited to attend the annual reception in the RIAS Funkhaus building in Berlin.

On Friday May 18, the prize winners based in the United States will take part in a panel discussion on their experiences working as foreign correspondents in the United States in recent years. After the panel discussion, RIAS Berlin Commission alumni are invited to take part in an alumni get-together as well.

April 8, 2018

German journalists learn more about inside workings of U.S. TV, radio stations

RIAS Berlin Commission journalists made the most of their three-week fellowships in the United States. The 14 German journalists spent a week in Washington DC, a week in New York and then spread out across the country to “look over the shoulder” of American journalists working at large and small stations from Texas to South Dakota, and between California to South Carolina.

Viktoria Kleber, a reporter for RBB TV in Berlin, spent an enlightening week in Sioux Falls, South
Dakota hosted by American RIAS fellow Jay Trobec, where she not only learned about working in the high plaines but also how to shoot a pistol. She proudly displayed her results during a talk-show appearance in KELO-TV. “It was my first time
shooting a pistol. I’m really talented,” Kleber (pictured on the left) said with a smile. “I nailed it. We’re not allowed to do that in Germany. We have a different gun culture in Germany.”

In a good-spirited interview on KELO-TV, Kleber admitted she was surprised how quickly U.S. TV reporters get their news on air and also how much work U.S. reporters do on their own. “I was really surprised,” she said. “You’re technically very advanced. If look at a reporter and compare it to Germany…Here a reporter goes out pretty much by himself. He carries everything, the camera by himself, shoots by himself, edits everything and does everything on his own. In Germany, we have big teams. We have a reporter, a cameraman, sound guy and sometimes even a driver, and then someone who cuts with you and someone who is a sound engineer. Here just one person is doing all those different jobs!”

In Tyler, Texas, ZDF journalist Anna-Maria Schuck spent a week working with and looking over the shoulder of US RIAS alumni Lane Luckie (both pictured at right) at KLTV in East Texas — also learning a lot about life in a
rural part of the United States and how to shoot a gun. Schuck was also pressed into duty on-camera, spending two hours on the East Texas Now live TV streaming broadcast set up in the middle of the KLTV newsroom. East Texas Now host Jeremy Butler and Luckie joined Schuck for an illuminating discussion about the differences between Germany and the United States.


Sarah Schmidt from RTL in Berlin spent a week in Los Angeles, first working with RIAS fellow Frank Mottek, who is the voice of business news in LA as the senior money anchor at CBS’s all-news station KNX 1070, and then with CNN national correspondent Miguel Marquez, also a RIAS alumni. Schmidt also produced this story for NTV online following the RIAS fellows’ meeting with Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Doyle (Democrat).

Other German journalists spend their station week in the United States learning more about guns and gun control — and how to shoot. Louisa Maria Gersberg from MDR TV station in Schwerin, northern Germany spent her station week in South Carolina with Thomas Colones of WSPA-TV, a US fellow from 1997, in Spartanburg.

Eberhard Schade from Deutschlandfunk radio spent a week in San Francisco at KQED radio with US fellow Don Clyde (above) learning more about podcasts while Bianca Leitner from ARD’s Tagesschau national news broadcast got a glimpse of Las Cruces, New Mexico and parts of the great southwest with Hugo Perez (below right), a US RIAS fellow and journalism professor from New Mexico State University.

Marcel Grzyb, an executive producer at Germany’s all-news NTV station (below), spent a week at CNN in Atlanta observing how things work at the U.S. TV media giant — and connecting with many of the dozens of U.S. CNN alumni who have been on the RIAS programs in Germany.



Many RIAS fellows from Germany spent their week in Texas. Anne Demmer from RBB radio in Berlin had an eventful week in Houston, Texas with Houston Public Media reporter and RIAS alumni Andrew Schneider (below) before she drove south to the U.S-Mexico border at the Rio Grande to work on a story for her station back in Berlin.

And Laura Fritsch (below right) of all-news network Welt TV made the most of her station week in Denver, Colorado as well as a return visit to New York City to re-connect with US fellow Clare Toenniskoetter of the New York Times (pictured below left), a RIAS alumni and the New York area chapter coordinator.

March 13, 2018

New Jersey Gov Phil Murphy talks US politics to RIAS group

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy gave a group of 14 German radio and TV journalists an interesting talk on the political landscape in his state and in the United States at the moment. Murphy, who was the former RIAS Berlin Commission honorary chairman during his term as US ambassador to Germany, was delighted to meet the German journalists at his office in Trenton, NJ, and talk openly and eloquently about the situation in the US as well as in Germany. He said he thought transatlantic institutions and ties remained strong.


“I’m honored that you would come to visit us in Trenton — Trenton makes and the world takes,” Murphy said with a big smile, quoting an old slogan from 1911 during the town’s industrial heyday that used to hang on a suspension bridge over the Delaware River. Murphy, a Democrat, talked in depth about tariffs and trade as well as environmental and immigration policies — candidly expressing his opposition to Republican President Donald Trump’s polices in those and other areas.



He said governors and local leaders in the U.S. were becoming more important as a counter balance to some federal government policies and predicted his Democratic party would defeat Republicans in upcoming elections.



“I think governors have never mattered more because of what’s going on at the federal level,” said Murphy. “Governors and local leaders will have never mattered more in our country’s history.” He also said he thinks President Trump may even face a challenge in 2020 from within his own Republican party during the primaries.



He said he was optimistic about the chances for the Democrats, noting that there are about 30 Democrats who have expressed interest in running in 2020 and calling that “a good thing” that there are so many in the field. “There are gobs of people on the horizon — and I’m not one of them,” he said, when asked if he would consider running. “We have our hands full here in New Jersey.”



Murphy, who just took office in January, expressed confidence that German-American relations as well as transatlantic institutions are in good shape but he also spoke out against tariffs and trade wars. “We need more enlightened trade policies,” he said. “We need to anticipate more the dislocation of our workers” and focus more on retraining workers in fading industries. Murphy said he was opposed to a plan recently floated by the Trump administration to give teachers guns as a way to counter mass shootings in schools. “That’s not a good idea,” he said.

The RIAS group also spent the afternoon visiting CNN in New York, meeting Richard Quest as well as Anderson Cooper.

March 9, 2018

14 German journalists on riveting tour to expand horizons in USA


Fourteen radio and TV journalists from Germany are spending three weeks in the United States learning about politics and media as part of the latest RIAS Berlin Commission exchange program. The first of two groups of German reporters this year to visit the United States, the 14 fellows have had a dozen fascinating meetings and interviews this week with Congressmen such as Mike Doyle (D-Penn) and Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn) at their offices in Washington as well as meeting American and German journalists at their newsroom. They have also picked the brains of experts at think tanks, and learned more about how Washington works from off-duty journalists and lobbyists at watering holes around town.


Doyle surprised the Germans with candid remarks that his wife had done a much better job predicting the Democrats would not win the 2016 presidential election while Fleischmann told them he was a good friend of President Trump and supports his positions on most issues. Fleischmann also spoke at length and in detail about his admiration of the German apprenticeship system that was being introduced in his Tennessee district more and more thanks in part to a major Volkswagen factory built there.


Other stops in Washington DC included a visit to the Capitol (below) Voice of America (below), NPR, German network ZDF, the Brookings Institute, PEW Institute and the German Embassy, where Ambassador Peter Wittig offered the fellows an insightful and detailed analysis of German-American relations.


Here is a list of the Germany-based fellows and their networks:

  1. Bianca Leitner ARD Hamburg
  2. Bartosz Dudek Radio DW Bonn
  3. Laura Fritsch, N24 Berlin
  4. Marcel Grzyb, n-tv Köln
  5. Hanna Klouth,RTL Köln
  6. Anne Demmer, Radio+online, RBB, D-Radio, Berlin
  7. Anna-Maria Schuck, TV+Social Media ZDF Mainz
  8. Eberhard Schade, Radio DRadio Berlin
  9. Friedel Taube, TV+Online DW Berlin
  10. Louisa Maria Giersberg, NDR Schwerin
  11. Sarah Schmidt RTL, n-tv Berlin
  12. Ben FajzullinTV DW Wirtschaft Berlin
  13. I?il Nergiz TV Social Media DW Berlin
  14. Viktoria Kleber RBB, DW, ARD Berlin

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.

February 2, 2018

Hamburg Chapter of RIAS Berlin Commission Alumni network created

A dozen RIAS Berlin Commission Alumni gathered at a pub in Hamburg on Friday, February 2 to inaugurate the RIAS Hamburg Chapter — an informal “no-strings-attached” group that plans to meet as a sort of “Stammtisch” every few months. The Hamburg alumni chapter is the third regional chapter created following the starts of regional chapters in Cologne and Berlin were organized in recent months.

“It was a great inspirational evening,” said Michail Paweletz, a news presenter for ARD’s Tagesschau who organized the Hamburg Chapter’s first meeting together with Nadine Gries of NDR. The alumni talked not only reminisced about their “life-changing” experiences as RIAS Berlin Commission fellows on their trips to learn more about media, politics and culture in the United

States over the last 15 years. They also talked about how they could keep the spirit of RIAS alive with regular meetings in Hamburg or with other chapters in Berlin, Cologne and possibly in the United States when chapters are formed there hopefully soon. The alumni were also encouraged to work take up the RIAS Berlin Commission offer for support for individual story-research reporting trips to the United States.

The RIAS Berlin Commission offers alumni with compelling story ideas 1,000 euro stipends to help cover some of the travel costs associated with researching stories in the United States. The offer of $1,000 stipends to help U.S. fellows cover some of the travel costs associated with researching stories in Germany.


RIAS Berlin Commission Executive Director Erik Kirschbaum said he hoped the new Hamburg chapter would be able to build networks with the Berlin and Cologne chapters as well as build bridges to U.S. alumni and chapters in the United States as well. “With more than 1,500 alumni in the U.S. and Germany from the RIAS programs over the last 25 years, there is so much potential for networks, transatlantic cooperation on stories and friendships,” he said.

All RIAS Berlin Commission alumni are invited to attend the RIAS Medienpreis awards ceremony on May 17 at the RIAS Funkhaus building in Berlin as well as a special alumni reunion meeting in Berlin on May 18.

Among those who attended the Hamburg alumni meeting were Michail Paweletz (ARD), Nadine Gries (NDR), Regine Münder (ARD), Birgit Hahn (Radio Hamburg), Charlotte Voss (NDR), Stefan Keilmann (ARD), Patrick Döcke (ARD), Sonja Keilmann (ARD) and Jennifer Lange (NDR).

January 17, 2018

New summer exchange program for U.S. university students

U.S. university students are invited to apply for a three-week intensive study program on journalism in Germany. Funded largely by a grant from the German government and organized by the RIAS Berlin Commission, up to 14 outstanding journalism or international studies students will be invited to take part in the three-week program in Germany to learn more about journalism in Germany, the role that broadcasters like the Berlin-based RIAS played during the Cold War and the current political landscape of Germany.

Beginning in 2018, the RIAS Berlin Commission will be offering exceptional students of journalism, international affairs and related disciplines the opportunity to participate in this three-week educational program in Berlin. Funded by the Transatlantic Program of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, the program will give 14 participants valuable insights into transatlantic, German and European affairs. Students from across the US are encouraged to apply.

Over a three week period in Berlin, with excursions to other Germany cities, participants will meet with leading political analysts, journalists, think tank representatives and other experts. 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.

Program applicants must be undergraduate or graduate students of journalism, international affairs, political science, history, German or closely related disciplines at universities and colleges in the United States. They should be starting at least the third year of their undergraduate studies at the time of the program and preferably have some experience in journalism – for example at a campus radio or TV station or newspaper. An interest in and knowledge of German or European affairs is desirable; knowledge of German is preferred but not required. Students who have already gained some professional or volunteer experience in their field are strongly encouraged to apply.

Attached is the application form as PDF with further information.


January 11, 2018

Berlin Alumni Chapter’s inaugural meeting

Twenty RIAS Berlin Commission alumni came together on January 11 for the inaugural meeting of a Berlin alumni chapter at a restaurant in Berlin. Organized by 2017 fellows Anja Goerz and Benedikt Wenck, the Berlin-based RIAS fellows have taken part in the exchange programs since 2000. Not only did the Berlin alumni reminisce about their experiences in the U.S., they also made plans for regular Berlin alumni chapter meetings every other month. Vladimir Balzar and Anja Heyde volunteered to organize the next Berlin alumni meeting in late March.

The Berlin alumni chapter was the second informal alumni group created after RIAS alumni in Cologne set up the first chapter in November. Other chapters are being set up or in planning in Hamburg, New York and Washington. The Berlin and Cologne chapters are hoping to occasionally invite guest speakers to their meetings.

“The main goals of these alumni chapters are, besides having a good time, to create networks of former RIAS participants in both the U.S. and Germany — and hopefully the various chapters will be able to interact with each other down the road in setting up individual exchanges,” said RIAS Berlin Commission Executive Director Erik Kirschbaum. “They’re for the alumni and by the alumni. These chapters and individual exchanges are whatever those taking part make out of them.”

All 1,500 RIAS Berlin Commission alumni are cordially invited to join or create local chapters — and register themselves into the RIAS Berlin Community on the www.riasberlin.org website, where messages, ideas, suggestions and hosting requests can be exchanged.

Others at the inaugural Berlin alumni chapter meeting included: Dorte Störmann, Marc Krueger, Philipp Eins, Martina Gross, Laura Fritsch, Gabriele von Moltke, Petra Gute, Karl Hinterleitner, Erik Kirschbaum, James Griffin, Ben Fajzullin, Sven Ole Schubert, Giusi Valentini, and Anne Demmer.

Two other RIAS alumni groups have also gathered in recent weeks as well. Five of the nine
participants on a senior editors program to Texas in 2017 were able to revive the spirit of their
weeklong crash course on immigration and border security with an evening of margaritas and spicy jalepeno burgers in Berlin: Vladimir Blazer, Anja Heyde, Petra Gute, Hildegard Boucsein and Erik Kirschbaum.

And seven of the 10 fellows from the March 2017 program to the U.S. met for a weekend reunion in Bad Nauheim north of Frankfurt and visited the house where Elvis Presley lived when he was stationed in Germany. “We just wanted to see each other again because we had such a good time together in the U.S.,” said Kevin Arnold, who organized the alumni meeting. Others attending include Birgit Hahn, Selina Koc, Sarah Zerback, Anja Fröhlich, Arne Orgassa, and Tobias Jobke

January 4, 2018

Call for entries for RIAS Media Prize

RIAS Berlin Kommission – Award Ceremony on June 12, 2017


The deadline is nearing for the RIAS Berlin Commission Media Prize awards for 2017. The awards are for the best reporting to highlight issues of interest to the U.S. and Germany. Stories of bi-national interest that aired or were published at any time in the calendar year of 2017 are eligible.

Awards are presented for radio, television and online reporting. There is no fee for submitting a story for a RIAS Award. Recent American winners include 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: Off-shore Wind Push, Tonya Papanikolas in 2013 for her online reports from Germany and Susan Valot in 2012 for her radio work on LA artists living and working in Berlin.


Keynote speech in 2017 by ARD anchor Ingo Zamperoni

The entry deadline is January 31, 2018. To submit, simply send a link to your story to info@riasberlin.org and kirschbaum@riasberlin.org. Scripts and support materials are optional. The RIAS jury will meet in February and winners will be invited to the awards ceremony in Berlin to be held in the spring.



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 2018 (Call for Entrys) as PDF (EN)