News & Events
Interview with RIAS Berlin Commission Grand Prize winner Wolf Blitzer
Wolf Blitzer, a CNN reporter and anchor, talked about his documentary film “Never Again” for CNN that won top honors in the 2023 RIAS Media Prize competition in an interview for the www.riasberlin.org website. The film about the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in
Washington DC, narrated by Blitzer, also includes his own personal reflections about his family and his four grandparents who were killed in the Holocaust. Blitzer — a journalist, anchor and author who has been at CNN since 1990 — said in the interview with RIAS board member Michael Gargiulo and executive director Erik Kirschbaum that he felt deeply honored to win the annual competition’s “Grand Prize Award” for outstanding broadcasting stories aired in Germany or the United States that touch upon transatlantic issues, and he said he was looking forward to receiving the awards ceremony in Berlin on June 1.
Question: Journalists traditionally avoid making themselves the center of a story. Why did you feel it was important to highlight your own family’s experiences in the Holocaust?
Wolf Blitzer: “It’s a good question and you’re absolutely right. When I started out in journalism I worked for Reuters and I would come back from an assignment and I would tell these older British journalists what I thought and they’d say the same thing: ‘Nobody really cares, Wolf, what you think. Just give us the facts, give us the facts and we’ll report the news’. So you’re right, journalists like to stay away from being part of the news. They just want to report the news. But a few years ago, the then-president of CNN, Jeff Zucker, asked some of the anchors to do pieces about their heritage, their family history, their roots — to give the viewers a little bit more knowledge about where they’re coming from and what they’re all about. He asked me to do one. When they asked me, I was on an assignment in Israel and covering one of the wars that was going on with Hamas and Gaza, and of course said ‘Yes, I’d be happy to do it.’ Ever since I was a little boy I knew my parents were Holocaust survivors and I always knew that my four grandparents were killed in the Holocaust. So I decided I would tell that story. And so we did a roots piece on CNN. It was about 8 minutes long. When I was in Israel and went to the Israeli Holocaust museum Yad Vashem. I knew that my dad had done an oral history. I went there and met with the director and he gave me some information about what my dad had told them years earlier when he was visiting Jerusalem. I knew my grandparents had been killed in the Holocaust but I didn’t know any details. It was then that I discovered that my paternal parents had been killed in Auschwitz, which was news to me at the time. There it was, at Yad Vashem, documented. I decided that, as part of this piece that I was going to do for CNN about my roots, about my family history, I would fly over to Poland and go to Auschwitz. I had never been there. I went there and did a tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau. It was really powerful for me, very personal obviously, to see it. I included all that in the piece that I did for CNN. That was how I, initially, was reporting to our viewers for CNN in the US and around the world about my own family history and how it came out. More recently, CNN asked me to do a documentary on the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, which I did and am so thrilled that you are honoring with the Grand Prize this year. In researching for that documentary, one of my producers discovered that my dad had done an oral history, a Q&A, with the Holocaust Education Center in Hollywood, Florida. I found this one-hour Q&A. My dad had done a Q&A with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC too but that was audio only. The one in Florida was video, audio and video. It was so powerful for me to see it and learn more details. I included that in the documentary about the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington with some actual sound from my dad talking about his experiences. It was very personal, very powerful for me. And I think it was very powerful for the viewers who watched it. So that’s how I came about reporting about my family history.”
Question: What was it like for you in the course of making that documentary to walk though the Holocaust Memorial Museum, to hear the descriptions of the exhibits, how emotionally difficult for you?
Blitzer: “It was very emotionally difficult but it was very important. I’ve been to the US Holocaust Memorial many times over the years so, in connection with doing the work for the documentary, it wasn’t new for me to see it because I had visited it on many occasions. But no matter how many times you go there, you see the images, you see the video, you see the pictures, you see the stories. It’s very meaningful. It’s very powerful. It’s part of our tradition of ‘Never Again’. That if we don’t learn from history, we’re bound to repeat it. That’s why it’s so important to learn and to say never again.”
Question: The youngest Holocaust survivors are now in their 80s. Are you concerned that, in the future, the Holocaust will be part of history, without the power of their personal testimony?
Blitzer: “That’s why it’s so important for these Holocaust survivors to give that personal testimony and to do it on video, to do it on tape, so that it’s going to be there forever. It’s going to be online. It’s really important. You’re absolutely right. Holocaust survivors sadly are dying. Years ago, 15 or 20 years ago, when I would go to the annual dinner of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, at the beginning of the dinner, they would ask ‘Would all the Holocaust survivors please rise’. And we would all give them a big round of applause. In those days, several hundred people would stand up. In recent years, and I’ve gone to these dinners as well, when they ask for the Holocaust survivors to stand up. The last time I think maybe five or 10 people stood up, if that. So sadly they’re dying. Both my parents have passed away. My other relatives who are also Holocaust survivors have mostly passed away. I have one uncle who is still alive in Chicago, my mother’s younger brother. But everyone else is older, in the 80s or 90s and beyond and they died So it’s important to get their testimony to get their testimony on tape so it will be around forever.”
Question: In your documentary, you tied the anti-Semitism of the 1930s with a rise in anti-Semitism today and a rise in anti-immigrant prejudice around the world. Are you concerned that history is repeating itself?
Blitzer: “It’s sad to see a rise in anti-Semitism here in the United States, as documented by the Anti-Defamation League. And it’s especially sad to see a rise in Holocaust denial in the United States and probably around the world but especially in the United States, where people are saying, ‘You know, six million Jews were not killed. That’s just some fake story out there.’ To hear that, it’s pretty depressing. It’s obviously very sad when you see neo-Nazi movements gaining some strength. In Charlottesville, Virginia a few years ago, when you saw those young men walking and protest and screaming out ‘Jews will not replace us, Jews will not replace us’. It was hard for me to accept that and believe that was happening. At the time I remember thinking to myself ‘I’m sort of glad that my dad had passed away because he would have never believed he would hear or see something like that in the United States because this country had give our family a second chance to rebuild and establish new lives.’ He became an extremely patriotic American and loved this country for the opportunity it gave to him and his family. He would have been so upset to hear those young American men chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’ in Charlottesville, Virginia.”
Question: How do you feel Germany has reckoned with the Holocaust and you said you’re excited about coming to Berlin, how do you feel about coming to Berlin to receive this recognition?
Blitzer: “I’m really honored that this film is being given the Grand Prize and I’m very excited about coming. I’ve been to Germany on many occasions and it’s always been an excellent opportunity for me. I was actually born in Augsburg, Germany. My parents had met after the war and they got married. They found a Rabbi in Augsburg, a US army chaplain who married them. My older sister was born in Augsburg and I was born in Augsburg and eventually my family got immigration visas to come to the United States. The US House of Representatives and Senate had passed what was called the ‘Displaced Persons Act’ after World War Two that granted 400,000 visas to displaced persons, including Holocaust survivors. My dad waited in line one day in Munich and signed himself up and the rest of the family that survived. Within a few weeks they had got permission to come to the United States. But they would tell you where you were going. They said to my dad, you’re going to Buffalo. My dad said: ‘Buffalo, where’s that?’ And they said ‘Buffalo, New York.’ My dad said ‘oh New York, there’s probably a lot of Jewish people in New York.’ He didn’t know that Buffalo that is 400 miles away from New York City. The family arrived in Buffalo, New York, started a new life. My dad did well. Eventually became a successful home builder. He would have been so angry, so upset if he would have heard the anti-Semitic comments coming from Charlottesville, Virginia. He wouldn’t have believed that would be possible in the United States.”
Question: In a talk last year that you gave to a group of RIAS Berlin Commission journalists from Germany visiting Washington DC, it seemed clear that you know Germany quite well and appreciate the country’s coming to term with its past. Germany, as you know, has strict laws banning Holocaust denial. One can end up in jail for Holocaust denial. How do you feel about Germany. Is it a force for good in the world?
Blitzer: “I think Germany has come to terms with its history and I’m very positive about what the reaction has been, especially in recent years. Recently, a few weeks ago, I went back to Auschwitz for what’s called ‘the march of the living’ where all these people come and do a little march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, which was the death camp right next to Auschwitz. And then there were all these events going on in Warsaw remembering the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. One of the highlights for me at an event at the Polin Museum, which is a relatively new museum dedicated to the 1,000-year history of the Polish Jewish community. The presidents of Poland, of Israel and of Germany spoke there. And the most powerful speaker was the president of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. He delivered a really powerful speech. It was so important because he didn’t just talk about ‘Nazis’, it wasn’t just the ‘Nazis’. He spoke about the Germans. ‘We Germans did this’. It was a very personal statement from the president of Germany acknowledging what was going on during the Holocaust. We all walked away really admiring his words. He was very blunt, and very outspoken. He didn’t try to mince it. He didn’t just talk about ‘Nazis’. He spoke about Germans. And I thought that was very significant. This past weekend here in Washington DC I went to a premiere showing of a film ‘A pocketful of miracles’ about some Holocaust survivors. A really powerful film. They sat me next to the German ambassador to the United States, Emily Haber, who wanted to make a point of coming to the premiere of this film as well. So it’s really powerful to me, with just these little examples that I’m sharing, of how Germany has come to terms with their history. And I admire the Germans and the German people for doing that. It’s not easy, I’m sure, but it’s something that I admire and think it’s really important.”
Question: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Blitzer: “I’m just very proud that you guys are going to be giving this film that we worked on this award. I’m looking forward to being there. I’ve really enjoyed meeting with these German journalists and students who’ve been here in Washington DC and I think it’s really important that we continue our dialogue. And that’s why I’m just excited about coming to Berlin and being there, and spending a few days and getting a little bit better sense of what’s going on. It’s exciting and important for me.”
Images from RIAS Berlin Commission ERP student program to USA
Fifteen German students spent three weeks learning more about politics, media and life in the United States in March and April during a European Recovery Program (ERP) Transatlantic fellowship with the RIAS Berlin Commission to the United States from March 17, 2023 to April 8, 2023. Here are some of the images from their impressions from the program:
The 15 students, many from eastern Germany and most on their first trip to the United States, spent nine days together as a group in New York before spreading out in smaller groups of one to three to seven different university towns in the Midwest, Southwest and Mountain states: the universities of Oklahoma, Arizona, Arizona State, Southern Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Montana.
The goal of the ERP program is to help connect young German journalism students with their peers in the United States and help aspiring journalists in both countries learn more about journalism training in each others’ countries. The ERP program is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany. It is funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Economy and Energy (BMWi) Ministry.
RIAS New York guest speaker Gordon Huie visits RIAS group in Berlin
Gordon Huie, who has told his moving personal story of survival on 9/11 in New York to RIAS groups for the last three years, had the chance to visit the RIAS Berlin headquarters on May 8 and talk about his harrowing experiences on September 11, 2001 and beyond to a group of 20 RIAS alumni members and RIAS supporters. Huie is the only known “triple” from 9/11: a survivor, a first responder and a victim who lost a loved one.
Huie’s talk was the latest in a series of RIAS Berlin Commission alumni talks and included members from German and US alumni programs (three Americans now living in Germany) dating from 1997 to 2023.
Huie, a former combat medic and off-duty orthopedic surgeon in New York, explained how he was in Lower Manhattan on 9/11 on doing research for a project when the attacks began. When the first World Trade Center building collapsed, Huie was on a street nearby the burning building, looking to see if he could help somehow, and narrowly escaped the blast waves of debris from the imploding building by diving to the ground. Others around him who did not hit the ground did not survive.
Huie said after the blast passed over his head, he recalled thinking the world was over. He said he was struck by the deathly silence around him on what was until that day always a busy New York City street corner. After a moment, he dusted himself off and headed to a nearby hospital to see if he could offer his help as a medical professional. He ended up working all day treating injuries in a makeshift operating room set up in a hospital conference room.
Later that evening, he found out from his father that his sister Susan had been in the World Trade Center for a business meeting that day even though she did not work there. He spent months in vain after that in Lower Manhattan trying to find her or anything he could about her. Huie also talked about the toxic dust that has led to serious illness and premature deaths for more than 4,000 people over the last two decades. He talked about his work as a docent at the now-closed “9/11 Tribute Museum” where he and others told their stories to groups of visitors.
After the talk, Huie and his daughter Kelly joined the RIAS alumni group for a get-together at a nearby restaurant. He has become an avid fan of Germany’s May-time speciality “white asparagus”.
On Tuesday, Huie and his daughter were also able to visit the US Embassy in Berlin where there is a memorial in the embassy’s courtyard commemorating the thousands of victims of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. In 2011, on the 10th anniversary of the attack, a piece of one of the steel girders of the Twin Towers was inaugurated as a memorial, including 11 German victims.
Images from German standard program in the USA March 2023
Ten German journalists spent two weeks learning more about politics, media and life in the United States in March during a RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship. During the first week in Washington, the Germans met distinguished guest speakers including Congressman Lloyd Smucker (R-Pennsylvania), Germany’s Transatlantic Coordinator Michael Link, Reuters’ White House correspondent Jeff Mason and ZDF correspondent Elmar Thevessen.
In Pennsylvania they met members of the Amish community in Elizabethtown and leading political scientists from Elizabethtown College and Franklin & Marshall College.
In New York they met among many others Staten Island borough president Vito Fossella, Broadway actress Angie Schworer and German Consul General David Gill. The Germans attended a service at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and toured the Hasidic Jewish Community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They also got a tour of the Empire State Building and its never-ending sustainability efforts as well as the New York Times by The Daily senior producer Clare Toeniskoetter.
Impressions of German students from 3-week ERP exchange program to USA
Here are some impressions from 15 German journalism on a three-week European Recovery Program (ERP) Transatlantic fellowship with the RIAS Berlin Commission to the United States from March 17, 2023 to April 8, 2023. The 15 students, many from eastern Germany and most on their first trip to the United States, spent nine days together as a group in New York before spreading out in smaller groups of one to three to seven different university towns in the Midwest, Southwest and Mountain states: the universities of Oklahoma, Arizona, Arizona State, Southern Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Montana. The goal of the ERP program is to help connect young German journalism students with their peers in the United States and help aspiring journalists in both countries learn more about journalism training in each others’ countries. The ERP program is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany. It is funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Economy and Energy (BMWi) Ministry.
Til Schäbitz, Leipzig University, visited University of Oklahoma
I’m sitting at the dinner table at my parents’ house. Right at this time, but last week, I was talking to the Deputy Chief of the Tulsa Police Department about gun violence and police support within the Black community. Two weeks ago, I had to explain to students at Oklahoma University that studying in Germany really is almost entirely tuition free. Exactly three weeks ago, I only had to walk across changed the street in New York from a visit in the UN to lunch with the German Consul General. All dressed up in a white suit; we were, after all, going to see a Broadway musical later. And four weeks ago, I was sitting exactly where I am sitting now – but as someone else. My time in the U.S. – filled with all imaginable encounters and conversations – has sharpened and honed me like hardly anything ever before. I learned to be truly persistent. To not be afraid of naivety and that as a good journalist you can be friends with unsavoury people without getting your hands dirty. Let’s see where I’ll be sitting in the future.
Jacqueline Albrecht, University Magdeburg-Stendal, visited Indiana University
There are no words to describe what I have experienced in the last three weeks. An intensive, eventful program packed with a wide variety of impressions. Starting in the diverse city of New York, where we visited various media outlets, had many interesting conversations and were able to get to know people and their stories. Meeting 9/11 survivor Gordon Huie is something I’ll always remember. Cultural highlights such as seeing my first Broadway show and a tour through the Jewish Quarter were also included. After a very intense and exciting 8 days, I went on to Bloomington, a liberal city in an otherwise very conservative state. Here I was able to get to know American university life, I was allowed to be part of various TV news shoots, for example, on a farm in the middle of nowhere in Indiana, and I had many conversations about topics such as the health system, gun rights, abortion and patriotism, which made me think and reflect a lot. I will never forget how students told me about their constant fear of gun violence, how, for the first time in my life, I had to spend part of the night in the basement because there was a tornado just a few kilometers away and how I visited a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado. My time at RIAS enabled me to not just to gain a lot of journalistic, cultural and personal experience. The program has also allowed me to see a side of the United States that I would never have seen on a normal tourism trip, and I am extremely grateful for that.
Linda Bachmann, Leipzig University, visited University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
One highlight follows the next – this is how my three weeks with RIAS in the USA can be described! Peering into numerous newsrooms in New York and Wisconsin (including Bloomberg, NBC, Vice, Madison Magazine and the Oshkosh Herald) was a very rewarding experience! In Oshkosh (Wisconsin) I was also able to immerse in everyday university life and report on the election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court for the student newspaper Advance-Titan. I not only learned a lot about journalism in the US, but also about the culture. I was able to see how diverse this large country is: New York, Madison, Oshkosh and Chicago – as different as these cities are, there was a lot to discover everywhere! I will particularly remember the numerous conversations with Americans about politics and the differences and similarities between the USA and Germany. However, social inequality and racism are also part of the USA – I also learned a lot about that in the three weeks. The RIAS program is very intense, but I wouldn’t want to miss a single appointment!
Wiebke Bolle, FreeTech – Axel Springer Academy, Berlin, visited Southern Illinois University (SIU)
After a total of three weeks in New York City, St. Louis and Carbondale, I can say that I
not only learned a lot about journalism and the media system in the United States, but also met inspiring people. Some have become friends. Thanks to RIAS Berlin Commission, I’ve seen places I wouldn’t have had access to. I’m flying back with a suitcase full of great memories, challenging conversations and a lot of food for thought.
Abel Fekade, Leipzig University, visited University of Arizona
The last three weeks have been the most eventful time of my life. Even though I have been to the US before, the RIAS Program gave me the opportunity to explore this country in all its diversity. I got to know a wonderful group of fellow students in New York City, who shared the same curiosity and open-mindedness. My personal highlights in the Big Apple were attending the Sunday service at Abyssinian Baptist Church Harlem und talking to Chivona and Hawk Newsome, the founders of Black Lives Matter New York, in the Bronx. The contrast between New York and my college station, the University of Arizona, could not have been more drastic. Not only did I find myself on the other side of the continent, but also I suddenly had to adjust to the desert-like weather in Tucson. I got the chance to visit Journalism, Communications and Photography classes and learned a lot about the American college life. I will always remember the unique time I got to experience thanks to the RIAS program.
Clara Hoheisel, University Halle-Wittenberg visited Arizona State University
The music begins with a blaring sound, the spotlight sets the scene for a crowd of angels who seem to float about ten metres above the ground on a stage gallery. With their blaring trumpet fanfare, the angel performers introduce the Easter Pageant, the Passion Play of the LDS Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints). The world’s largest annual performance of the Passion of Christ brings tens of thousands of people to Mesa, a city next to Phoenix, in the two weeks before Easter. This unique spectacle and the preceding discussion with two missionaries of the Church is my personal highlight of the 2023 ERP student programme. However, it is actually impossible to limit myself to just one highlight of the three intense weeks. In the first part of the program in New York City, we got the opportunity to visit some of the most renowned newsrooms in the US, including NBC, Bloomberg, ABC News and VICE. It was fascinating to experience first-hand how these media companies work and produce their news. I also found the off-the-record discussions with politicians and journalists enlightening and sometimes surprising, as they provided deep insights into their work and way of thinking. Especially memorable for me were the meetings with Juda Engelmayer, Harvey Weinstein’s crisis manager and
Phil Murphy, Governor of New Jersey. During the subsequent station week in Phoenix at the renowned Cronkite Journalism School of Arizona State University, I learned a lot about living and studying in the desert. Particularly instructive for me was a conversation with Congressman Alberto Olivas about the impact of “snowbirds”, Arizona’s winter visitors, on demographics and election results within the state. In conclusion, I can only reiterate how immensely grateful I am for the experience that the RIAS Berlin Commission provided me. During the three weeks, I learned how important it is to approach issues with as little bias as possible and that sometimes the best stories are in the details.
Kim Kristin Loschen, intern at Nordwest newspaper, Oldenburg, visited University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh
New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Wisconsin – crossing four states, a total of three weeks on the road, collecting impressive experiences, having exciting conversations – all this was made possible for me by the RIAS program in the US. I will especially remember the view of New York City from the Empire State Building, the trip to Door County and the visit to the Capitol in Madison. I can’t remember the last time I experienced such an intense time. My journalism career can greatly benefit in the coming years from covering the Wisconsin elections, talking with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and political issues with Oshkosh Mayor Lori Palmeri. I am also grateful to have met dedicated RIAS alumni Joel Waldinger, Tyler Speicher, and Barbara Benish. Other highlights for me were visiting NBC, Bloomberg and the ARD New York studio. It was very helpful to see how American colleagues are so passionate about journalism. Participating in this transatlantic dialogue gave me a unique opportunity to better understand the political, journalistic and cultural differences between the U.S. and Germany. The RIAS program is a great opportunity to broaden one’s skills and personal horizons.
Lea Nischelwitzer, University Hagen visited Arizona State University
The three weeks of the Rias program exceeded all my expectations. In New York, we got the chance to talk to many decision-makers in the U.S. in person, to learn more about their professions and what drives them on a daily basis. And we also gained extensive insight into the American media landscape during our visits to the editorial offices of NBC, Vice and the ARD foreign studio. A highlight for me was the visit of the New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. But what I remember even more were the many personal encounters with the extremely open and outgoing Americans who gave us an insight into their lives and their view of the world. During the two weeks in Phoenix, I got to know many journalism students, actively participated in college life and met many professors and experts who told me more about the political situation in Arizona, the water supply and religious life. Thank you so much for this wonderful organization – it has enriched my life in a lasting way and has already raised my interest in transatlantic issues who can’t wait to travel to the States again.
Anna Seikel, Leipzig University visited Indiana University
The time with RIAS in the United States – my first time in this country! – has been filled to the brim with new experiences. The experience in New York City at the beginning of the program still feels impossible to summarise, one of my highlights was definitely the conversation with Chivona Newsome, Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter NYC, in a black-owned brunch place in the Bronx. Our time at IU in Bloomington differed vastly from the week before but allowed us to make connections that I am sure will last long beyond our stay of two weeks and let us gain valuable insight into journalism in the US. Since Bloomington is a “blue” college town in the middle of a red state, everyone was really interested in hearing our opinions on dividing topics. The program also sparked much reflection and conversations about the fundamental differences between our seemingly similar countries – especially concerning (the lack of) gun regulation, populism and minority rights. An experience like no other!
Jana Sievers, Bielefeld University, intern at Braunschweiger Zeitung visited University of Nebraska
A visit to the UN in New York, the Midwest Journalism Conference in Minneapolis, Nebraska Public Media and a farm, somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Nebraska – these were my highlights in the three-week RIAS program, in addition to all the exciting conversations. During this time, I was able to observe not only behind the scenes what makes a good reporter, anchor – a good journalist – but what kind of mind-set I can approach journalistic work with. Especially in Lincoln, staying with a family, I learned about a piece of the reality of Midwestern Americans and, closely related to that, the unconditional drive for freedom of speech. RIAS enabled me to meet people with interesting life paths, through which not only a next door can open, but friendships can develop and ideas grow. What I take away from the Lincoln people is that the glass should always be half-full – never half-empty.
Malkam Goytom, Free University, Berlin visited University of Arizona
When I look back on the events, I am amazed at how much I experienced in three weeks. The RIAS program was an enrichment for me in many different aspects. Not only was I fascinated by the unique opportunity to exchange ideas with guest speakers from New York and thus gain information about American journalism. Also, the collection of different cultural impressions (especially: the contrast between New York and Arizona) and the exchange of political and social impressions with the students from Arizona has definitely shaped me. Finally, I can only thank everyone involved in the RIAS program for this unique opportunity. I hope that this program will continue for a long time so that future students get the chance to have the same experience.
Szuli Wendt, Free University, Berlin visited University of Oklahoma
After three unforgettable weeks in the United States, I am returning home with more experiences, knowledge and new goals for my career and in life. The time in New Yorkgave me close insight into the life of New Yorkers, its media landscape, new friendships and the dream of working abroad as a journalist in the United States someday. Conversations with experienced and successful journalists gave me the opportunity to understand the American media landscape, the work as a journalist and the differences between German and American media. But not only the media outlets, journalists and politicians we got to talk to in New York was exciting for me, also the numerous cultural options of New York City amazed me. Visiting an American university for two weeks fulfilled my dream of experiencing college life in the United States. Together with the students I was able to study Journalism at the University of Oklahoma and get to know the culture of Oklahoma. Thanks to our wonderful coordinator at the university, I even got to experience a cheerleading practice, a softball and basketball game and visited a sorority house. We also talked a lot to the students about similarities and differences in studying journalism or living in Berlin or Oklahoma. I fell in love with the open and social aspects of Americans and will try to keep that mentality as I go back to Germany. I can say the RIAS program changed my life and career as a journalist and I hope to be back in New York City as an intern soon.
Simon Wörz, University of Munich visited University of Montana
It was my first time on the other side of the Atlantic and I got to see two totally different sides of the USA through RIAS. The time in New York was super intense, filled with a flood of impressions and conversations. Then I went to Missoula for almost two weeks, to the Journalism School at the University of Montana. The contrast between NYC and Montana couldn’t have been greater – from a world metropolis to the snowy Northwest. But I learned that you can also meet conservative Americans in Manhattan and very liberal Americans in rural Montana. And how different the realities of life in one country can be.
Miriam Wüst, Leipzig University visited Indiana University
Three weeks USA – a time full of adventures, surprises and conversations I will remember for the rest of my life. Not only did RIAS make it possible for me to visit the US for the first time – because of all the opportunities from RIAS I got an insight that will forever shape my view of the US in a way a normal holiday wouldn’t have been possible to do. Most memorable for me were the conversations about gun laws right after a school shooting in Nashville, a visit to a small town in Indiana that was hit by a tornado and a meeting with a 9/11-survivor. Beyond that, it was incredibly interesting to see the differences in local journalism between Germany and the US and still how similar it is in many ways. Those stories and impressions made me appreciate the USA in a deeply profound way. Beyond that, it was incredibly interesting to see the differences in local journalism between Germany and the US and still how similar it is in many ways. Those stories and impressions made me appreciate the USA in a deeply profound way. USA – a time full of adventures, surprises and conversations I will remember for the rest of my life. Not only did RIAS make it possible for me to visit the US for the first time – because of all the opportunities from RIAS I got an insight that will forever shape my view of the US in a way a normal holiday wouldn’t have been possible to do. Most memorable for me were the conversations about gun laws right after a school shooting in Nashville, a visit to a small town in Indiana that was hit by a tornado and a meeting with a 9/11-survivor. Beyond that, it was incredibly interesting to see the differences in local journalism between Germany and the US and still how similar it is in many ways. Those stories and impressions made me appreciate the USA in a deeply profound way.
The student program of the RIAS Berlin Commission brought me to the USA. Three weeks of international understanding were on the schedule. At first one week in New York, then two weeks in Norman, Oklahoma. Whether in New York or Oklahoma, I usually introduced myself three times a day to politicians, journalists, activists, contemporary witnesses or ordinary people. We met as strangers and then were either suddenly close or still distant – open or closed. Even if Americans seem at first glance open, they are, based on to my observation, only like that within the boundaries of their communities. The individual counts more in Germany. In the USA, on the other hand, it is almost impossible to live without a community. It starts at the American schools, the open-close mentality. During the three weeks I saw boundless blue skies. Traveled dead-straight roads for endless miles and experienced what it’s like when a city never sleeps. But I was also constantly part of a community without having to ask for it. Thanks to the RIAS Berlin Commission, I thought about society and community in ways I couldn’t have ever planned for.
Erik Kirschbaum, Executive Director RIAS Berlin Commission
Two weeks in USA gives German students insights into heartland states
A group of German journalism students spent two weeks at U.S. universities in the Midwest, Southwest and Mountain states on a RIAS Berlin Commission exchange program. They met American students, attended college classes on journalism, and got the chance to see how public radio and TV stations set up on the college campuses serve an audience that goes far beyond the college campus and to listeners and viewers across the states.
The 15 German students were on a three-week ERP Transatlantic Fellowship program in the United States and after spending the first week together in New York, they spent the following two weeks at eight different large state universities in smaller groups: Indiana, Southern Illinois, Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arizona, Arizona State and Montana. The program organized by the RIAS Berlin Commission is designed to help Germans learn more about how American students in the heartland states learn the trade of journalism as well as helping Americans in those states learn more about Germany.
In Lincoln, Nebraska, Jana Sievers visited one of the state’s biggest broadcasting stations, 10-11, that covers the entire state. She had the chance to meet and shadow Taryn and Jon Vanderford, who anchor a popular show called Pure Nebraska. She later joined a reporter from the station for a shift in the field. Sievers also visited a farm two hours away from Lincoln in Hastings, Nebraska operated by his University of Nebraska journalism professor Ken Fischer. “Agriculture is the most important business in Nebraska,” she said.
In Tucson, at the University of Arizona, Malkam Goytom and Abel Fekade attended journalism and photojournalism classes. They also visited RIAS alumni Buzz Connover at Arizona Public Media and got a look behind the scenes at the popular radio station.
They also spent one day traveling to the USA-Mexico border south of Tucson to learn more about the border and the political tensions surrounding it. Together with Arizona Public Media reporter Tony Paniagua, they drove to see the “wall” separating the USA and Mexican and crossed the border to Nogales, Mexico. There they learned about many of the issues involving undocumented immigrants crossing into the USA but also American guns that are smuggled across the border into Mexico. They also learned that many Americans in Arizona travel across the border to get dental treatments and pharmaceutical products for prices lower than in Arizona. Paniagua also interviewed Goytom and Fekade for an Arizona Public Media broadcast about their experiences that will be broadcast next week.
In Phoenix, while visiting Arizona State University, Lea Nischelwitzer and Clara Hoheisel spent time with RIAS alumni Bill Silcock and his wife Angela. They also visited the LDS church in Mesa outside Phoenix. “We met two young girls who made their missionary in this community. It was exciting to hear more about their perspectives of life and especially about their strong faith.” They learned more about the role of religion, politics, journalism careers Americans’ hopes for the future. f
After spending 10 days at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Wiebke Bolle spent a few days visiting RIAS alumni at TV stations in St. Louis. She spent one day shadowing a reporter from St. Louis’s channel 5, Justina Coronel. She was working on a story about a robber who first robbed a gas station and then broke into a house.
In Wisconsin, Linda Bachmann and Kim Loschen wrote articles for the local student newspaper They got to work helping cover a local election in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. They were also the subject of a story about exchange programs.
In Oklahoma, Til Schäbitz, Jakob Gierth and Szuli Wendt visited Oklahoma’s channel 9 news station and met the anchor, learning more about the pressures of his job and career. They learned how much important weather reports are in news in Oklahoma, especially early advance warnings on tornadoes that sweep across the state each year.
The goal of the ERP program, which was created with support from a grant from the Economy Ministry, is to expand horizons, help connect young German journalism students with their peers in the United States and help aspiring journalists in both countries learn more about journalism training in each others’ countries. The ERP program is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany. It is funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Economy and Energy (BMWi) Ministry.
April 6, 2023
Impressions from German Journalists on USA Standard Program March, 2023
Impressions from 10 German journalists on a two-week RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship to the United States from March 5, 2023 to March 18, 2022
Madeleine Hofmann, ZDF TV & Deutschlandfunk, Berlin
The two weeks in the US with RIAS have been more intense than I could ever have imagined – relating to a tight schedule with impressive encounters, unforgettable experiences such as entering the Capitol and White House press rooms, but also relating to a well curated group of extraordinary journalists who have become friends over this experience that at times felt almost unreal. I also got to know sides of the US that I didn’t know before such as rural Pennsylvania. Thank you RIAS for truly bringing the transatlantic dialogue alive.
Friederike Rohmann, MDR TV, Leipzig
I can’t remember the last time I had such an intense two weeks as our RIAS trip to Washington, Pennsylvania and New York. I will probably always remember Joe Biden and the helicopter as well as the moving conversation at the Capitol, the unique choir at Abyssinian Baptist Church or the evening at the world-famous Apollo Theater. Plus exciting and unique experiences in Pennsylvania and the realization that (Pennsylvanian) German / Dutch is indeed a language of happy people. I got insights I probably never would have gotten without RIAS. Plus a group of great people. A big thank you to RIAS, our guest speakers, and everyone who worked to organize this memorable trip.
Maja Weber, Phoenix TV, ZDF TV, Bonn, Mainz
It was my first trip to the States. But after seeing so many movies, series and television news many sites, views and buildings seemed very familiar to me. This trip put it into perspective though. And showed the dimensions. Whereas in Washington the Capitol fully stood up to what I had imagined the White House seemed smaller than its iconography always had me believing. It still felt as though our group was part of a movie. I appreciated all the legendary sites, the access to closed circles such as think tanks or informal talks to politicians and the deeper going insights through the talks and special tours we were offered. Even as journalists who are used to access to very special places these talks were mind blowing and priceless. I am so glad that Rias has built and kept up such a high quality network that our group could benefit from. And I am proud to have the opportunity to be part of this great and fascinatig network in the future. But this trip was also meant to check and maybe give up the clichés and stereotypes one always has about a country and its media. In this goal it was absolutely successful. So going to rural Pennsylvania revealed that it was a very fascinating place, not dull at all. We even met an Amish person and later were offered a class in Pennsylvanian dutch – truly touching and heart warming because there was so much humanity and knowledge in all of this. Meeting colleagues and broadcasting journalists who worked just as hard and being as enthusiastic as we are felt reassuring and gave hope that journalism can really turn the world into a better place. Of course the experiences in New York were unforgettable and even more dream like than in Washington. Meeting a broadway legend with about 30 years on stage and then watching her perform in a musical was more than invigorating. Or going to the Apollo Theater, the historic place where Ella Fitzgerald started her brilliant carreer, all that was just so unbelievably enriching. Also because it all happened in the presence of New Yorkers who are just as mythical as their city. But in the end regular and fine people. Quick remark on the chosen hotel: perfect. Another cliché taken away by the trip was the unexpected meeting with a Republican Mayor who was open minded and seemed a very responsible politician. Being able to compare him to a true Trumpist who we also met was a relief and a very good experience. I already recommended this program to four very fine colleagues of mine in the past, two already after the trip and will definitely continue to do so. This unique program is to be held up by all means. As I said above, it was my first trip to the States. It certainly won’t be my last.
Mathis Trapp, WDR, Cologne
The two weeks fellowship in March of 2023 has shown me what RIAS is all about: connecting journalists and media experts on both sides of the pond, learning about each others’ everyday life, building networks and new friendships. Thanks to RIAS, I‘ve had an extraordinary experience. Seeing the U.S. President at the White House, hearing the touching story of Gordon, a 9/11 victim and hero in New York City, as well as experiencing what life in rural Pennsylvania is like, were just some of the many highlights of the trip. I‘ve been to the USA many times – but RIAS helped me learn so much more about the country and its people. I will greatly benefit from this both for my journalist career and personal life. Thank you!
Janett Eger, MDR, Leipzig
These were two very intense, exciting weeks. It is really amazing what kind of doors the RIAS Commission can open for German journalists. Very special for me was our visit to the White House Press Office. On that day we were even able to catch a glimpse of President Joe Biden, it was so exceptional. The lunch at the German Consulate was also highly interesting for me, being from East Germany. Consul David Gill is from my home state of Saxony- Anhalt, he helped to establish up the so-called Gauck Authority after German reunification. It was an experience to be able to talk to him! And also the visit to Pennsylvania, the whole history of the Pennsylvania Dutch and the openness of the Amish I will talk about for a long time. I thank RIAS for these two weeks in which I saw, heard and experienced a lot. And I thank my RIAS group, which was simply the best.
Sophie Wannemacher, RBB TV, Berlin
Our itinerary with the RIAS program in March 2023 included a week-long stay in Washington DC, followed by a two day visit to Pennsylvania and another week in New York. The trip provided a wealth of insights and experiences that were both enriching and informative. During our time in Washington DC, we were privileged to witness President Joe Biden take off in his helicopter from the White House – definitely one of the highlights during our stay in DC. We also had the opportunity to meet with a number of German correspondents, who generously shared their perspectives on their work and career paths. These discussions illuminated differences in media production between the USA and Germany, as well as provided a chance to explore politics with politicians from both parties. These interactions facilitated a deeper understanding of the political system in the USA, which was both eye-opening and insightful. Our stay in New York provided further opportunities to learn and engage with industry professionals. We visited major TV stations, including NBC and CBS, and met individuals working for Bloomberg and CBS. These experiences allowed us to observe firsthand the differences in media production between Germany and the USA, as well as gain insight into how to cultivate strong professional relationships. Overall, the trip was packed with new learnings, interesting experiences, and memorable moments. The trip provided a unique opportunity to understand the differences in media production, culture and politics. The opportunity to build strong professional relationships and engage with industry professionals was invaluable, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have participated in this program.
Laura Maria Weber, RTL News, Cologne
What a great time in the US! Washington – Pennsylvania – New York: Two weeks in America left a long-lasting impression on me. Getting to know the “American way of life” up close and personal and being where world politics are made, as well as getting to know the diversity of the people in the USA were unforgettable. A big thank you to RIAS for the wide selection of guest speakers, the great opportunity to look behind the scenes at American TV and radio stations and to exchange ideas with committed journalists on site! Being able to stand at the White House together with U.S. journalists and waiting for the U.S. president shortly before his take-off is probably one of the moments I will remember for a long time. In addition, the visit to the Amish in Pennsylvania and the guided tour through Williamsburg in New York by the community of Hasidic Jews were particularly inspiring meetings. A survivor of 09/11 gave us a very personal account of his experiences, which will remain in my thoughts for a long time. But also the tour through the different boroughs of New York like the visit of a gospel service in Harlem or the controversial exchange with the Republican Borough President of Staten Island are among the many highlights of this great trip. And last but not least, the encounters with such great journalists in the Rias program made the two weeks very special. It was a great pleasure to explore the U.S. with such nice and interesting people. I am honored to be a part of this group and thank RIAS and Erik very much for the unforgettable experiences, the chance to get to know America’s culture, politics and way of life in a very different way and the opportunity to participate in this program! Thanks a lot, it was a blast!
Christian Herrmann, NTV, Berlin
The RIAS program holds very special experiences in store for journalists. If you’re lucky, you’ll suddenly find yourself standing in the White House Rose Garden – just a few feet away from U.S. President Joe Biden, who is striding to his Marine One helicopter to fly to an important appointment. You get the chance to talk to American and German colleagues who have been reporting on the White House, U.S. politics or the U.S. in general for years or even decades – and know all the important, funny and crazy stories. You’re a guest to selected experts from important research institutes who can explain what the U.S. thinks of Germany, the influence of religion on U.S. elections, and why the Amish often have two smartphones: one official and one secret. In a word, the RIAS program is packed with unforgettable memories.
Julia Cruz, MDR, ARD, Leipzig
The two weeks with RIAS were very intensive and I was able to experience insights behind the scenes and structures of America’s politics and history. Without RIAS, I would never have had such an understanding from so many different facets. That is why I am very grateful to have been able to participate in the program – from visiting the White House to the background talks with journalists and Congressman L. Smucker. I was able to gain a lot of impressive insight and background information that will definitely help me in the future when reporting in my newsroom. There were new contacts and encounters that I will probably never forget. Thank you for that. Above all, I was able to experience first-hand testimonials: from the Amish during the trip to Pennsylvania or the memorable tour of the Hasidic Jews community. However, I was particularly moved by the report of the 9/11 survivor, who expressly described to us how he survived the day and also saved many lives in his capacity as a doctor. His sister was in the World Trade Center that day and died in that attack. He created images and impressions in my mind that I will never forget. Thank you for letting me be a part of RIAS and thank you as well to Erik and the organization and the RIAS group, without whom, the two weeks would never have been as wonderful as they were.
Jenny Barke, RBB, Berlin
Who can claim to have visited and seen the President of the United States in the White House? And even if this encounter stands out because of the “big shot” Joe Biden, many other program points are in no way inferior to it. We had the unique chance to visit the heart of U.S. democracy with an eyewitness of the storming of the Capitol, to walk through Williamsburg with a former member of the Hasidic Jewish community, and to commemorate 9/11 with a victim of the attacks on the World Trade Center. We traveled into strange worlds that probably remain inaccessible to tourists, like those of the Amish community and an ultraconservative Republican. A personal highlight for me was meeting Consul David Gill, who also grew up in Saxony. His personal transformation after the fall of the Berlin Wall is a striking example for me of the biographical opportunities that opened up for some “Easterners” after the fall of the Wall. As a journalist with a focus on Latin America, it was also exciting to hear, see and even taste the Latin American influences everywhere – and in some situations I got further with Spanish than with English. Thanks to RIAS, we also met an immigrant from Argentina who had to live illegally in the U.S. for years. And what would all these unique encounters have been without the exchange with my new nine journalist friends? It’s been a long time since I laughed as much as I did during the past 14 days
April 3, 2023
German students discover American Midwest, Southwest on RIAS ERP student program
Fifteen German journalism students have been spending two weeks in the Midwest, Southwest and Mountain states to learn more about how American students learn the journalism trade at universities, college campus radio and tv stations across the heartland states: Montana, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Arizona.
The 15 German students, including 10 who were on their first visit to the United States, spent the first week of their three-week ERP Transatlantic Fellowship program in New York together as a group, where they also met senior UN officials and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy as well as German Consul General David Gill. The following two weeks have been spent in smaller groups of one to three at the seven universities in the Midwest, Southwest and Montana stations.
Simon Wörz visiting the University of Montana reported that the “contrast between the week in New York and the two weeks in Montana couldn’t be bigger.” He is attending some journalism classes in Missoula as well as a class called “Native News” where the students learn and report about the indigenous tribes while striving to avoid reproducing stereotypes and racism. “It’s really interesting,” he said. Another interesting lecture he attended was about audio journalism from a guest professor who had actually heard about Wörz’s own podcast in Germany. Wörz also shadowed one student who is working for the local tv station and learned how the news show gets produced every day. “It seems like everyone knows everyone in Missoula and I kinda like that vibe,” he said. He also visited the staff meeting of the student newspaper and the radio station on campus.
At Southern Illinois University, Wiebke Bolle has visited a local TV and radio station as well as the local newspaper. She also met high school students and answered their questions about Germany and journalism in Germany. Bolle also wrote an article for the student newspaper about gun control in Germany.
At the University of Indiana, Miriam Wüst reported that she, Anna Seikel and Jackie Albrecht visiting from Germany went to a TV shoot for the local TV station to a middle school about the FinalFour in Basketball, attended some journalism classes and went to a college baseball game. They also went to the state capitol building for a TV shoot and watched a debate about whether to change laws on alcohol. They also met a German professor that teaches at IU and talked to him about the university system in the US. They also visited the campus newspaper, a local farm and Miriam did an interview for the local TV station on the strict gun control laws in Germany. They also traveled to a local town in Indiana that was hit hard by a tornado last week.
At the University of Arizona in Tucson, Abel Fekade and Malkam Goytom have been attending U of A broadcasting classes held by Liliana Sotos, who will be taking part in a RIAS program to Germany in June. They also attended communications and photojournalism classes and met with local students.
In Wisconsin, Linda Bachmann and Kim Kristin Loschen have been attended UW-Oshkosh classes and had a meeting with Oshkosh mayor Lori Palmer. The talked about her political career, racism in the United States, the next presidential election as well as housing issues in the United States and Germany. In Madison, they also visited WSUM-FM, the UW-Madison student radio station, and WISC-TV, the CBS affiliate in Madison.
Schäbitz added that the Oklahoma students asked the German visitors about Germany, the Berlin
Wall, the Holocaust and sights to visit in Europe. “It was truly an amazing experience.”
April 2, 2023
RIAS Berlin alumni at Netflix premiere of “Transatlantic” with Ambassador Gutmann
A group of RIAS Berlin Commission alumni attended an advance premiere screening of a new Netflix seven-part film series called “Transatlantic” in Berlin together with American ambassador Amy Gutmann and the film’s makers recently. The film by American author and film creater Anna Winger was inspired by the true adventures of the Emergency Rescue Committee and Julie Orringer’s 2019 novel, The Flight Portfolio.
Gutmann, the RIAS Berlin Commission honorary chair, gave introductory remarks at the screening. The US Embassy and Netflix invited the group of 20 RIAS Berlin Commission alumni to attend the advance screening — the latest in alumni activities in Germany designed to keep the spirit of RIAS alive long after participants take part in fellowships to the United States and Germany.
Other alumni events this year include the June 1 RIAS Media Prize gala ceremony, the June 2 annual alumni get-together at the RIAS building as well as meetings with American RIAS groups in Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg and Leipzig in June, July and August.
There will also be a major American alumni program to Cologne and Munich from September 16 to 24. American alumni will have the chance to meet German fellows in Washington and New York in October as well as in Los Angeles in October.
Here is a list of some of the German RIAS Berlin Commission alumni who attended the Netflix screening in Berlin together with Ambassador Gutmann and about 200 Netflix guests:
Petra Gute, Dilek Üsük, Bettina Kasten, Nina Lammers, Kate Brady, Matt Karnitschnig, Oliver Sallet, Leonie von Randow, Friedrich Steffes-Ley, Jutta Müller, Sylvia Warnke, Rieke Smit, Andrej Hermlin, Joyce Hermlin, Tom Garus, Oezcan Mutlu, Susanna Hölscher, Christina Reif.
March 25, 2023
German students start 3-week ERP Transatlantic Program fellowship in New York
The second annual RIAS Berlin ERP fellowship for German students to the United States got off to a flying start in New York City during the first week with journalists, editors, directors, politicians, community leaders, experts and political analysts. The Germans will spend a total of three weeks in United States including two in the Midwest and Southwest and West, learning more about how Americans train to become broadcast journalists and about the political divisions in the country.
The goal of the ERP program, which was created with support from a grant from the Economy Ministry, is to expand horizons, help connect young German journalism students with their peers in the United States and help aspiring journalists in both countries learn more about journalism training in each others’ countries. The ERP program is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany. It is funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Economy and Energy (BMWi) Ministry.
The Germans learned more about Bloomberg News and even got to briefly see former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the broadcasting section of the newsroom at an ordinary desk. They also learned about the massive efforts going on at the Empire State Building to reduce carbon emissions on the 93-year-old building from the building’s media specialist Brock Talbot. The Germans got a look behind the scenes at one of the country’s largest utilities, ConEd, and learned how difficult it is to prevent blackouts in New York City. They also spent a fascinating afternoon the Bronx talking to Black Lives Matter co-founder Chivona Newsome and her work as a political activist as she tries to raise awareness about injustices towards Black Americans.
March 22, 2023
RIAS group tours New York at end of busy USA fellowship
A busy two-week fellowship to the United States for 10 German journalists concluded with a week in New York for more talks about politics, media culture and life in the United States after the group spent four days in Washington DC and two in rural southeastern Pennsylvania during the first week.
The week in New York included attending a service at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem with its world-famous choir, meeting WABC reporter/anchor Chantee Lans, a tour of NBC News with senior producer Adam Reiss, a talk in German with WNBC news anchor Michael Gargiulo from his studio, a visit to UN headquarters and a fascinating off-the-record talk with chief spokesman Stephan Dujarric. The group also got to learn more about the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center from the only recorded “triple” — attack survivor Gordon Huie, who also got off the ground after narrowly surviving the fallout from the collapsing tower and rushed to a nearby hospital to help treat injured and later found out that his sister had unexpectedly been at a business meeting atop the building and was among those who perished.
They learned more about the political situation in the United States from German Consul General David Gill, who also talked about the moving ceremonies at the consulate when elderly Holocaust survivors who fled Nazi Germany come to reacquire their German citizenship and passports so many decades later. New York Times senior producer talked about the success of The Daily podcast and gave the journalists a brief tour of her newsroom and the Germans got the chance to meet and interview Broadway actress Angie Schworer before later watching her performance in the smash musical “Some Like It Hot” at the Shubert Theater. They learned more about the antiquated power grid in New York City at ConEd headquarters and later had a fascinating talk with ABC News senior producer DJ Cunningham before an eye-opening tour of the Hasidic Jewish community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn from Frieda Vizel.
The Germans also went back up to Harlem to see the famous “Amateur Night” Show at the Apollo Theater, took a tour of Bloomberg News, met Goethe Institute New York City director Joerg Schumacher and got a tour of the Empire State Building and its carbon-free retrofit from its media director Brock Talbot. Eager to learn more about conservative bastions in the United States, the German group took the Staten Island ferry to meet Borough President Vito Fossella, who in a lively discussion said the mob that stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2022 was “wrong” but added that he did not believe the were planning or capable of overthrowing the government. The Germans also met CBS Sunday Morning senior producer Dustin Stephens before celebrating the end of their program at 1014nyc on Fifth avenue with about a dozen US RIAS alumni members from New York and 15 German students who just arrived in town to meet them ahead of their own three-week fellowship to the United States.
March 13, 2023
German journalists explore Washington, Pennsylvania on exchange program
A group of 10 German journalists spent a week in Washington DC learning more about they way politicians and journalists from both Germany and the United States do their work. The 10 Germans from public broadcasting and commercial networks in Berlin, Cologne, Leipzig, and Magdeburg had the chance to visit the press gallery in Congress, the White House press room with Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason, NPR and the WAMU radio station. They also had the chance to learn more from correspondents at the Washington Post, Reuters, ZDF, Deutsche Welle, NTV, and Welt TV.
The journalists learned more about immigration issues and the millions of undocumented residents across the United States from a one-time immigrant Diego Sanchez who spent the first decades of his life in the United States undocumented — and how at times that many are disappointed with policies of Democratic presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden that fell short of their campaign vows to improve the situation for the undocumented residents.
They also had the chance to talk with two RIAS board member Michael Link, the German government’s transatlantic coordinator, as well as Peter Rough, a senio
r fellow at the Hudson Institute. Former Deputy Secretary of State for Europe Matthew Boyse talked candidly about concerns in Washington on Germany’s support for Ukraine.
The Germans met about 20 American RIAS alumni at a reception in Washington as well.
The group spent two days in southeastern Pennsylvania learning more about the Amish, efforts to preserve the “Pennsylvania Deitsch” German-language, the conservative voting views of the Amish and many others rural Americans in economically struggling regions and about the traditions they preserved from their 18th century ancestors who immigrated from Germany.
March 2, 2023
15 German students head to USA for RIAS ERP program
A group of 15 German students will be traveling to the USA for a three-week RIAS Berlin Commission ERP fellowship starting on March 17. The students — 10 of whom are from eastern Germany — will spend a week together as a group in New York, visiting with American and German journalists, TV and radio stations as well as the Hasidic Jewish section of Williamsburg in Brooklyn and the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.
The students will then travel in smaller groups of one to three for two-week visits to American universities to learn more about how students in the United States prepare for journalism careers. The German students will visit American student journalists at the University of Oklahoma, Indiana University, the University of Nebraska, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the University of Montana, the University of Arizona in Tucson and Arizona State University in Phoenix.
It will be the second of eight planed RIAS Berlin Commission fellowships in 2023 — four to the USA for German journalists and four to Germany for American journalists. A total of about 130 journalists from the two countries will be taking part in the exchange programs this year, one of the largest numbers since the German-American exchange program was created more than 30 years ago.
The ERP program is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany. It is funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Economy and Energy (BMWi) Ministry.
In New York, the German student journalists will also meet a survivor of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, a senior Anti-Defamation league leader, a crisis communications manager, a major Con Edison power plant, the governor of New Jersey, borough of Staten Island senior officials, as well as attending Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater and a Broadway musical. They will meet with senior journalists from NBC News, WNBC, The New York Times, ABC News, Vice, ARD radio and television
Here is more information about the 15 German students taking part in the March 17-April 7 RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship:
Jacqueline Albrecht, University of Applied Sciences Magdeburg
Jacqueline Albrecht is a journalism student at the UAS Magdeburg- Stendal and will graduate in 2023. In 2022 she did an internship at a radio station in Windhoek, Namibia and currently she is hosting the Campus-TV at her university. Albrecht plans to pursue a career in TV, travel or international journalism with a focus on telling stories about people, culture and society.
Linda Bachmann, Leipzig University, Leipzig
Linda Bachmann is studying journalism at University Leipzig. She also works full-time as a radio news anchor at Regiocast, a commercial radio company in Leipzig. Bachmann has worked on several projects on press freedom, fake news and intercultural exchange, for instance for Deutsche Welle public broadcasting, and also worked for Der Tagesspiegel newspaper in Berlin and MDR television in Leipzig.
Wiebke Bolle, FreeTech, Axel Springer Academy, Berlin
Wiebke Bolle is a graduate of the Axel Springer Academy of Journalism and Technology. For the past two years she’s been working at the science and news & society desk of Die Welt newspaper in Berlin. Bolle is hoping to write for major magazines and is also interested in podcasts and TV journalism.
Abel Fekade, Leipzig University, Leipzig
Abel Fekade recently earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and media studies from Leipzig University. He is currently working at the chair of journalism at Leipzig University, where he is co-teaching courses in journalism. During his studies, Fekade has worked in communications and corporate media for the BMW Group. He is planning to enroll into a related master’s degree program in the near future.
Jakob Gierth, FreeTech – Axel Springer Academy, Berlin
Jakob Gierth is both a journalist trainee for FreeTech academy, and a journalist for German publication “Die Welt” newspaper in Berlin. As a journalist, Gierth’s responsibilities include the development of and scripting for WELT’s science podcast. While working on his bachelor’s degree in communication science (University of Erfurt) Gierth minored in sociology and politics, and worked at multiple German radio stations. During this time he worked as editor, host, and customer advisor.
Clara Hoheisel, Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle
Clara Hoheisel has been studying for a master’s degree in multimedia and authorship (digital journalism) at the University of Halle (Saale) since 2021. She also completed her bachelor’s degree in media and communication sciences and psychology there. In addition, the 24-year-old writes for the university magazine “hastuzeit”, is active at the radio station Corax and has worked as an editor for MDR Kultur, Volksverpetzer and the Katapult magazine. She is also an alumna of the EU program youth4regions.
Kim Kristin Loschen, Nordwest newspaper, Oldenburg
Kim Kristin Loschen is a trainee at a German daily newspaper – the „Nordwest-Zeitung”. She completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in linguistics and German as a foreign language. At the same time, the trained German teacher has worked for TV channels such as ZDF, WDR and Phoenix (C-Span for Germany) in the political department. Loschen aspires to be a foreign correspondent later in her career.
Lea Nischelwitzer, University Hagen, Berlin
Lea Nischelwitzer is a Psychology studies student at the
Hagen University, lives in Berlin and will graduate in 2023. During her studies, she worked for different regional and national media, among others for Die Welt and Handelsblatt newspapers. She is also taking part in a scholarship program of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation (JONA) that supports young journalists through seminars and workshops. Her goal is to work for national news media with a focus on politics. She is especially interested in international politics, economics and theology.
Til Schäbitz, Hamburg University, Leipzig University, Leipzig
Til Schäbitz is working towards a M.A. in journalism and communication-science at the University of Hamburg while living in Leipzig. Alongside his studies he works as a freelance journalist, mainly anchoring radio shows (e.g. detektor.fm) and presenting News- Podcasts (e.g. SPIEGEL, t-online). His work was awarded with a German Radio Award 2021 for “Best Podcast”. As a researcher he published on 360°-VR-journalism.
Anna Seikel, Leipzig University, Leipzig
Anna Seikel has a BA degree in Communication and Media Studies, and is now studying towards an M.A. European Studies at Leipzig University. She is currently an intern at netzpolitik.org, a German initiative reporting on digital rights; and has been active as the head of the university politics section in Leipzig’s independent student newspaper ‘luhze’ until this year.
Jana Sievers, Bielefeld University, Braunschweiger Zeitung
Jana Sievers will complete her Bachelors’ degree in history and literature at the University of Bielefeld in 2023. She has been working as an intern at Braunschweiger Zeitung newspaper (FUNKE Medien) and worked at other daily newspapers in the three previous years. Her special interests are health issues, school politics as well as international politics. She especially enjoys writing feature portraits, producing her own podcast and is eager to have a career in broadcast journalism.
Szuli Wendt, Free University, Berlin
Szuli Wendt is studying Media, Communication, and Political Science at the “Freie Universität Berlin”. She grew up in Eastern Berlin. Alongside her studies she works for the regional public broadcasting “RBB Berlin Brandenburg” as the assistant of the editor in chief for the regional evening news show „Abendschau”. To fulfil her dream of becoming a news anchor to present relevant topics and news from all over the world, she also established her own “Interview” Podcast in 2020.
Simon Wörz, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich
Simon Wörz is a graduate of the German School of Journalism in Munich. He is currently finishing his master’s degree with a semester abroad at the National Autonomous University in Mexico City. He has done various internships and contributed to regional and national newspapers like Stuttgarter Zeitung, Zeit or taz. Most recently, he worked for the public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk on a non-fictional storytelling podcast and published an investigation about the business of carbon offsetting in the course of the soccer world cup in Qatar.
Miriam Wüst, Leipzig University, Leipzig
Miriam Wüst is a Communications and Media Sciences student at the University of Leipzig and will finish her bachelor ́s degree in summer of 2023. She has been working at her University ́s campus radio for two years now and in this time has taken on leading positions and helped with transformation processes. Besides radio journalism she also gained first experiences in TV reporting during an internship at german broadcast ZDF.
Malkam Goytom, Free University, Berlin
Malkam Goytom is studying Business Administration at the “Freie Universität Berlin“ with an interest in journalism and multimedia productions. He will complete his Bachelors’ degree in 2023. Goytom’s academic pursuits have led him to develop a strong interest in journalism, marketing and management, and he plans to attend a Master’s program in these fields upon completing his Bachelor’s degree. He follows American professional sports leagues and sports journalism in the US and hopes to expand his knowledge of those during his USA fellowship
February 27, 2023
Four American and German stories picked RIAS Media Prize winners in 2023
The RIAS Berlin Commission announced four winners from this year’s annual RIAS Media Prize
Awards on Monday. The 31st annual award is presented by the German-American exchange program and celebrates the best of transatlantic broadcast journalism with up to 10,000 EUR inprize-money awarded. The jury made up of six distinguished journalists from the United States and Germany selected the four winners in TV, Radio and Digital Media categories submitted from across the United States and Germany on February 27, 2023.
Wolf Blitzer (CNN) won the grand prize for his film “Never Again” about the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; Stephanie Wolf and Jess Clark (Louisville Public Media News) won a prize for their radio story “A Critical Moment” comparing how the United States and Germany teach schoolchildren about their respective painful histories; Benjamin Arcioli and Hans Jakob Rausch (ARD German TV documentary) won a prize for their story “Ramstein, the documentary”; and Patrick Stegemann won the digital prize for his six-part podcast “Hacking Anonymous” about a group that has been waging a digital war against Russia since it invaded Ukraine in 2022.
The RIAS Berlin Commission will host a gala ceremony on June 1, in Berlin to honor to the winners from the 2023. The RIAS Berlin Commission, created after the legendary Radio in American Sector (RIAS) broadcaster went off the air in 1993, has been operating exchange programs for more than 1,950 German and American broadcast journalists since 1993 with the aim of promoting transatlantic understanding in journalism and keeping alive the spirit of the Cold War-era radio and TV broadcasting network.
Here are the 2023 winning entries:
RIAS Berlin Commision Grand Prize
Wolf Blitzer, CNN, “Never Again: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, A Tour with Wolf Blitzer”
RIAS Berlin Commision Best TV Story Award
Benjamin Arcioli and Hans Jakob Rausch, ARD, “Ramstein, The Documentary”
RIAS Berlin Commission Best Radio Story Award
Stephanie Wolf and Jess Clark, Louisville Public Media News, “A Critical Moment”
RIAS Berlin Commission Best Digital Story Award
Patrick Stegemann, Serafin Dinges, Sylke Gruhnwald and Khesrau Behroz RBB, NDR, Undone podcast: “Legion: Hacking Anonymous”
Never Again: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, A Tour with Wolf Blitzer
In his illuminating and moving story for CNN on the Holocaust, Wolf Blitzer takes viewers on a personalized examination of the horrors of the past in the hope that nothing like it can ever happen again. With his signature stick-to-the-facts style of storytelling, Blitzer expertly weaves together a powerful story that includes not only the most salient information about the genocide that is delivered during a walking tour of the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington DC with its director Sara Bloomfield, but also includes telling insights about his own family’s place in that history. There are audio and video recordings of his father’s survival story. His four grandparents perished. Blitzer has put a bright spotlight on how the Holocaust is remembered — and also forgotten — in the United States and Germany with an important story on the past for the present and future.
Ramstein – The Documentary: The Ramstein Air Base disaster in 1988 that killed 70 people and injured hundreds more when three Italian stunt jets collided at low altitude right in front of a crowd of spectators is the focus of a harrowing ARD German TV film by Benjamin Arcioli and Hans Jakob Rausch. The impressive film takes a critical look at some of the mistakes made before, during and after the catastrophe in an attempt to help survivors and eyewitnesses come to terms, belatedly, with the horrific accident that left deep scars on West Germany. Interviews with experts and eyewitnesses are also part an outstanding narrative that helps viewers better understand the accident.https://www.ardmediathek.de/sendung/ramstein-das-durchstossene-herz/Y3JpZDovL2Rhc2Vyc3RlLmRlL3JhbXN0ZWluLWRhcy1kdXJjaHN0b3NzZW5lLWhlcno
“A Critical Moment”, Stephanie Wolf and Jess Clark: In their report “A Critical Moment” for Louisville Public Media, Stephanie Wolf and Jess Clark examine one of the flash points in American schools: how to teach students about race and history. Wolf and Clark compared what has been happening in the United States, where laws have been enacted to ban certain topics around race and its legacy from classrooms, with Germany, where students are required to learn about their nation’s crimes against humanity during the Holocaust. In “A Critical Moment”, we hear from German and American educators and experts who speak about the importance of confronting the most difficult times in their country’s history. We also hear from critics who say these type of lessons are not education, but rather indoctrination. https://www.lpm.org/news/a-critical-moment
“Hacking Anonymous”, six-part series for RBB and NDR by Patrick Stegemann, Serafin Dinges, Sylke Gruhnwald and Khesrau Behroz: Russia’s war on Ukraine is a brutal, barbaric act. But this war is being waged in a much more difficult way on another battlefield: On the Internet. The hacker group called “Anonymous” has declared war on Russia. The podcast “Hacking Anonymous” is a gripping thriller that takes the listener on a journey from Germany across Europe to the United States where the group has its origins. Patrick Stegeman gives us insights that have not been seen before. He tries to show who is behind the Anonymous mask and shows that borders no longer matter in the digital cosmos. And shows how much Anonymous has changed the Internet. The story remains free of judgement. it is meticulously researched and asks the right questions. It is a most convincing winner in the digital category. https://www.rbb-online.de/legion/
February 23, 2023
10 German journalists head to USA for first of 8 RIAS programs in 2023
A group of 10 German broadcast journalists will be traveling to the USA for a two-week RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship starting on March 5. It will be the first of eight RIAS Berlin Commission fellowships in 2023 — four to the USA for German journalists and four to Germany for American journalists. A total of about 130 journalists from the two countries will be taking part in the exchange programs this year, one of the largest numbers since the German-American exchange program was created more than 30 years ago.
The 10 Germans in the first program of 2023 will spend five days in Washington DC meeting German and American journalists, visiting think tanks, Congress and meeting with a Republican member of Congress from Pennsylvania. They will then spend two days in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to learn more about conservative parts of the United States before traveling to New York City for the final six days of their fellowship, where they will meet journalists, politicians, Jewish community leaders, church leaders in Harlem and a survivor of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center as well as attending Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater and a Broadway musical.
Here is more information about the 10 German journalists taking part in the March RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship
Maja Weber, Phoenix TV, ZDF TV, Bonn, Mainz
Maja Weber is an anchor at Phoenix TV’s nightly news program “Der Tag” in Bonn and also works as a news anchor for ZDF TV in Mainz. She has also worked for newspapers and radio stations. Weber has worked at the German-French Arte network and ARD TV’s “Tagesschau 24” newscast. She studied political science, history and languages in France and Italy as well as in Germany. Her family came to Germany from Serbia and she speaks five languages: Serbo-Croatian, Italian, French, English, and German.
Christian Herrmann, NTV, Berlin
Jenny Barke, RBB, Berlin
Julia Cruz is a reporter and editor for the German public broadcaster ARD. She works for two news stations in Berlin and Leipzig, especially for daily news programs. Cruz is a specialist on political and medical reporting.
Madeleine Hofmann, ZDF TV & Deutschlandfunk German Radio, Berlin
Madeleine Hofmann is a freelance journalist and news writer, working for media outlets such as the German public broadcaster ZDF and Deutschlandfunk Kultur radio. Hofmann specializes on social policy, generational justice and the diversity of political institutions, especially the represantation of young people in politics.
Friederike Rohmann, MDR TV, Leipzig
Mathis Trapp, WDR, Cologne
Sophie Wannenmacher, RBB TV, Berlin
Laura Weber, RTL, Cologne
Laura Maria Weber is an editor and reporter for the business department of RTL and NTV. She especially deals with topics such as e-mobility, climate change and international markets and specializes in female finance and financial education in her work. Weber works for several TV programs at RTL and most of the time for NTV ́s business TV program.
February 22, 2023
RIAS alumni Dornblüth warns about long-term problems in Russia
RIAS alumni Gesine Dornblüth and her co-author Thomas Franke presented their new book “Jenseits von Putin” (Beyond Putin) to a RIAS Berlin alumni chapter gathering at the historic RIAS building’s rooftop restaurant on Wednesday evening, Feb 22. The two radio correspondents who have spent much of the last decade reporting from and about Russia for German radio talked to the group of about 35 RIAS Berlin alumni and candidates for future programs about the findings in their new book.
They noted that they and those who were paying attention since about 2012 had been fully warned the war against Ukraine was looming. Sadly they said they see no near-term end to the fighting and make other ominous forecasts about things possibly getting even worse after Putin.
The Berlin alumni chapter’s gathering, which was organized by the local Berlin alumni chapter, was the latest in a series of talks and get-togethers designed to foster the alumni network. There are nearly 2,000 broadcast journalists in the USA and Germany who have taken part in RIAS exchange programs over the last 30 years. Last month, the Berlin alumni chapter hosted a talk by RIAS board chairman Robert L. Greenan, from the USA embassy in Berlin.
There are RIAS Berlin alumni chapters in Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, Mainz, Leipzig, New York, Washington and Los Angeles. Participants past, present and future are welcome to take part in the informal gatherings. There will be a big annual RIAS alumni get-together on June 2, 2023 in Berlin. Other events are planned in Washington DC on March 9 and in New York on March 17. Please write email@example.com for further information.
February 13, 2023
Alumni database for RIAS Berlin participants in USA, Germany on the way
The RIAS Berlin Commission is hoping to building a stronger and more transparent RIAS network and we need your help!
Over the years, many of former RIAS Berlin Commission program participants have expressed interest in being part of such a transatlantic network — an easily accessible network where alumni could be more easily and directly connected.
For that goal, RIAS Berlin alumni and US coordinator Pam Ortega has volunteered to try to put together an alumni database for everyone interested in connecting with their former group members as well as other Americans or other Germans from different years.
There are more than 1,900 RIAS alumni in the United States and Germany who have taken part in programs all the way back to 1993. We are hoping this database could lead to more RIAS alum meetings and contacts in various cities across Germany and the United States. Participation is entirely voluntary.
There have been many timesin the past when, for instance, a German correspondent in Washington DC is planning a reporting trip to South Dakota or Texas and inquires with the RIAS office in Berlin if there is a RIAS alumni in, say, Sioux Falls or San Antonio who could possibly help with contacts to improve their reporting or when an American journalist in New York is eager to contact journalists in Berlin after a giant fish tank explodes and spills its contents out onto a busy street and is looking for possible video clips of the disaster.
Or sometimes German and American journalists working on similar stories — such as the difference between how the United States and Germany deal with controversial historical statutes — will even work together on their stories and share their reporting work.
Their stories have aired in both countries and used some of the same soundbites.
Having a RIAS alumni data base would help members contact each other faster and more directly.
So please take a look at Pam Ortega’s alumni survey and please participate. Here is the alumni survey link: https://forms.gle/HpXefENMEGRw4yo7A
January 30, 2023
RIAS Berlin Media Prize – Career Changing Recognition for Local Journalists
When Texas TV journalists David Wagner and Monica Quintero were invited to take part in the RIAS Berlin Commission’s Program for American journalists in 2019, they made a deal in advance with their respective stations in San Angelo and Midland-Odessa, Texas. The colleagues were able to take two weeks off of work to take part in the educational program in exchange for the promise to bring back some “content”.
So they packed a DSLR camera, along with some lavalier microphones that could be plugged into their iPhones and they flew to Berlin.
In between the three to five meetings each day during the RIAS program’s full schedule of daily meeting with German politicians, journalists and business leaders, Wagner and Quintero worked together for their half hour special that took a look at some of the aspects of the program and their own observations. It was entitled “Beyond Borders: A Trip Abroad”. Here is their award-winning film.
They sometimes worked late into the evening and night in their free time to work on their report. Wagner says his professional goal has always been ‘to make a difference across the board”, and they specially examined how German and Americans tackle a range of issues like gun control, immigration… and even walls. One of their segments compared the history of the Berlin Wall, with the debate over a wall at the southern US border.
With no crew, Wagner shot Quintero’s interviews and she taped his, all with an iPhone and a DSLR. Once back home, they had to send scripts and voice tracks between KLST/KSAN in San Angelo, where Wagner was news director and Quintero’s station, in KPEJ in Midland-Odessa.
“Beyond Borders: A Trip Abroad” aired on several stations in Texas and was submitted for the RIAS Media Prizes in 2019. The next spring, the RIAS Media Prize jury chose it as “Best Fellow Award” – one of five prestigious prizes awarded each year by the German-American exchange program. By winning the prize and the $1,000 award, Wagner also got another trip to Berlin to pick up the award (Quintero was busy preparing for her wedding and couldn’t make it.).
“It was amazing to go back”, says Wagner. “It’s a feather in your cap that you won an international award.”
It’s a rare opportunity for local journalists working in markets across the United States, but one that’s coming up again soon.
The RIAS Berlin Commission is welcoming submissions for its 2023 Media Prize for stories reported in 2022. A total of $10,000 in prize money is available for the slate of prizes. The deadline for submissions in Jan. 31, 2023. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or take a look at the www.riasberlin.org website.
January 23, 2023
RIAS Berlin Media Prize Jury chair Gargiulo talks about competition as deadline nears
Michael Gargiulo, an anchor at WNBC TV in New York City, has been the co-chair of the RIAS Media Prize Jury since 2020 and a member of the independent German-American jury since 2018. There are three Americans journalists and three German journalists on the independent jury that has been awarding the prize annually since 1994. The other Americans on the jury are: Melissa Eddy, a correspondent for the The New York Times in Berlin; and Yami Virgin, a reporter at KAAB Fox in San Antonio, Texas. The German co-chair is Anja Heyde (a reporter/anchor at ZDF/MDR TV, Berlin/Magdeburg) and other members are: Helge Fuhst (editor-in-chief of Tagesthemen at ARD, Hamburg) and Christian Wilp (reporter at NTV, Berlin)
January 11, 2023
RIAS Alumni donations rise again in 2022
Private donations to the RIAS Berlin Commission climbed to a record total of 22,100 EUR in 2022 — with contributions coming from 96 alumni and friends of RIAS in Germany (54) and the United States (42). Ninety-six was the largest number of donors and largest total amount contributed in a single year to the RIAS Berlin Commission since its donation drive program was launched in 2016. The total in 2022 was more than twice as much as in the previous record year of 2019, which was right before the Covid-19 pandemic, when a total of 10,925 EUR was donated.
“It’s really fantastic to see how many RIAS alumni and friends of RIAS made contributions in 2022,” said RIAS Berlin Commission Executive Director Erik Kirschbaum. “It shows how much energy and enthusiasm there is out there from former participants to give something back for their life-changing experiences on RIAS programs and to want to stay connected to help keep the spirit of RIAS alive for future participants and future programs.”
Even though alumni donations have a greater tradition in the United States than in Germany, RIAS Berlin Commission is committed to sharing German customs with Americans and American customs with Germans. That has been the magic transatlantic recipe in developing the donation culture among RIAS alumni in both countries, Kirschbaum said. He added that every euro or dollar of the donated funds would be put towards adding spots on the RIAS exchange programs – eight are planned in 2023 with a total of about 140 participants.
Those generous donations in 2023 will help make it possible to expand the exchange programs in 2023. The tax-deductible donations in 2022 included 13,130 EUR from 54 alumni in Germany (up from 42 in 2021) and $8,975 from 42 alumni (up from 16 in 2021) in the United States
There was a wide range from individual donors in 2022, from $50 to $750 in the United States and 30 euros and 1,000 euros in Germany. RIAS Berlin Commission says a big thanks to all donors!
Large donors (200 euros or more) included: Michael Gargiulo, Erik Kirschbaum, Martin Richter, Nadja Kriewald, Isabelle Körner, Birgit Lamhammer, Dilek Üsük, Kristian Wiegand, Andre Schuenke, Susan Falkenstein, Daniel Pokraka, Christel Blanke, Anne Sieger, Helge Fuhst, Matthias Bähr, Gesinde Dornblueth, Zlatin Nikov, Michael Stang, Cornelia Gerhard, Janelle Dumalaon, Damla Hegimoglu, Annika Witzel, Okka Gundel, Sarah Williams, Mareike Makosch, Roseanne Gerin, Gregor Schmalzried, Colin Ward, Thomas Demane, Sabine Krebs, Brittany Silverstein, Suzie Herman, Erika Angulo, Bonnie North, Scott Neuman, Ingo Zamperoni, Nadine Bader, Theresa Greim, Andreas Büttner, Nazan Gökdemir, Christian von Rechenberg, Marc Krüger, Nadine Jantz, Najima Joussaoui, Heinz Neno Kampmann, and Julius van de Laar.
The RIAS Berlin alumni chapters set up in Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, Rhine-Main, Brussels, New York, Washington and Los Angeles are helping spread the message on donations. The alumni chapters play the central role in selecting up to about 30 participants for the 2023 one-week alumni programs in Cologne/Munich in late September and Los Angeles in late October. With more than 2,000 alumni over the 30 years, the RIAS Berlin Commission is hoping to double the amount of donations in coming years.
The RIAS Berlin Commission’s annual Media Prize awards ceremony planned for June 1 in Berlin. There will also be a panel discussion and alumni get-together the following evening in Berlin on June 2. All alumni are cordially welcome to attend both events. In the United States, alumni get-togethers are planned for Washington DC on March 9 and in New York City on March 17. There will also be a series of alumni events at the RTDNA Excellence in Journalism convention.
December 6, 2022
Martin Richter is RIAS Alumnus of the Year 2022
Martin Richter, senior producer and reporter at Phoenix TV in Bonn, was honored by the RIAS Berlin Commission as Alumnus of the Year 2022 for his efforts to bring American and German journalists together. Richter participated in a RIAS program in the U.S. for the first time in 2018 and has put his heart and soul into co-leading the Cologne alumni chapter for the past four years. He has helped organize two groups of 30 and 42 German RIAS alumni for a week-long program to New York in 2021 and Washington DC in October 2022.
He has also been a guest speaker for American journalism groups in Germany for many years, recruiting German journalists for RIAS programs and helping to increase the number of applications from Germany for the RIAS Media Prize.
How does it feel to be selected 2022 Alumnus of the Year?
Being RIAS Alumnus of the Year 2022 is really a very great honor for me and makes me extremely happy. The award is a confirmation of my work and my commitment to RIAS, which I enjoy very much. Above all, I am pleased about the many positive feedbacks from RIAS alumni about my election – the feedback is very motivating for the future.
Why are you so interested in voluntarily being involved so extensively in the RIAS Alumni Network?
I really enjoy working for RIAS because I greatly appreciate the spirit behind RIAS and its network. The cohesion, the lived idea of the transatlantic bridge and the exchange with the American colleagues is a great enrichment – professionally and privately.
Doesn’t all this take an awful lot of time?
No, above all, it gives me great pleasure to work for RIAS. I like to take the time for it. I always enjoy organizing/coordinating the Cologne chapter, and I see the time for that as a benefit. Meeting the alumni from Germany and America as well as the new participants of the programs is always an enrichment and a “reward” for the time invested.
Wasn’t it difficult to organize the alumni programs in 2021 and 2022? How difficult was it to nominate the 10 candidates from the 150-strong Cologne alumni chapter?
The selection of participants for the alumni trips is never easy, as there are always more alumni applying than there are places available. What matters most to us is whether, how and in what form the applicants get involved in the chapter work and that they donate to RIAS. Diversity is also an important aspect for us, as well as a good mix of participants from private and public broadcasters. We will suggest possible participants and Erik Kirschbaum will make the final selection. Los Angeles 2023 will certainly be a special trip – we already have a lot of applicants.
Are you satisfied with the alumni programs have unfolded?
The experiences I had in New York in 2021 and Washington DC in 2022 thanks to RIAS were really great. The appointments on site, the meetings with journalists, politicians and experts in US politics are just fantastic in this diversity. To be so close to politics, to journalists reporting from the USA, is unique and valuable in this form. Whether professionally or privately: every RIAS trip is a view over the edge of one’s nose and a broadening of one’s personal horizon!
What could be done better?
I think we have to be careful that RIAS offers these and other trips within the possibilities of the participants. Especially young colleagues or single parents are not in such a good financial position that they can easily afford the program. This should not become an obstacle to applying. RIAS should keep this in mind. Also, the size of the group (e.g., the alumni group) should not exceed what is feasible. The effort of organizing and implementing the trips on site should not be underestimated.
What was the difference between your first trip in 2018 and the Alumni Program?
My first trip with RIAS to the US in 2018 was a super program with a really great group. To this day, I still keep in touch with most of that group and reuniting at the alumni trips is always a great pleasure. The experiences in the USA weld us together. In 2018, we were all still “new” to the different experiences in the US. On the alumni trips, there are many experienced participants who contribute even more with their knowledge and experience. This is always exciting to observe and experience. You can always feel the deep RIAS connection and it is one of the core characteristics of each group.
How can the RIAS Alumni network be strengthened?
I think we are already a very strong and large network! It’s incredible what Erik Krschbaum has done in this regard! In the meantime, we also have RIAS chapters in Southern Germany and Hesse and the cohesion is really great.
How does all this work in Cologne?
Since I’ve been RIAS Chapter Leader Cologne, the number of members in our chapter has grown steadily. In 2022 we are at about 150 people on our mailing list- that’s great! At our chapter meetings there are usually 20-30 members present, which is great and every time a very good exchange among each other. But the whole thing is expandable. The pandemic has slowed down our work for RIAS a lot, but I am in good spirits for 2023. Of course, I would like to see even more active members who contribute to the chapter work with ideas and suggestions. In this regard, the annual alumni program is a good approach – you can qualify yourself through dedicated cooperation.
Does the Alumni Network have any advantages for you personally?
100%. In 2018, I was in the USA as a live reporter for my channel phoenix on the occasion of the midterms. Shortly before, I had completed the RIAS program in New York, Washington DC and in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Through RIAS I got important contacts in the USA, which were valuable for my work and still are today. Some contacts even turned into friendships – what better way to talk about a network?
Why do you do so much for RIAS?
Because RIAS itself has enabled me to do so much and continues to do so today. I want many colleagues (young and old) to have the same experience and benefit from the great RIAS spirit. It is a transatlantic network that is second to none.
What do you like most about RIAS? What do you like least?
The cohesion, the spirit of RIAS and the exchange with German and American colleagues. as a network across the Atlantic and back is unique in this form. I would like to see even more alumni getting involved and contributing to further strengthen and expand the RIAS network. “Spread the news” is an important component of this – many Kolleg:inenn still know far too little about the opportunities RIAS offers. I would also like to see the participants of the programs see RIAS as more than just a stop on their resume and give something back to RIAS – not just a donation.
November 28, 2022
Enter the RIAS Berlin Media Prize competition, win a trip to Berlin
Journalists in the United States and Germany are invited and encouraged to submit entries for the $10,000 RIAS Media Prize competition. It’s a truly transatlantic competition with American and German radio, TV and digital journalists putting up their best work on issues that touch upon transatlantic issues broadcast in 2022 — anything from political campaigns in the USA from a German perspective, the impact of the climate crisis on both countries or how the United States reopened its borders for EU citizens at the end of the Corona pandemic.
The 2023 winners in the radio, TV and digital categories are invited to take part in the gala awards ceremony in Berlin in June. RIAS alumni who worked on a story during their fellowships or shortly thereafter are also encouraged to submit their work for a special “fellow award” category. The independent jury will review all entries submitted by January 31, 2023 in February and the winners will be announced right afterwards. The winning entries will receive $1,000 in prize money while one grand prize winner selected by the jury will receive $5,000. Some of the recent winning entries have included Bill Whitaker from CBS News “60 Minutes”, and Clare Toenskoetter from The New York Times’ podcast The Daily
Here is a link with more information on how to submit your entries. Also, please encourage other journalists you may know to apply — or whose work you may have seen or heard.
Ideally entries submitted will:
- go beyond daily and routine reporting
- promote dialogue on similarities and differences between the two countries
- stand out thematically and/or in their execution
- take on new questions in a creative way
- critically examine and make diversity of social reality clear
- contain interesting ideas for transatlantic debate
- encourage reflection on problems and solutions
- question clichés about Germans or Americans
- describe trends in everyday life of general interest
- contribute to mutual curiosity and understanding
- strengthen democratic and societal values
Please write to email@example.com for further information.