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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 info@riasberlin.org for further information.


November 23, 2022

RIAS Berlin Commission 2022 fundraising drive

Dear RIAS alumni members and friends of RIAS,

Thanks to your continued support, the RIAS Berlin Commission has had a record-breaking year in 2022 with seven exchange programs and 114 participants. Alongside our two standard programs to the USA for German journalists and two standard programs to Germany for American journalists, we also had two student programs in a busy year capped by an alumni program for Germans to the Washington DC and Pennsylvania. Thanks to all the alumni who shared their time and contacts to help make all of these programs so outstanding.

We are hoping to have eight programs in 2023, including a one-week alumni program to Munich and Cologne for 30 American alumni (September 16-24) along with a one-week alumni program for 30 German alumni to Los Angeles (October 15-21). Please let us and your local chapter leaders know if you are interested in taking part in an alumni program.

With our programs now back in full swing after two difficult years slowed by Covid 19, we are renewing our appeal for donations from alumni and friends of RIAS. We are hoping that you might also be able to help with even a modest contribution. We use your tax-deductible donations entirely for added spots on the programs and will continue to devote donations to that good cause.

Click the link on the top right “Make a Donation” for tax-deductible donations 

Or on the RTDNA homepagehttps://rtdna.networkforgood.com
(Click on the red ‘Support Journalism’ on the banner near the top of the page and then enter the amount you would like to donate. Then support RIAS Berlin Commission by scrolling down and choosing ‘The RIAS Program’ as the recipient of your donation)

We also really appreciate your spreading the word about the RIAS Media Prize and encouraging journalists in the USA and Germany to enter their work into the competition. We are planning to have the annual awards ceremony in Berlin in early June along with an alumni party celebration the following evening and hope you can join us.  Here is more information about the RIAS Media Prize: https://riasberlin.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/RIAS-Call_MediaPrize_2023__Flyer.pdf

We also have two new alumni in the USA who are helping to coordinate our programs. Michael Gargiulo in New York gargiulo@riasberlin.org and Pam Ortega in Oklahoma ortega@riasberlin.org Please reach out to Pam or Michael if you are interested in the alumni programs, have any questions or suggestions. Thanks again for your support and we look forward to seeing you.


November 16, 2022

RIAS Berlin Commission plans 8 programs in 2023

The RIAS Berlin Commission is planing to operate a total of eight exchange programs for broadcast journalists in the United States and Germany in 2023 for a total of about 130 journalists. There will be four programs to Germany for American journalists (in June, July, and two in September) and four programs to the United States for German journalists (in March, April, and two in October).

Along with the two standard programs to Germany and the United States, the RIAS Berlin Commission is planning to run two three-week-long European Recovery Program (ERP)-funded programs for students — one to the United States in March/April and one to Germany in June/July. The RBK is also planning two major alumni programs for American alumni to Munich and Cologne in September and for German alumni to Los Angeles in October.

Here is more information about the eight 2023 programs in chronological order:

Standard Spring Program USA for Germans – March 5-March 18

Washington March 5-9; Pennsylvania March 10-11; New York March 12-18.

ERP Student Program USA for German students – March 17-April 7

New York City March 17-March 26; Individual programs at universities in Oklahoma, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, Arizona – March 16April 7 

Standard June Program Germany for Americans – June 4-June 17  

Berlin June 4-10; Hamburg June 10-12; Cologne June 12-14; Brussels June 14-17. 

ERP Student Program Germany for USA students June 18-July 8

Berlin June 18-July 8; one day to Leipzig June 23, two-day Hamburg June 28/29; two-day Cologne July 5/6.

Standard September Fall Program Germany for Americans Sept 3-16

Berlin September 3-9; Hamburg September 9-11; Cologne September 11-13, Brussels September 13-16.

Germany short/alumni program for Americans Sept 16-24

Cologne September 16-19; Munich September 19-24

Standard Fall Program USA for 10 Germans Oct 2-Oct 20

Washington-Oct 2-7; New York-Oct 7-15; individual stations Oct 15-20

USA short/alumni program for 30 Germans Oct 15-Oct 21

Los Angeles – Oct 15-21


November 4, 2022

Impressions of Journalists from Germany on USA Program – Oct 23-29

Here are the thumbnail impressions that a group of 42 German journalists had recently on their one-week long RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship to Washington DC and Pennsylvania. They met US and German journalists such as Wolf Blitzer, Jeff Mason, Elmar Thevessen, Gudrun Engel, Ines Pohl, Christopher Wittich and Roland Nelles, politicians, think tank experts, fact tanks like Pew Research, immigration experts and political analysts, Americans in the Amish community and a local congressman in Pennsylvania Lloyd Smucker from the 11 Congressional district to learn more about the United States just a week or so before the midterm elections.

Meeting with CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer at Hudson Institute

Dilek Üsük, Berlin: I’m still overwhelmed by how great this Alumni trip to Washington DC was. You can read as many newspapers as you want and watch as many news-programs on TV, that won’t give you the insights and valuable experiences one can get from the talks and meetings with so many interesting and inspiring journalists, politicians and analysts – especially when it takes place two weeks before the midterm elections. All these talks and discussions about politics and US-society were so enriching, having such a great impact on me that it is very hard to pick a highlight. But some speakers were really outstanding: CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, whose parents survived the Shoa. And Diego Sanchez, who talked on immigrant issues,  touched me very deeply as a child of Turkish migrants. Also very interesting: Talking to Republican-Congressman Smucker, who has very strong opinions. All in all I went back home with my mind full of so many new thoughts and impressions, for which I’m very grateful. This trip was amazing also because of this incredible group. I met so many interesting, funny and lovely people. I want to compliment RIAS for putting this diverse group together, which worked out great. RIAS, your work is terrific, thank you so much for this wonderful trip.

Charlotte Maihoff, Cologne: What a great experience! A week of meeting with journalists, politicians, committed people, asking questions, discussing, learning more about the US and the politically exciting times just before the midterms. All this while teaming up with smart, warm-hearted colleagues from Germany. Could it be better? Especially exciting: The Amish of Pennsylvania talking about their lifestyle and visiting the White House Press Room, plus watching the President’s helicopter taking off from the green lawn in front of the building. Many thanks to the wonderful team of RIAS for this enriching week. See you all soon!

Isabelle Körner, Cologne: Democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. This is how Abraham Lincoln described it in his famous Gettysburg address in November 1863. Lincoln served as the 16th President of the United States and the Gettysburg Battle is considered to have been the deadliest battle during the American Civil War. The weekend before the RIAS Alumni Program began, I visited the battlefields. Coming back to the US capital, I had many questions on my mind: How likely is another civil war in the US and what would it look like? What role could the current economic challenges play for the political future of the country? Will former US-President Donald Trump run again in the election 2024? During the Alumni week, I was able to talk to many experts about these questions. The agenda and the opportunities were amazing! I cannot thank RIAS enough for enabling me to go to Washington DC just before the midterms. I have gained a much better and much more balanced understanding of the current political, social and economic developments in the country. Last, but not least: It was an honor to spend this week with so many other RIAS alumni. I am very thankful for their insights as well as inspirations and I am grateful for the new friends I have made on this wonderful trip.

Meeting with Congressman Lloyd Smucker in Pennsylvania

Martin Richter, Cologne: What a great experience! Thank you RIAS for unforgettable days and meetings during our one week in Washington DC. We met so many great colleagues from German TV and radio stations – fantastic! We had a wonderful time getting to know colleagues from other German stations and discussing American politics and the upcoming midterms with politicians, journalists and political strategists. The one day trip to Pennsylvania,  meeting Amish people and meeting CNN Legend Wolf Blitzer at the Hudson Institute were my personal highlights! I had the best time ever thanks to RIAS.

Michael Kolz, Berlin: 23 years after my RIAS debut, I am thrilled that exactly this spirit, which already made it so incomparable back then, still prevails, in the participants and the program. Outstanding guest speakers, incredibly inspiring colleagues and a trip lovingly arranged by Erik and his team made for unforgettable moments in Washington DC. What a Rock’n’Roll week – Well done RIAS!!! I am returning home with a smile on my face and looking forward to more adventures with all of my new friends.

 Annette Yang, Hamburg: Midterms in Washington: A week full of insights. Inspiring people on stage and behind the scenes. Legendary CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, White House reporter Jeff Mason, Amish father Ben and many more shared their personal stories: What a treat! A lively and lovely group of journalists was ready to give it all – day and night. Brain food as it’s best: Thank you RIAS for having me!

Kristian Wiegand, Bonn: The USA and its diversity, the people in all their facets and a political discussion that is no longer just conducted objectively. These were just a few lasting impressions of this alumni trip. Meetings with Congressman Smucker and the Amish community in Pennsylvania have given me insight that cannot be read about in books or newspapers. A look at Wolf Blitzer’s own and family history was another immersive experience of this tour. But what I enjoyed the most is the exchange between German and American alumni. Not only did I meet new colleagues there, I also made new friends. 1000 thanks to Erik and the chapter leaders who made such a trip possible 

Thielko Griess, Cologne: Obviously he exuded a lot of confidence: We met Congressman Smucker, a Republican from the rural Lancaster, Pennsylvania, region, in his “home territory.” He doesn’t need to worry about his reelection victory in the midterms. I had prepared myself a bit for him, the politician and thus responsible for decisions. It was important to me to test him with a few questions on some of the points he made. How about the bona fides of the election denier who wants to be governor of the state on the Republican ticket? How about the false claim that rural Lancaster is plagued by crime? The candidate realized he wasn’t “getting away” with every claim and faltered a bit. This too, a journalistic encounter with a politician is one of the memories of that week that will remain. Of the many other meetings that I would like to describe as impressive was the one with Wolf Blitzer. Of his family history, which is deeply und inseparably interwoven with the Holocaust, survival and emigration of his parents I was not aware in that detail. It was visible that sharing his thoughts and analysis, including the state of the political culture in the States nowadays, was important to him and us. Then, our very first meeting on Monday at PEW Research was of great importance to me: Figures, statistics and analysis, performed at highest academic level gave a very good basis to build the many impressions and insights on. I would like to express my deep gratitude to RIAS and everyone who took part in organizing everything so greatly. Apart from learning so much about various topics, it was a pleasure to be part of this group of fantastic people, each and every one being open-minded, curious and full of energy. We grew together as a group, and our understanding grew as well. I enjoyed every minute of it.

Gabriele von Moltke, Berlin: “The United States has not been this divided since 1850.” This assessment of the current political situation from last week sticks in my mind. We had the opportunity to experience firsthand the political climate just before the midterms on this RIAS alumni trip to Washington DC. The RIAS team assembled an impressive group of experts, journalists and politicians to share their views with us. Just a few examples: The researchers at Pew surprised me with insight on the impact of religion on voting. The colleagues at NBC, NPR and Reuters shared their analysis and pre-election stress with us. Julius van de Laar introduced us to US campaigning. All our talks gave us highly differentiated insights into the upcoming elections and the divided constituency. What an awesome, jam-packed week! A first class networking event! Thank you RIAS for making it all possible  

Vladimir Balzer, Berlin:What a week! Not only me, but dozens of other great journalists from all kinds of TV and Radio newsrooms in Germany were heard saying that. Well, it’s exactly what it was. Coming not only very close to President Biden and almost being able to ask him a question right on the White House grounds (I did prepare one!), but also meeting great American colleagues from the RIAS network, NBC, AP, NPR, Reuters, you name it – and learning from them, exchanging, strengthen transatlantic ties between journalists. And what do journalists need? Reliable information! Well, that’s exactly what we’ve got. The Pew Research Center, which calls itself fact tank, provided us with an impressive set of figures to understanding how heavily the political scene in the US is changing and what role – for example – religion plays (or not)- This Washington week shed a bright light on the political sphere days before the crucial midterm elections – including the rare opportunity to ask for one and a half hour a Pennsylvania congressman from the GOP about his ambivalent relation to Trumpism. And not only that – we had the chance of meeting representatives of conservative think tanks such as Hudson and American Main Street Initiative which gave insights in the way of thinking of a political movement as successful as never before. I had the feeling they were all impressed by this bunch of well prepared and curious media people from Germany. What can I say? The RIAS background helps in many ways. And it is so great to see the alumni network growing and carrying the RIAS idea even further. If I would be asked, what meeting has been the most impressive on a personal level? I can say: there were many, but if I had to choose, maybe it’s hearing about the story of Diego Sanchez, the leading figure of the President’s Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. He, coming from Argentina, lived through his juvenile life as an undocumented individual in the US. He is now a citizen but will always remember the times when for years he felt isolated, even in high school. He fights now for an easier way to become an US citizen, and he says this country needs it. But he also knows: this issue is not decisive for the midterms. Even though him hoping this will change, he’s not confident about it. But giving up is just not an option. He is an American guy; he wouldn’t give up. Why should he?

On the way to Pew Research

Catherine Martens, Brussels: Put over 40 people, their thoughts, and diverse professional horizons in one room, add excellent speakers, testimonies and expertise and you get an extraordinarily inspiring week of politics and razor-sharp analysis. Be it Pew Research, be it first-hand insights by campaigners, actively running congressmen, be it to be part of a bunch of people in a bus or be it the great opportunity to enter historic ground in the White House Press Room – to me, RIAS is more than the sum of those who take part, it is the curiosity and openness of each and everyone to learn more and to seek for exchange with others. Across borders and beyond professional positions, this outstanding alumni week broadens my transatlantic comprehension on human level with inspiring minds, thanks to RIAS amazing and tireless efforts to bring it all together

Nina Lammers, Berlin: After meeting with correspondents, experts on US politics presenting their different political views, congressman Smucker, a member of the Amish community and an activist fighting for the rights of migrants without documents, I gained an understanding of the midterms and the current situation in the US that I would have never been able to get without the RIAS program. Sharing impressions, thoughts and experiences with dozens of fellow RIAS alumni made the experience even more special and unforgettable. I am full of joy and gratitude looking back at the Alumni week in Washington. Thanks to the wonderful RIAS team for the opportunity to be part of the network and for organizing a great program.

Philipp Jahn, Cologne: What a week! Packed with smart thoughts, profound encounters and unforgettable moments. Experts at Pew, Hudson and Brookings, a Republican congressman in the midst of his re-election campaign, an immigration activist who until recently lived undocumented in the U.S. for more than 20 years, plus the outside perspective of German foreign correspondents and the German Embassy – such a wide range of insights, that I now feel more than well prepared to cover the midterm elections. Thanks to Erik and the entire RIAS team for putting together this dense and inspiring program – a week of RIAS at its very best! I never expected the wonderful “Klassenfahrt” feeling of my first RIAS tour eight years ago to be repeated. But indeed, it has been repeated, even with such a large group. For me, what’s special about the RIAS network: it’s not just about making professional contacts that might be helpful someday – it’s the friendships that are formed, both on the other side of the Atlantic and back home in Germany. I am more than grateful to be part of it.

Susan Falkenstein, Munich: 1.5 meters separate US President Joe Biden and me in the White House park. He approaches us in his familiar, leisurely jogging stride, smiling and wearing sunglasses. With Joe and me is only a crowd of other international press people, who almost seem to be part of the White House inventory. They have a small, worn-out press center near the Oval Office. Biden appears to not be answering any questions. But that is usually the case, my American colleagues tell me. Instead, he goes directly to his helicopter, salutes and climbs in. The helicopter with Joe Biden on board, named Marine One takes off a little later, followed by two more helicopters. Just described was my biggest moment of this RIAS trip. Unforgettable! An astonishing moment was the talk with Julius van de Laar about campaigning and gathering votes in the US. Julius has already knocked on the doors of potential voters himself during Obama’s campaign. He told us that campaign teams go far to collect and analyze as much voter data as possible: What did the person vote for last time, what did they buy from Amazon, what car do they drive? In Germany, that would be unthinkable. Elmar Theveßen from ZDF provided an eye-opening moment. He explained that it is currently difficult to place topics from the US in broadcasts in Germany because domestic issues are dominating the news. This RIAS week in Washington was filled with many more enriching, unique moments, appointments, meetings, and fun with the other alumni. #Rooftop with a US-Capitol view. See you all very soon! Thank you so much to everyone of the RIAS Commission who made this possible!

 

Andreas Franz, Leipzig: A permanently engaging and stimulating week of insight and exchange of views and opinions. The RIAS Alumni Week in DC was an intense ride through current American politics. Giving us the chance to get new perspectives on the main political discussions taking place. From a congressmen struggling with Trumpism and struggling with answers to our questions but knowing he can’t do without the support of Trump‘s followers to another  in-depth talk at the conservative Hudson Institute to the iconic CNN colleague Wolf Blitzer to another highlight at the end of the week at NPR. Just to name a few. It’s impossible to highlight one highlight, so many were organized by Erik and his great crew. RIAS stands for exceptional transatlantic “mingling”. And for that you have to convene a great group of colleagues well prepared, interested and grabbing the opportunity for first-hand information every minute of this week. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be part of it all.

Wiebke Keuneke, Berlin: Returning home from the alumni trip to Washington D.C. in October 2022, I realized the RIAS program works on so many levels. First of all it provides the visiting journalists with in depth insights of the current political discussions. Secondly it strengthens the German-American relationships among journalists on a very personal level, which seems even more important in these difficult times where media has been under attack. Another aspect that was very enriching to me was the diversity of the alumni group. It was amazing to meet so many colleagues aka new friends from every kind of German media and be able to network – and of course – mingle from dawn till dusk till dawn. Some of my personal highlights during this week were visiting WAMU and learning about how they are financed, fangirling around CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer and learning about his personal background, listening to – and reflecting on – very strong opinions and ideas of CATO, a conservative think tank, and last but certainly not least having the chance to talk to Diego Sanchez about immigration. An appointment that was a perfect combination of a personal, emotional story combined with insights of how human rights activist and lawyer Sanchez works to get things done on a political level. “I thrive in chaos” – is how he says it. Finally I would like to thank everyone for this week that not only affected my brain, soul, heart and feet but also left me inspired and above all grateful!

Bjorn Heckmann, Cologne: „Hate won‘t make America great!“- is written on the poster, held by a retired chemist standing in front of the White House. He tells me that he comes here several times a week to inspire people to talk and listen to each other. Exactly this is more important than ever as the states appear to be so divided and discussions and conflicts have become more and more aggressive. The RIAS program is a great opportunity to understand what is happening, the way both sides think and act. It is extremely helpful to promote the mutual understanding and celebrate these important values: talking to each other and – listening.The discussions with Amish people in Pennsylvania, a Republican congressman and of course with Wolf Blitzer are only some of my personal highlights during this week. Thank you so much, RIAS, for this amazing time, the priceless insights and the wonderful people we had the privilege to meet!

Pia Bierschbach, Düsseldorf: What a fantastic week! I‘ve never expected a trip like this. All my expectations have been exceeded. The inspiring and interesting talks with expats, journalists, politicians, and Amish people – awesome! Now my mind is charged with new amazing thoughts and deeper knowledge. Talking to Roland Nelles (Der Spiegel) had a great impact on me. Reporting about presidents who are so different from each other. Two presidential terms, two worlds.  The most precious moment for me: Being at White House area and getting the chance to see President Biden in his daily work. It was unique. I still cannot believe it. Additionally, new colleagues turned into friends. That was RIAS at its best. I am very grateful for all of this.

Petra Gute, Berlin: E pluribus unum – the USA: a democracy crisis in the making?!? My RIAS-midterms-Alumni trip started off with a chat with my Afghan Uber-driver Nisar on my way from Dulles Airport to the city. He mentioned he used to always vote for the Democrats but for the upcoming midterms would vote Republican because of President Biden’s Afghanistan policies. My Washington-trip ended with a conversation with my black Uber-driver Erica. While winding our way through the Washington-Marathon she explained she won’t vote at all, because this country just has become “too crazy”. In between these two conversations was an intense week packed with so many fascinating, inspiring, and sometimes even horrifying (the words “civil war” were uttered way too many times) inside views into this amazing , diverse and divided country . I learned so much about the Democrats and Republicans in these midterm elections, so much about the impact of religion on American voters, about immigration, and the regular (sometimes life threatening) work of my American journalist colleagues and the German TV correspondents. I realized that politics and journalism in the U.S is more and more a question of opinions and not of facts. The most touching meetings were the short but deep dive into the history and presence of the Amish community in Lancaster County/Pennsylvania; the talk with Julius van de Laar; the university journalism class with Brandon Benavides at Georgetown University; the talk on immigration with Diego Sanchez and his very personal experiences as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S.; – and of course the meeting with legendary CNN-anchor Wolf Blitzer telling us about his search for his roots as the son of Polish Holocaust-survivors. Thank you Erik Kirschbaum and the whole RIAS-Berlin-Commission-team for putting together this fascinating week. A week we experienced with more than 40 “bright and brilliant” journalists from all over Germany, becoming close friends in these few days. A week not only of learning but also of discussing, eating and even dancing together and especially mingling with the American journalist colleagues. By now I consider RIAS-Alumni Tiffany Zeno or Michael Gargiulo friends for life. I have been a RIAS Fellow now for 22 years (my first Fellow trip was for the U.S. presidential election Al Gore/ George W. Bush in the RIAS Fellow Autumn program 2000). So much has changed in the U.S. in these past 22 years. But being a RIAS Fellow (and, together with my RIAS-friends Anja Heyde and Vladimir Balzer, being a Berlin chapter leader) was and is a life-changing experience for me and one of the greatest honors. We, the RIAS alumni will do everything in our power to keep the RIAS-Alumni-network alive and kicking for years to come

Gesine Dornblüth, Berlin: Super group, super questions – each meeting ended far too quickly. If I thought already on Tuesday that the trip to Pennsylvania with the Amish and Congressman Smucker was the highlight of the week, it was topped day after day by meeting CNN anchor and son of Holocaust survivors Wolf Blitzer and by Julius von der Laar’s incredible insights into campaign methods. Plus, I got key insights around the US support for Ukraine, which is very important for my daily coverage of Russia’s war. And all of this in an incredibly open and warm group of so many wonderful colleagues. Thank you, RIAS Berlin, for making this possible!

Zlatin Nikov, Saarbrücken: Thanks to Erik and the whole RIAS team for making this experience possible. Rarely have I received so much important input on the state of the USA in such a short time. From fellow producers at National Public Radio to representatives of the Amish people in Pennsylvania to the visit to the White House – each will be well remembered. At the same time, it was very helpful to meet so many fellow journalists from all over Germany who are all passionate about the U.S. in their own way and with whom one could exchange impressions. I feel humbled to have been part of this amazing experience and am looking forward to seeing you all again soon.

Dominik Lauck, Hamburg: Where else can you meet Amish people, who live without cars and internet, a Congressman in the final sprint of his campaign and a transvestite in a high heel race on one day? Only the RIAS Alumni program can do that – it was mind-blowing. The week in Washington helped me to understand, why so many Republicans still support Donald Trump – despite his role during the Capitol riot in 2021. I’m concerned about the rising prices in Washington – 10 Dollars for a beer! As WNBC anchor Michael Garguilo (btw: his knowledge about European football is very impressive!) told us, many journalists have to commute for two hours or have to work a second job to pay their bills. And no wonder that you see so many homeless people living in tents in the heart of Washington… Thanks Erik and the entire RIAS team that you gave me the opportunity to get so many new insights and different perspectives into the life of Americans. I’m grateful to be part of RIAS and happy that I found new friends among the other RIAS fellows.

Daniel Pokraka, Berlin: Eight days ago I wondered if it was really a good decision to take part in another RIAS week in DC, right before the midterms, like 2018. Could I really experience something new and have a good time again? Hell yeah! Meeting Amish in Pennsylvania, discussing with politicians, learning about views that seem so unfamiliar and are yet so important. And above all: networking with German and American journalists, even making new friends. We’re all RIAS. And I’m grateful to be a part of it.

Mirja Fiedler, Berlin: NPR anchors, a Reuters White House correspondent and a Republican Congressman two weeks before the midterm elections – in the powerhouse Washington, DC and rural Pennsylvania – including exclusive insights into the oldest Amish community in the USA and a diplomat’s life at the German embassy. Political scientists, lobbyists and journalists from both sides of the Atlantic. AP, NBC and CNN legend Wolf Blitzer as well as Spiegel, RTL, ZDF and ARD correspondents on top of a great group of German RIAS alumni mingling with their U.S. counterparts. The biggest RIAS alumni program so far was intensive, incredible and inspiring. Time flew by during those seven days, but this amazing experience with fantastic impressions is going to last for a lifetime.

Nadine Gries, Hamburg: “Great economic report today, ADP report. Things are looking good!” just a few words President Biden said walking by the reporters  before heading to the helicopter. Words that he might hope will have an impact on voters decision, because as prices are soaring and the mid-terms looming, he has to set the tune on the inflation issue. And we’ve learned, in the end many Americans vote with their wallets. Well, at least it had an impact on me at that moment, since standing there in the back of the White House, being part of that whole scene still feels kind of surreal and special to me. It might be the most special moment within a RIAS-week full of great experiences and inspiring talks with experts, journalists and politicans. For example the talk with Congressman Lloyd Smucker (a Republican, who is running again), the analysis of Dr. E. Mecclellan (Prof. of Political Science) or all the views and insights of German embassy spokesman Martin Jungius. Hearing their thoughts and views on issues like US economy, the state of democracy or Ukraine aid while facing an increasingly divided American nation was very interesting, different and in some parts worrying. But that is what democracy is about, to endure and accept other opinions and lifestyle. Therefore I want to highlight our excursion to the Amish community in Pennsilvania. They, from what we’ve learned, get baptised twice in life and consciously and freely decide to live a very plain, withdrawn and life full of faith, without cars or other luxuries. This being said, we kept complaining about the “6-dollar-made by inflation”-Cappuccino each morning. That makes the actual issues even more perceptible. Thanks to RIAS, we really got the full insight scoop of how America thinks and feels right now. On top of that intensive, mind broadening input, I got to know 41 other smart and inspiring RIAS Alumni fellows from all over Germany sharing all these memories with me. Not one of them I would’ve liked to miss! We experienced a week of a lifetime we will never forget, keep in our hearts and therefore spread the RIAS spirit further on. After this D.C. 2022 Alumni trip, I am more confident and proud than ever of being a RIAS Alumni and Hamburg Chapter leader. With all we’ve been hearing during that week this journalistic network gives me hope, that there will always be a bridge keeping up the dialogue and friendship between our two nations and keeping our democracies strong. Thank you, Erik, thank you, RIAS Berlin Commission!

Sylvia Warnke, Berlin: When I did my first RIAS trip (yes, it was still in the last century), I got to know the internet for the first time. And yes, we all know what became of it worldwide. This time I was able to marvel at a supermarket of the future, without queuing at the checkout, just walking in and out. I am sure that in a few years we will also be shopping like this. Politically, I’m not so sure if we want to adapt all the developments that we saw during the intensive alumni week in Washington D.C. But it was great to get so many insights and perspectives on a country that faces exciting voting decisions now in the midterms and then in two years in the presidential elections. Thanks to Erik and his team for the unforgettable moments. And thanks also to the curious colleagues who got the maximum amount of information out of every meeting.

Arndt Brorsen, Hamburg: This RIAS-Alumni-week in DC was amazing in every sense. It was such a dense and intensive program with highlights in between highlights every day. Who else could claim of themselves to have an appointment with the impressive CNN light shape Wolf Blitzer OR a visit at the White House?! Who else gets the chance to listen to a fabulous analysis und description of the US voting system by Julius van de Laar OR meet Diego Sanchez telling his personal immigration story and his fight for equal rights?! One of the most interesting slots was also the meeting at the Pew Research Center. And it was (should I neutrally say?) ‚interesting‘ to discuss with conservatives/Republicans their attitude to Trumpism – which seems to be just the belief in power…What made this trip in addition to that so special was the fantastic Alumni group. It was so inspiring meeting this great people. We really acted as one group – which is not self-evident with more than 40 people in it.

Charlotte Voß, Hamburg: What an opportunity, seven years after my first RIAS-program  –  coming to DC as an Alumni right before the midterms. The wide range of our hosts – I’m pretty sure I will ask some of them for interviews soon – delivered eye-opening insights into the political and media landscape of the US, revealing tremendous differences compared to Germany. Obviously, in the US it`s all about attacking opponents and pushing voters to strong feelings. And I was deeply impressed by my colleagues at DW, AP, ZDF, and NPR that stand up for critical journalism, but expressed deep concerns about the future of the USA. My key take-away: you need to be tough to cope with all the hate of MAGA supporters accusing you of “being fake news“. Many thanks to Erik Kirschbaum and his entire RIAS-team for organizing this week, to all our hosts for their time and open answers, and to my 42 colleagues for making those days a great experience!

Gabriel Fröhlke, Cologne: The RIAS Alumni trip was awesome. It has been a week packed with many interesting appointments, meeting lots of interesting people. The best part about this trip was the fact that we had the chance of meeting people that we usually never get in contact with. Some of my highlights were talking to Amish people, CNN legend Wolf Blitzer or immigrant Diego Sanchez, who shared breathtaking experiences with us. The week also helped me get a deeper understanding of how politics and politicians in the US work. It has broadened my view, for sure. Besides, sharing all of this with a great group of German journalists from all over our country made it even better. I met so many nice and wonderful colleagues on this trip, which I really appreciate. Thank you very much, Erik and the entire RIAS team that you have organized everything so great. I am really grateful for this wonderful experience that enriched me.

Jutta Müller, Berlin: Thanks to all of you for an unforgettable week in Washington, especially to Erik, Christina, Pam and the chapter leaders. This was a lot of organization for you and everything turned out to be great! With my head full of new information and emotions I‘m heading to South Carolina now. Thinking of you and hopefully seeing you again at one of the meetings coming up. 

Bartosz Dudek, Bonn: The RIAS alumni program in Washington DC 2022 has not only exceeded my horizons but also my expectations. It has provided interesting in-depth insights on upcoming midterm elections as well as excellent analysis on mechanics of power in the US. My personal highlights were the talk with Rep.  Smucker (R, Pensylvania), the lecture of professor McClellan and meeting with Wolf Blitzer. Very interesting was the meeting with representatives of the Amish community in Lancaster County. The outstanding program was rounded up by the opportunity for networking with both German as well as American colleagues. It was a wonderful group.  Thank you RIAS for that great week!

Nadja Kriewald, Cologne: In 2018 I was with RIAS in Washington. It was a great program. But this time it was even better. 2 weeks before the midterm elections we had so many interesting talks with PEW, Hudson Institute, CATO etc. All of them eye opening. But for me most impressive was the talk with Wolf Blitzer speaking about his family and the Holocaust. And the day in Pennsylvania with the Amish people was also really special, getting out of the Washington bubble and talking with people we normally don’t have the chance to meet. Thank you Erik Kirschbaum and RIAS for giving us this opportunity!

Gregor Schmalzried, Munich: As a news junkie and general fan of the United States, I’m reading a lot about what’s going on in American politics and culture – but it turns out nothing beats actually putting your feet on the ground and meeting the people who shape and report on American life today. Thanks to the RIAS Alumni program, I’m leaving Washington D.C. with a much deeper understanding of the Ukraine war, the threats to American democracy, the strength of the transatlantic relationship and the inspiring work of American journalists during one of the most difficult times in the country’s history. Our schedule was packed, and more than once I had to miss out on a great opportunity (meeting Wolf Blitzer) so I could make it to another (visiting the White House). RIAS does incredible work connecting the media landscapes of the United States and Germany, helping the two grow together and learn from each other. To paraphrase a German phrase: If these RIAS programs didn’t exist, you’d have to invent them!

Iris Ollech, Bonn: Could it become any better, I asked myself after my RIAS alumni trip to NYC in 2021. But this year’s programme even topped the Big Apple. Just days before the midterm elections it offered valuable insights into the political system and society of the US by meeting high profile politicians, analysts, journalists and diplomats. The valuable information, vivid discussions and exchange of views gives me a deeper insight into the „American mind“. But it also destroyed my hope that this politically deeply divided country will not drift even further apart. I would love to be wrong, and hopefully families who no longer talk to each other due to political differences will reunite again around the Thanksgiving table some day. Future RIAS fellows and alumni will observe and try to find answers. For that there is no better journalist program than this. This year it ended on Halloween weekend, and I take home a basket of inspiring memories – only sweet, no sour candies. Thank you RIAS, Erik (for President) and everyone who contributed to this unforgettable journey.

Julius van der Laar, Berlin: Two weeks before the 2022 midterm elections, RIAS provided us with front row tickets to the ultimate horserace for power. America finds itself once again at a crossroads and together with a group of some of the finest journalists and political minds from Germany we got to pull back the curtain and look behind the marble stone facades of Washington’s most prestigious institutions. It was a week-long fact finding mission, jam-packed with enlightening insights and analysis including Pew Research, The Hudson Institute, The Cato Institute and FiveThirtyEight. On top of that we discussed the economic climate, shifting landscapes in foreign relations, the state of American democracy and the heated battle for power in the upcoming midterm cycle. RIAS lined up exchanges with some of the brightest and experienced commentators, including the living CNN legend, Wolf Blitzer but also made sure we had ample time to discuss and reflect on the newly gained insights. A major shout out goes out to our fearless leader Erik and the wonderful team at RIAS for putting together such an amazing experience. I also couldn’t be happier to have spent the week with such an extraordinary, inspiring group of colleagues, who were thoughtful, generous in sharing their wisdom and so much fun to be around. It was a true privilege to be part of the program and I’m grateful to have made some memories for life.

Özcan Mutlu, Berlin: What a week, what an energy, what a spirit! So many great moments I won’t forget! Thank you very much Erik and your entire Team for this amazing program and the amazing people we have met in D.C. I consider myself as a Transatlantiker who also has been following the Obama campaign since back in 2008 in Ohio and the Clinton – Trump race in 2016 in LA. But being in D.C. during the Midterms 2022 and talking to so many distinguished speakers – thanks to RIAS – was astonishing! The RIAS Program is such a great success story! I wrote two books and many articles and comments for papers. As a long-time friend and supporter of the great RIAS Commission, maybe I should write my third book about the great success story of the amazing RIAS Commission and all their effort to build strong bridges of friendship and journalism between our two countries 🇩🇪🇺🇸

Sven Trösch, Munich: 11 years after my first trip to the US with RIAS I had the great honor to return to Washington DC as an alumnus. It was a week packed with eye-opening and inspiring encounters, just a fortnight before the midterm elections. We talked to journalists, political analysts and activists, to politicians and students. I will never forget meeting legendary CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer or discussing Trumpism with Republican congressman Lloyd Smucker. I was amazed by the incredible team spirit of our alumni group and, most importantly, by RIAS’s perfect organization of the program. Thank you so much for making this unforgettable experience possible

Accompanying RIAS Officials

Erik Kirschbaum, Executive Director,  Berlin: The biggest RIAS Berlin Commission group ever may have just had the best program ever.  Forty-two journalists from Germany came to Washington DC with their heads filled with questions, worries, and trepidations about the United States and its future direction but are returning home a week later with their heads and notebooks filled with a wealth of knowledge, many answers, myriad experiences and new friendships that will have satiated their appetite and maybe stilled some of their concerns. Hopefully we have all made new discoveries about the USA and maybe ourselves.  To learn that undocumented immigrants to the United States are so bitterly disappointed with Obama and the Democrats or that Congressman Lloyd Smucker (R-Penn) has seen a huge conservative tilt in his southern Pennsylvania congressional district that we were fortunate to visit as many union workers have shifted from voting for Democrats to voting for his Republican party are among the discoveries. And that CNN anchor and featured RIAS guest speaker Wolf Blitzer once majored in history in college (like me), worked at Reuters (like me) and has closely followed (and admired) modern Germany’s developments and its never-ending efforts to come to terms with its past (like me) was another one of those discoveries. But best of all was watching 42 mid-career journalists from Germany get to know each other and grow together during a busy, appointment-filled week with nary a complaint.  Biggest and best group ever. Thanks everyone for a fantastic week

Christina Reif, RIAS Berlin Commission, Berlin: Being a member of the RIAS team and getting ready to spend a week in Washington with 42 journalists for the first time – I did not really know what to expect. I was simply overwhelmed by the dynamics of this outstanding group – its professionalism, friendliness, acceptance, consistent hunger to learn more and also the ability to simply have fun. I was blown away by the extension of the RIAS network creating amazing opportunities such as meeting Wolf Blitzer, a republican congressman, members of the Amish community or watching president Biden run to his helicopter, just to name a few. On this occasion, I have experienced what RIAS is really about. I am thankful and honored


November 3, 2022

Impressions of Journalists from Germany on USA Program – October 3-21

Here are the impressions that a group of 11 German journalists had recently on their three-week long RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship to the United States. After spending a first week in Washington DC meeting US and German journalists, politicians, think tank experts and political analysts, the group spent a week in New York City meeting more guest speakers from the media, politics, ethnic communities and a Broadway musical actress. They spent a third week on individual fellowships visiting stations across the Midwest, South, and West learning more about how RIAS alumni from the United States do their jobs at their stations.page1image44204032

Damla Hekimoglu, Hamburg

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How do you compress 3 years of journalism into 3 weeks? RIAS: Here we go 💪 I have never had such an intense time with such a multitude of impressions – a three-week program full of both hands-on experiences and meetings with top-notch politicians, researchers and journalists who we were able to bombard with questions. From very touching moments with Gordon Huie, a “triple survivor” of 9/11, to an off-the-record conversation with Harvey Weinstein’s PR advisor who also represents the con-artist and scammer Anne Delvey – also famously known from the Netflix show about her story – to U.S. President Biden himself, who jogged to his helicopter, the Marine One, only a few meters away from us in Top-Gun style. From once-in-a-lifetime moments that not even our U.S. colleagues had experienced so far here in the United States to cultural highlights, fun and sightseeing – we had it all. Eating pizza with a Broadway star and then admiring her on one of the world’s most famous stages? Check. Going live on air on American radio and even sing a birthday song to the show’s host? Check. Taking a deep dive into the community of Hasidic Jews in Williamsburg? Check. Sitting in the Senate of the U.S. Capitol? Check. Even though this wasn’t my first time at this historic site, it was different this time, because being here had a different ring to it: Being in the Capitol, I saw the images of January 6th 2021 in my mind, with the heart chamber of democracy being under threat. It was a moment which reminded me that nobody should ever take democracy for granted. My horizon also broadened in other moments during the 3 weeks in the USA. Be it in the U.S. comparison of ethical and journalistic standards, be it in travels to places steeped in history, or be it in very personal, deep one-to- one conversations with other group members. We laughed and cried together, challenged speakers with our questions and humbly listened to their stories. If you are ready for such a deep dive that will impact you as a human as well as a journalist – I highly recommend the transatlantic Rias program. And even though we hardly had time to sleep and take a deep breath in between – the trip was more than worth it (so says my pedometer, by the way). And I’m sure: some connections I made here are only the beginning of true friendships. THANKS.

Etienne Bell, Cologne

page1image44210064Lifetime experience. There’s no other way I can describe it – and that is only scratching the surface. It could hardly be more intense! We spent incredible days in Washington and New York, had so many brilliant conversations and turned into a family with our group. The visit to the White House (topped off with a short appearance from Joe Biden), the background discussion with ex- Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, the Harlem church service with band and singing in the Abyssinian Baptist Church or the conversation with a 9/11 survivor at Ground Zero were just some of the many highlights. Thank you to Erik, RIAS and the crew for making this possible.”

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Nadja Bobrova, Cologne The 2022 RIAS program in the U.S. was a total “game changer” for me. If someone had told me beforehand that I would be meeting Joe Biden on the White House grounds – I would have laughed in disbelief. If someone told me before the program that I would be eating at the same table with Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyer, and talking about his feelings of remorse – I probably wouldn’t have been able to imagine it. The same goes for meeting and getting to know the wonderful Katy Geraghty, an actress, just before her performance on Broadway – being so casual and relaxed, just an hour before she rocked the stage with full power. To say that the program was enriching is just like nothing at all. It changed the way I look at the United States. While I am still here, I am already planning the next trip to this country full of contradictions. For this experience I thank RIAS and Erik Kirschbaum from the bottom of my heart. Nowhere else in the world I would have been able to see and learn so much in a few weeks.

Janelle Dumalaon, Berlin

From Washington DC, to New York, to South Dakota. These three weeks have been among

page2image44420560the most enriching I have ever experienced. A mix of science, politics, and human interest – and even a little show business – came together for us to teach us more about the United States than we would have ever experienced on our own. We also had the opportunity to tour newsrooms in DC and NYC, to discuss how they covered the news in this increasingly complicated environment. It was fascinating to see what they did differently, and comforting to find what we had in common – that we’re all doing our best to tell the story of our time. I will also never forget my wonderful cohort, or my amazing, generous hosts in Sioux Falls, who helped me report a story on how inflation is affecting South Dakotan farmers ahead of the midterm elections. Thank you RIAS!

Najima El Moussaoui, Cologne

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I don’t think I’ve experienced as many new, exciting and thrilling things in this density in the past three years as I have in the past three weeks in the USA. And that is no exaggeration. Already in the first two weeks in Washington and New York, an insane amount of things happened that will remain in my memory: the visit to the White House in particular and the meeting with a survivor of the 9/11 attacks. Seeing Joe Biden jogging to his helicopter – that’s for the story and the show. By contrast, listening to Gordon Huie, who tried to save lives on 9/11 and lost his sister and since then has trouble sleeping through a night – all of this has a lasting effect. Today is the last day of my third week. I’m drinking a pumpkin spice latte with coconut milk and cream and listening to country music. This is the effect of RIAS after three weeks. I would really like to stay longer – also because my host Yami Virgin in San Antonio (Texas) is doing everything she can to make sure I get the “full experience”. I was allowed to accompany her in her work: officer suicides, shootings involving police officers, and immigrants coming to the U.S. via Mexico. Those are her stories. We had a lot of fun despite the seriousness of them. And: Yami, statistically I will see you again. Thank you RIAS, thank you Erik and his team in Berlin and the USA for this unforgettable experience. Despite the many conversations about cultural differences: “there is more that connects us then divides us.” (Wolfgang Tillmans, MoMA, NYC, 2022)

Tom Garus, Berlin

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When you get chills, joy and watery eyes all at once, something must have gone pretty well with the RIAS exchange program in autumn 2022. RIAS opened doors to me I would never have walked through. Starting literally with the visit of the White House press briefing room in D.C., followed by background talks with controversial characters like Donald Trumps former lawyer Michael Cohen or Harvey Weinsteins PR manager Juda Engelmayer. Learning about the good, the bad and the ugly in the United States, questioning if I ever really new something about this huge country while having a-ha breakthrough moments at the most of the more than three dozen meetings with news correspondents, diplomats, politicians and vanguard media innovators like the New York Times journalists at The Daily. What really was an eye-opener for me was my station week at East Texas TV station KLTV. Here I experienced why Texans don’t want anybody tell them what to do. What their definition of freedom is and how this is embodied in their gun policies and their reluctance to climate change… while believing in the American Dream – not only for themselves but also for the hundreds of thousands incoming migrants. I cannot stress this point enough: The station week really made the difference for me at the RIAS exchange program in autumn 2022.

Kristin Becker, Berlin

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So I thought, I had seen and felt it all… Joe Biden at the White House jogging to Marine One, the floors of the US capitol eerily reminiscent of the insurrection of January 6th, Trump’s Ex-lawyer-turned-enemy Michael Cohen in Park Avenue and Harvey Weinstein’s stoic publicist Juda Engelmeier, the excitement when stepping into the hallowed halls of the New York Times, the immense sadness that still emanates from Ground Zero (thanks so much to Gordon Huie for sharing his heartbreaking story, may the world not forget) and the overall intensity of the city that never sleeps. And than I came to Utah. Where brave journalists at fairly small commercial and even smaller public broadcasting stations try their best to cover a vast territory with very different issues – from traffic incidents (Utah unfortunately has one of the worst hit and run rates in the US), to sports, and, more pressing, to weather and the worsening situation of the Great Salt Lake (which has led to a unique coalition of media outlets sharing their reporting https://greatsaltlakenews.org), the LDS Church, indigenous rights and politics (for the first time in ages there was a close US senate race between an indepedent candidate and a Republican incumbent). Not to forget the award-winning investigative podcasts they produce at KSL – thanks to Sheryl Worsley and Dave Cawley for sharing their insights. Well, and than there is the KSL News Chopper 5… to see the Salt Lake valley and the Wasatch mountains from above made me feel humble, elated, grateful (thumps up to Alex and Ben) and ready to embark onto the next journalistic adventures. Three incredible weeks in Washington D.C., New York City, Salt Lake City with the best travel mates in the world (love you guys!): Thanks so much to RIAS, Erik, Sheryl, Adam and everyone else for making this amazing journey possible.

Jutta Krug, Cologne

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Intense, eye opening and pretty unique – this is my description of the RIAS program. If during one of the first meetings you will think this is definitely the highlight – you will be mistaken. The next day you will have the same thought and the day after as well. And if you think you already know the US – you are mistaken a second time. The US seems so familiar to us since we grew up on US music, movies and ideals. But there is definitely an important “cultural difference“ – so frequently quoted during our stay. Nonetheless – what we really share on both sides of the Atlantic is the perception of a deep crisis we are currently experiencing: the war in the Ukraine, the division and polarisation in the society, the climate crisis and its horrendous consequences. – It all contributes to
a deep feeling of disorientation and foreboding. This is certainly why we all
appreciated the Broadway musical we saw – my personal highlight, really – our German group as well as the American audience: INTO THE WOODS – a mystical story of fairytales and an enchanting nature, of human beings achieving empowerment and self realisation on a collaborative basis. What a dream for all of us.

Mareike Makosch, Mannheim

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“Squeeze the experiences of the last three weeks in a short three to six sentence summary, please.” Honestly, I don’t think the page space of War and Peace would suffice to describe the memories we made, the insights we gained, and the information we absorbed during the RIAS October program of 2022. Not gonna lie: you’ll have to run, you won’t get enough sleep, and you won’t get to process and decompress until you’ve landed back home in Germany. Plus, the initial emptiness afterwards is significant, for me at least. But that is exactly what the RIAS experience is all about: a packed schedule with inspiring talks at NPR radio or The New York Times, high powered guest speakers like Harvey Weinstein’s PR manager Juda Engelmayer, or Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, interesting conversations with fellow journalists about the fragile state of democracy in the US and how it feels to be a correspondent in turbulent times, a new impression of a country I thought I knew, and, last but not least, tons of fun moments. Karaoke will never feel the same without you, my fellow RIAS family. Personal highlight: I actually got to present the news at the local country radio station in Bend, Oregon. What a thrill! This have been three of the most intense weeks of my life, and I loved every second of it.

Marcel Wagner, Cologne

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If I had known how much this programme would bring me, I would have wanted to join much, much earlier. Thanks to the RIAS Commission, to all the great speakers and interviewees and especially to the colleagues from CNN International in Atlanta. The visit there remains my absolute highlight. It is also exciting for me to see how such a large broadcaster works. I sat for hours in the control room and during the programmes in the studio and asked many questions. The programme is different from that of ntv, for example, but the work behind it is similar. I can’t forget the RIAS programme and would take part again at any time.

Annika Witzel, Cologne

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What an incomparable and unique program! The meetings, insights and conversations that we were able to experience cannot be paid for with any money in the world and are only possible due to the incredible RIAS network. Never in my life would I have been able to meet Michael Cohen or Juda Engelmayer, enter the newsroom of NPR or attend a church service in Harlem. Station Week was also educational in its own unique way. I was able to be first-hand at local productions and help out, outside of the somewhat “elitist” bubbles of DC and New York City. A real asset to better understand the US as a complex entity. Another highlight was the very special connection within the group – not only professional relationships have grown here, but friendships for life. A true enrichment for me as a journalist and as a person. Thank you!

Erik Kirschbaum, Executive Director RIAS Berlin Commission, Berlin

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Every group of journalists on a fast-moving two-week-long RIAS Berlin fellowship to Washington DC and New York is different with its own rhythm and dynamics. Yet the October 2022 group of 11 journalists from Germany to the USA may have had an especially outstanding experience because they have such different backgrounds: with family origins in six different countries (Russia, Morocco, Philippines, Turkey, USA and Germany), it has been the most diverse group ever and was in some ways a microcosm of modern Germany itself — with a wealth of different talents. They also came from eastern and western states, from commercial networks and public broadcasting, and ranged in age from baby boomers to millennials. They came well-prepared which greatly enhanced their experience. They got so much out of the packed program with up to five meetings each day and so much from each other as a curious and close-knit group. Great group. Great time. Great experience. Tough act to follow.


October 28, 2022

Biggest alumni program ever for journalists to Washington before midterms

The largest-ever RIAS Berlin Commission alumni group has spent a week in Washington DC learning more about the state of U.S. politics just ahead of the midterm elections. The 42 journalists from alumni chapters across Germany got the chance to learn more in depth about the issues in the election that will shape U.S. policies and politics for at least the next two years. It was the second alumni program for German journalists to the USA after a one-week alumni program to New York in 2021 while American alumni groups have had large programs of about 30 journalists t Berlin in 2019 that coincided with the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and in 2021 to follow the German parliamentary elections. There are 1,900 journalists in the USA and Germany who have take part in regular two- or three-week programs over the last 30 years and the alumni programs are shorter one-week programs designed help keep the spirit of RIAS alive and encourage participants to remain active members of the RIAS alumni network

The alumni program to the USA got off to a flying start with talks at Pew Research showing what a large impact that religion plays on politics in the USA, a visit to WAMU radio and talk with morning host and RIAS alumni Esther Ciammachilli, an in-depth talk about the US midterms with Julius van de Laar, a talk at Deutsche Welle TV with Ines Pohl and her team, and a talk with Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason

Congressman Lloyd Smucker talks to RIAS group

On Tuesday the 42 German journalists travelled three hours north to southern Pennsylvania for an hour-long talk with Republican Congressman Lloyd Smucker, who explained why the second amendment and gun ownership is so important to voters in his district and how his district has shifted over the last 20 years from leaning Democrat to safely Republican in part because the union workers in the area have shifted in the same direction.  The Germans also had the chance to learn more about the Amish settlers in the region thanks to talks with Don Kraybill, Steve M. Nolt and Ben Riehl. The excursion to Pennsylvania was planned and organized by RIAS alumni Tyler Speicher.

On Wednesday the group met Brookings expert on Congress Molly Reynolds, Der Spiegel correspondent Roland Nelles, and Hudson Institute senior fellow Peter Rough. They also got the chance to take part in a university journalism class led by Brandon Benavides, an NBC producer.

On Thursday, guest speakers included Emily Gold and Sarah Blackwell of NBC News and Meet the Press, Gudrun Engel of ARD and Elmar Thevessen of ZDF television. The Germans also had two highlights — a talk by CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer about his film on the Holocaust memorial in Germany “Never Again” and a visit to the White House press room and watching President Joe Biden’s helicopter departure. Biden also stopped by briefly to talk to a few journalists covering his departure who were standing just in front of the RIAS journalists.

Friday’s highlights include a visit to the German embassy, a talk at NPR with Scott Neuman and Domnico Montanaro, a talk with WNBC news anchor Michael Gargiulo and a talk on immigration with Diego Sanchez, director of policy and strategy at the president’s alliance on higher education and immigration.

 

Here is a list of the participants: Charlotte Maihoff, Thielko Griess, Martin Richter, Nadine Gries, Gesine Dornblüth, Daniel Pokraka, Bartosz Dudek, Zlatin Nikov, Björn Heckmann, Michael Kolz, Pia Bierschbach, Iris Ollech, Sven Trösch, Susan Kalmbach, Charlotte Voss, Nina Lammers, Wiebke Keuneke, Andreas Franz, Annette Yang, Dilek Üsük, Kristian Wiegand, Arndt Brorsen, Janelle Dumalaon, Jutta Mueller, Sylvia Warnke, Mirja Fiedler, Julius van de Laar, Gabriele von Moltke, Petra Gute, Gesa Eberl, Catherine Martens, Nadja Kriewald, Isabelle Koerner, Dominik Lauck, Gabriel Fröhlke, Philipp Jahn, Özcan Mutlu, Vladimir Balzer, Gregor Schmalzried.


October 22, 2022

Journalists from Germany get glimpse of USA on RIAS fellowship

Broadway musical star Katy Geraghty talk with RIAS group in New York before her performance as Little Red Riding Hood in “Into the Woods”
Michael Cohen talks with RIAS group in New York one day after his book was published

From Washington DC to New York as a group and then on individual journeys to 10 smaller TV and radio markets across the Midwest, South, and far West — a group of 11 mid-career journalists from Germany spent three weeks learning more about politics, media, business, culture and life in the United States in October. The journalists from public and commercial TV and radio stations across Germany and from six different ethnic backgrounds had the chance to take a deep dive into the United States with up to five meetings per day with journalists, politicians, think tank policy experts, Jewish community leaders, Broadway musical stars, a 9/11 survivor and first rescuer and even Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen.

They had an eye-opening experience learning more about the polarized state of politics in the United States, meeting with voices from both conservative and progressive sides of the spectrum in Washington and New York. They also had the chance to get a birds-eye perspective during their third and final week at “station weeks” across the United States — Milwaukee, Detroit, Chicago, San Antonio, Atlanta, Boston, Sioux Falls South Dakota, Salt Lake City, Tyler Texas, Bend Oregon.

There at their stations the Germans met local politicians, local journalists, local farmers and local people to learn more about the issues and problems facing Americans far away from the East Coast. They had the chance to learn more about how American journalists do their jobs by watching over their shoulders during their shifts or going out on assignments with their American hosts. Some had the chance to go on air on their local radio and TV stations to talk about issues in Germany for the American audiences. Some also got a chance to drive to the US-Mexico border and south of the border with their US hosts to learn more about the migration issue that is becoming more and more of a political hot potato in the United States.

The RIAS Berlin Commission runs two such programs to the United States each year with about 10 German journalists and two similar programs to Germany and Brussels each year with about 10 American journalists. Beyond that, there is one program each March for 15 German students to the USA and one program each June for 15 American students to Germany. Also, RIAS operates two alumni programs each year for up to 30 RIAS alumni in each other’s respective countries.  Please write to info@riasberlin.org for more information.


October 11, 2022

RIAS journalists from Germany meet American counterparts

German journalists on a three-week fellowship to the United States had the chance to meet many of their American counterparts in Washington DC as well as some German foreign correspondents based in the United States during the first five days of their journey to the the USA.

The 11 German radio and TV reporters from across the country talk with Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason at the White House and be part of the press corps for about half an hour that watched President Joe Biden jog over to the Marine One helicopter waiting on the South Lawn before it lifted off. They also learned a lot about the upcoming Midterm elections on November 8 in talks with former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent (R-Penn) and Hudson Institute senior fellow Peter Rough.

During their busy Washington program with four to five appointments each day, the Germans also learned more about the larger role that religion plays on politics in the United States at Pew Research, about the success of video journalism at the Washington Post during a talk with executive editor for original video David Bruns, and about American TV journalism in talks with WUSA9 anchor Larry Miller and reporter Matt Gregory as well as a visit to NPR headquarters.

The German reporters also got to learn about how German journalists report on the USA in talks with ZDF bureau chief Elmar Thevessen, ARD chief correspondent Gudrun Engel, Deutsche Welle journalists Ines Pohl, Carolina Chimoy and Mikaela Kuefner, Der Spiegel correspondents Roland Nelles and Rene Pfizer as well as Christopher Wittich from NTV/RTL. They has met a dozen American RIAS alumni at a lively get-together at the Admiral restaurant.

The Germans then traveled to New York for the second of three weeks before fanning out across the country for the final week to take part in individual station week stops in Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Bend OR, Tyler TX and Sioux Falls SD.

 


October 3, 2022

11 German journalists start three-week RIAS fall program fellowship to the USA

A group of 11 broadcast journalists from Germany started their three-week RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship to the United States on October 3 in Washington DC. After week in the capital city meeting American and German journalists, American politicians, analysts at leading think tanks and research institutes, the group will travel to New York City for another week of meetings there.

They will spend the third week on their own 10 different stations across the United States, looking over the shoulder of American RIAS alumni in Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Boston, Bend OR, Sioux Falls SD and Tyler TX. The Germans will also meet with American alumni at mixers in Washington DC on October 7 as well as in New York on October 12 and October 14. Here is more information on the German participants:

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Damla Hekimoglu, ARD Tagesschau 24, Hamburg

Damla Hekimoglu is an anchorwoman for Germany’s leading news program Tagesschau and tagesschau24 at German public broadcaster ARD. With 22,000 employees, ARD is one of the world’s largest broadcast organizations and Germany’s market leader in news. She also working as an investigative reporter for the WDR network in Cologne. A native of the Rhineland, she has also worked for PHOENIX and BBC World News. She will be doing her station week at WGN TV in Chicago, Illinois.

Etienne Bell, NTV, Cologne

Etienne Bell has been an anchor and reporter for the all-news commercialNTV news network since 2014. A native Rhinelander, Bell also anchors NTV’s “Startup Magazin”. He has anchored a weekly business podcast “Brichta&Bell – Business Simple and Fast” since 2019. Bell also anchors for various multi-platform offers by NTV, such as the Alexa Skill for Amazon Echo. Bell studied “Media Communication and Journalism”. He has been working in journalism since 2006 and also has experience working for commercial and public radio broadcasting.

Nadja Bobrova, ARD Morgenmagazin, Cologne

Nadja Bobrova is a senior editor for the German public broadcaster ARD. She works for the daily morning show, called “ARD MorgenMagazin”. Bobrova has Russian roots as she was born in Moscow and speaks three languages fluently: Russian, German and English. She has been focusing especially on assisting ARD’s coverage of the war in Ukraine and the situation in Russia. She has also worked in the past for German newspapers, such as the Westfälische Rundschau, as well as for commercial networks NTV and RTL. Bobrova also studied abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2013/14. She will be doing her station week at WBUR radio in Boston, Massachusetts.

Janelle Dumalaon, Deutsche Welle, Berlin

Janelle Dumalaon is an anchor, producer and reporter for Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcasting company. She was born in Manila and came to Berlin in 2009. As the creator and lead producer of DW News’ explainer series “Business Beyond”, Dumalaon is especially interested in the events that shape the global economy. She can be found tweeting under @janelledumalaon on business, geopolitics, Germany, and the Philippines. She will be doing her station week at KFSY TV in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Najima El Moussaoui, freelance journalist, Cologne

Najima El Moussaoui is a TV journalist and a freelance anchor. She has also worked as an editor for the news at NTV commercial all-news network, Deutsche Welle (DW) and has been working most recently for the WDR network in Cologne. She was born in Morocco and came to West Germany as a child. She speaks German, English, Spanish, French and Berber. As an author and director, she worked on the documentary film “Islam goes to school” (WDR/ARD). She is a former board member of Germany’s biggest association of media professionals with foreign roots. She will be doing her station week at KABB in San Antonio, Texas.

Tom Garus, RBB, Berlin

Tom Garus is a reporter for the German public broadcaster ARD. He also anchors a TV show (about consumer topics) on RBB, which is the Berlin-Brandenburg local station in the ARD network. Born in east Berlin, Garus is interested in social policy, digitalization and history. Garus will be doing his station week at KLTV in Tyler, Texas

Kristin Becker, ARD, Berlin

Kristin Becker covers political news for the ARD network’s capital city offices in Berlin and reports reports for Germany’s leading news program, Tagesschau. She is also the anchor of the award-winning Tagesschau- Zukunftspodcast “mal angenommen” (“just assuming”) that discusses scenarios and consequences of political ideas in the future – like what happens if there were only electric cars on the road or if the EU had its own armed forces. In the past, she has worked abroad for the foreign and was a member of foreign desk and was a member of the fact-checking team at Tagesschau. She will be doing her station week at KSL in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Jutta Krug, WDR, Cologne

Krug started her journalism career as part of the founding team of the German-French Cultural Channel ARTE, based in Strasbourg. During her studies at Munich University and the German Journalism School, she was able to get an internship working on Capitol Hill in the offices of Congressman John Lewis. She works as a senior editor at WDR now and commissions documentary projects for the public broadcasting network. Some of the titles she has commissioned include “THE CLEANERS” on social media, “THE FORTH ESTATE” on Trump versus the NY Times and “WE ARE ALL DETROIT”. She is looking forward to her station week at WXYZ TV in Detroit.

Mareike Makosch, Radio Regenbogen, Mannheim

Mareike Makosch is the head of news division at German commercial radio stations Radio Regenbogen and Regenbogen 2 in Mannheim. She is the morning show news anchor for Radio Regenbogen. Makosch, who tries to incorporate as much news about the United States as possible into her broadcasts, holds a master’s degree in psychology and specializes in national and international politics. She will be doing her station week at KTVZ TV in Bend, Oregon.

Marcel Wagner, NTV, Cologne

Marcel Wagner is a news anchor at NTV, the all-news channel of RTL News, Germany’s largest commercial network. He also works as a radio and TV anchor for ARD. As a helicopter pilot, Wagner is an expert in aviation, and also covers sports and business topics. He will be doing his station week at CNN in Atlanta, Georgia.

Annika Witzel, WDR, Deutschlandfunk radio, Cologne

Annika Witzel is a freelance radio reporter and editor based in Cologne. She mainly works for the German public broadcasting companies WDR and Deutschlandfunk. Annika works for several WDR radio stations, especially for daily news programs, including 1LIVE, a station focused on young audiences. She also works for the WDR science programs “Quarks”, where she takes on scientific topics and breaks them down into easy-to- understand content. At Deutschlandfunk she is part of the team in charge of the prime time morning show. Annika is especially interested in international relations, pop culture and Social Media Trends and in breaking down all the information in snackable pieces for radio stations and online accounts. She will be doing her station week at PBS in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


September 17, 2022

RIAS fall program to Europe concludes after 12 days

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Ten American journalists completed a 12-day whirlwind trip of four cities in Germany and Brussels on September 17 with two days of meetings in Brussels. The journalists had a total of 41 meetings in Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne and Brussels, learning more about politics, media, culture and life in Germany and in the European capital. They had the chance to talk with German and American foreign correspondents working in Germany and Brussels as well as visit important news organizations such as Deutsche Welle, ARD television, WDR television, WeltTV, Deutschlandfunk radio, Deutschlandradio, NTV, RTL and Der Spiegel.

The Americans also had the chance to meet with American diplomats in Berlin, Hamburg and Brussels as well as talk to senior NATO and EU officials in Brussels. They also had the chance to get a taste of cultural aspects of Germany in meetings with artist Kani Alavi at the East Side Gallery in Berlin and band leader Andrej Hermlin and his American swing dance band.

For several members of the group on their first trip abroad, it was an especially eye-opening experience to learn more about Germany’s history, its efforts to come to terms with its history, and its work as a force for good in Europe and beyond. The members of the group included: Ayan Mittra, The Texas Tribune, Austin, Texas; Anjuli Sastry Krbechek, NPR, Los Angeles; Brittany Silverstein, ABC7, Los Angeles; Deon Osborne, The Black Wall Street Times, Tulsa, OklahomaThomas Demane, CNN International, Atlanta, Georgia; Suzie Herman, KSDK, St. Louis, Missouri; Erika Angulo, NBC News, New York; Ward Colin, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia; Katherine Watkins, Houston Public Media, Houston, Texas; Steph Whiteside, WSIU, Carbondale, Illinois.


September 16, 2022

RTDNA chair-elect Worsley visits RIAS stand at RTDNA convention 

Sheryl Worsley,  who is running as chair-elect of the RTNDA board, stopped by the RIAS Berlin Commission stand on Friday at the RTNDA convention in Indianapolis. Worsley (left), who is also a RIAS alumni from June 2022, met with RIAS board member Michael Gargiulo (right) and US coordinator Pam Ortega (center) at the convention to talk about the German-American exchange program and her election campaign.

Gargiulo and Ortega have been meeting broadcast journalists and journalism students attending the annual convention and talking about upcoming RIAS programs in 2023 and beyond. RIAS is tentatively planning eight programs in 2023 – four in Germany for American journalists and students and four in the United Stats for German journalists and students.

Please keep our 2023 Alumni Program in mind and on your calendar.  It will be in late September 2023 with 4 days in a Munich and 3 in Cologne. RIAS pays hotel costs and several lunches/dinners while up to 30 American alumni are welcome to attend and only need to pay for their own air travel costs.


September 14, 2022

RIAS alumni Worsley running for RTNDA Chair-Elect

Sheryl Worsley is running for the position of Chair-Elect of the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA board), which calls itself the world’s largest professional organization for broadcast and digital journalism. It is also RIAS’s partner (www.rtdna.org) in the United States and has been an important avenue for American fellows to take part in RIAS programs to Europe over the years.

Worsley, Vice President of Podcasting at KSL in Utah, was the News Director at KSL Newsradio for 15 years before moving to an all digital role as Director of Audience development in 2018. She has been a board member of RTNDA for the last 12 years.

The  RTDNA elections run to September 16. Here is more information about the candidates.  The RIAS Berlin Commission caught up with Worsley to ask her about her candidacy and the role that RIAS plays in RTNDA:

Why do you want to become the RTDNA chair-elect?

RTDNA does so much for journalists and for the news reporting industry. An opportunity to serve as chair is one I will not pass up. I have served on the RTDNA board for 12 years, and the organization has come to my aid fighting open records battles and attacks on the First Amendment in my state and region many times. This is my opportunity to volunteer and give back.  

What does the RTDNA chair do?

The chair works in cooperation with the full board and RTDNA staff to ensure journalism is strong. The three pillars of what we do is to First, provide training- a great opportunity for learning and networking is happening this week at our convention, RTDNA22  in Indianapolis. Secondly, RTDNA recognizes, supports and honors excellence in responsible journalism. The National Edward R. Murrow awards are a meaningful and sought-after honor by journalists and take place next month in New York. Lastly, RTDNA  protects against erosion of the First Amendment and fights for open records and government transparency. This is done on the local and national levels.

 What are the challenges facing RTDNA?

Reporters and photojournalists face the crucial challenge of broadcasting and publishing truth in a growing sea of misinformation. We’re doing it while politicians and a segment of our viewers, listeners and readers attack our credibility. Many reporters and staffers put their job first, even when the safety risks increase while covering protests, counter-protests or covering the economic ravages and physical devastation of war and a post-COVID reality. Our constitutionally protected duty to inform the public and documenting truth  in our communities has never mattered more. I’d like to be a part of keeping journalism strong.

What do you bring to the table? What do you think you could do better or to improve it?

I bring a willingness to innovate and look at challenges with a critical and problem-solving eye. RTDNA is a great organization and we respond quickly, but I think there are ways for the organization to be more nimble and change in ways that help newsrooms which have also changed with the audience and market demands of our time. One of the things I love about RTDNA is the networking and support I get from my association with news leaders and journalists all over the country. I’d like to see more of these opportunities.

You have been the Region 3 director on the RTDNA board for 12 years. Where exactly is Region 3? What have you learned from that experience?

Region 3 encompasses 5 states in the intermountain west in the U.S.- Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico. In the twelve years of serving this region I have learned that if we want journalism protected, we must we willing to invest personally in the fight. I worked with the Utah courts and the state media coalition to make sure cameras were allowed in courtrooms. I have testified personally multiple times before our state legislature in support of proposed laws friendly to open records and the first amendment and against those which are not. I have asked RTDNA to enter similar battles in other states in our region and RTDNA has answered the call every time.  

As someone (fourth from left) who has been on the RIAS program, how important is the RIAS fellowship for RTDNA?

The RIAS fellowship is a wonderful opportunity for journalists in both America and Germany to widen their horizons and learn. I personally enjoyed seeing the EU, NATO and learning more about the geo-political forces operating in Europe. These are things that you can learn by scholarship and study, but not in as concrete a way as seeing things first-hand. I am grateful RIAS operated in post WWII, allowing for the free-flow of information to a repressed population. In that spirit, journalists in both the U.S. and Germany are publishing to their audiences with the goal of access to good information for as wide an audience as possible.

I also enjoyed the association with German reporters and the U.S journalists on my trip will carry these wonderful new relationships the rest of my life.

Do you think International exchanges like this are beneficial to US journalists?

Absolutely. Fellowships like RIAS are a way for journalists to not only learn from the ideas of wonderful hosts like the German journalists, but it’s a rare opportunity to self-reflect about their own work. A chance for the journalist to examine what they are doing and what they may be missing or could add. The exchange of ideas and possibilities is invaluable.

You have been working as a journalist for about 20 years. Has that experience helped prepare you for the chair-elect?

I was a news director for 15+ years in a radio newsroom. The leadership opportunities and lessons learned while doing that work I believe have prepared me for this opportunity, should the membership elect me. I’ve also learned some incredible life-lessons and worked with some amazing people. It’s a great thing to watch as people sacrifice their time, skill and talent in the service of informing their community.

 


September 10, 2022

RIAS fellows spend busy week in Berlin on fall exchange program

On an exchange program to learn more about Germany, the European Union and NATO, a group of 10 American journalists from across the United States spent a whirlwind week in Berlin during the first half of their two-week RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship. The journalists from TV and radio stations as well as academia from across the United States but especially from outlets in the Midwest and South had up to five meetings per day with German journalists, politicians, political analysts, artists, think tank experts, Ukrainian refugees and immigrants to Western Europe’s largest country.

They had the chance to ride along the Berlin Wall bike trail through the heart of the city that was divided by the Cold War, talked to NPR Berlin correspondent Rob Schmitz and tour the Reichstag parliament building as well as watched its spectacular multimedia light show beamed on parliament buildings across the Spree River.

They also met German journalists Jan Philipp Burgard, Vladimir Balzer, Marcus Pindur, Erkan Arikan, Michael Kolz and Deutsche Welle Director General Peter Limbourg along with Canadian anchor Terry Martin. The Americans, many of whom were one their first trip outside the United States, also had the chance to visit the US Embassy near the Brandeburg Gate for illuminating high-level meetings and the Stasi memorial prison in east Berlin where political prisoners were kept during the dark days of the Cold War.

Also talking with the Americans were German-Iranian artist Kani Alavi, who talked about the history of the East Side Gallery open air art exhibit along a mile-long stretch of the Berlin Wall.

They also visited Potsdam in formerly Communist East Germany as well as the Sachsenhausen concentration camp before listening to a American Swing Dance band led by Andrej Hermlin. The group will be traveling to Hamburg on Sunday for more meetings with German journalists, to Cologne on Tuesday and finishing their journey with three days in Brussels and meetings with EU and NATO officials on Thursday and Friday.

 


August 24, 2022

10 American journalists headed to Europe for two-week RIAS fellowship

A group of 10 American journalists from across the United States will take part in the September 4-17 RIAS Berlin Commission fellowship. The mid-career American journalists will spend the two weeks in four cities — Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne and Brussels — and learn more about journalism, politics, security and cultural issues in Germany and the European Union during the fast-faced fellowship.

In Berlin they will meet leading German journalists, American correspondents working in Germany, news organization managers, diplomats, politicians, political activists, artists, musicians as well as refugees and immigrants from Ukraine and Palestine. In Hamburg, the Americans will meet diplomats, journalists and learn more about the city’s famous harbor and Reeperbahn district where the Beatles got their start in the early 1960s. In Cologne, the Americans will meet German broadcast journalists in the country’s most important TV capital city and in Brussels they will meet NATO officials, European Union officials as well as American correspondents working in the EU capital city.

The RIAS Berlin Commission was created in 1992 to keep alive the spirit of the legendary Cold War-era broadcasting company known as “Radio in American Sector” that beamed news, information and music into Communist East Germany as well as to listeners in West Berlin. From 1988 to 1992 RIAS was also a popular TV station. After RIAS went off the air in 1992, the United States and German governments created a binational organization called RIAS Berlin Commission to promote exchanges in broadcast journalism between the two countries.

Here is a list of the participants in the September fellowship:

Ayan Mittra, The Texas Tribune, Austin, Texas

Ayan Mittra is senior managing editor at The Texas Tribune, where he has worked for 10 years. He helps oversee the Tribune’s enterprise coverage and many Tribune projects. He oversees the newsroom’s expansion into various parts of the state. He is a leader in the newsroom’s collaborations with business colleagues and media partners. Before joining the Tribune, Mittra worked more than 10 years at The Dallas Morning News.

Anjuli Sastry Krbechek, NPR, Los Angeles

Anjuli Sastry Krbechek is an award-winning podcast and radio producer. She is a senior producer at LAist Studios, the podcasting arm of NPR member station KPCC in Los Angeles, California. She is the creator, producer and host behind Where We Come From, an audio and video series telling stories by and for immigrant communities of color, which she created while on a Nieman Journalism Foundation Fellowship through Harvard University.

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Brittany Silverstein, ABC7, Los Angeles

Brittany Silverstein is an Emmy award-winning journalist based in California. She works as a producer at ABC7 Los Angeles and has more than a decade of experience working in local TV newsrooms across the United States. Silverstein hopes to gain a broader perspective on Germany and Europe on the RIAS Berlin Commission program so she can bring that knowledge back to her newsroom.

 

Deon Osborne, The Black Wall Street Times, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Deon Osborne is managing editor of The Black Wall Street Times. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media from the University of Oklahoma and previously wrote for the OU Daily and Red Dirt Report. Osborne enjoys covering diverse communities, with a particular interest in the intersection of race and criminal justice.

Thomas Demane, CNN International, Atlanta, Georgia

Thomas Demane is a newscast producer for CNN International, based at CNN World Headquarters

in Atlanta, Georgia. He manages and produces a number of international and domestic newscasts for CNN. Demane is a specialist in global news events, news producing, news gathering and oversees a team of news writers and editors.

 

Suzie Herman, KSDK, St. Louis, Missouri

Suzie Herman is a senior producer at KSDK in St. Louis, MO.

She oversees the late news. In her more than 20 years as a producer she has produced just about every newscast. Herman is a three-time Emmy award winner, including one for her work on a documentary following the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Erika Angulo, NBC News, New York

Erika Angulo is a journalist and a coordinating producer for NBC News. She oversees logistics and editorial content in the field. She spent three months recently covering the war in Ukraine. She reported on survivors and the determination of soldiers fighting Russian troops across Ukraine. She has won national awards, including an Edward R. Murrow for breaking news coverage of the Ft. Lauderdale mass shooting in 2017 and two Emmys for her investigative

stories on cartel drug trafficking at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Ward Colin, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia

Ward Colin is an Adjunct Professor and Coordinator of Student Media at Kennesaw State University. He has a Bachelor’s in Mass Communication from Dillard University and a Master’s of Mass Communication from Louisiana State University. Previously he worked at radio and television stations in Louisiana. Colin enjoys mentoring journalism students and looks forward to helping diversify the journalism field.

Katherine Watkins, Houston Public Media, Houston, Texas

Katie Watkins is the environmental reporter for Houston Public Media, the NPR member station in

Houston, Texas. Her work on environmental and energy issues in Texas has appeared on NPR, Marketplace, & Here & Now. She also produced the award-winning podcast Fire Triangle, which looked at chemical disasters in the state. She has a decade of experience working in multimedia newsrooms in Chile, the US, and London.

Steph Whiteside, WSIU, Carbondale, Illinois