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February 13, 2024

Helena Kane Finn joins RIAS Berlin Commission board

Helena Kann Finn, a career diplomat at the U.S. Department of State, has rejoined the supervisory board of the RIAS Berlin Commission. Dr. Finn previously, as Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, served as chair and co-chair of the German-American exchange program for broadcasting journalists from 2007-2010. She also remained on the board as one of the five American commissioners on the Berlin-based binational organization until 2020, often helping visiting German journalists taking part on RIAS programs in New York. She served as President of the DAAD/AA USA German-American academic exchange board from 2019 – 2022, prior to that, she held the position of Vice President of the American Council on Germany, based in New York, from 2010 to 2017.

In her three decade career at the State Department, Dr. Finn was also Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv (2003-2007) and before that Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (2000-2001), where she was responsible for the State Department’s global academic, professional and youth exchanges, including Fulbright and the International Visitor program. She has also served overseas as Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, the U.S. Embassy in Vienna and was the Public Affairs Officer and Director of the Amerika Haus in Frankfurt-Main. She has been the desk officer for Greece, Turkey and Cyprus following culture affairs tours in Lahore and Islamabad, Pakistan.


January 22, 2024

Deadline nears for RIAS Berlin Media Prize competition entries on January 31

Journalists in the United States and Germany are invited and encouraged to submit entries by January 31, 2024 for the $10,000 RIAS Media Prize competition. It’s a 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 2023 — anything from political campaigns in the USA from a German perspective, the impact of the climate crisis on both countries or interesting stories on any other issue with a transatlantic angle.

The 2024 winners in the radio, TV and digital categories are invited to take part in the gala awards ceremony in Berlin on June 3, 2024. 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, 2024 in February and the winners will be announced shortly 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 Wolf Blitzer from CNN, 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 about 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
  •   stood 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 24, 2023

Call for Entries for the 2024 RIAS Media Prize

Winners of the RIAS Media Prize 2023
Winners of the RIAS Media Prize 2023

After Wolf Blitzer of CNN won the 2023 Grand Prize of this year’s RIAS Media Prize competition, the RIAS Berlin Commission has once again opened the annual competition for the 2024 awards with a Call for Entries.

RIAS Grand Prize Winner 2023 Wolf Blitzer holding his trophy

Journalists in Germany and the United States are encouraged to consider submitting stories they have done or worked on (or saw or heard or know about) that aired in 2023 — outstanding stories that touched upon a transatlantic issue or had a global message. Many of the recent winners have learned about the RIAS Media Prize thanks to word-of-mouth – including CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

The prizes will honor outstanding stories broadcast in 2023. There will be a total of $10,000 (10,000 EUR) in prize money awarded for exceptional radio, TV and digital stories that touch upon a transatlantic topic – including stories about Germany that appear in US media and stories about the United States that appear in German media. There is also a category for best fellow prize to be awarded to journalists who did their reporting on a RIAS fellowship or were inspired to do their story or stories on RIAS fellowship in recent years.

The RIAS Media Prize is designed to strengthen the diversity of transatlantic dialogue and deepen interest in German-American relations.

The deadline for entries is January 31, 2024

Ideally the contributions submitted should:

  • go beyond daily and routine reportings
  • promote dialogue on similarities and differences
    between the two countries
  • stand out thematically and/or in their executionhematically 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

The RIAS Berlin Commission is planning to have the annual awards ceremony honoring the winners in Berlin on June 3.

Here is more information about the RIAS Media Prize.


November 3, 2023

RIAS Alumni reflect on week spent in Los Angeles 

Twenty-three German alumni spent a week in Los Angeles learning about California politics, national politics and journalism in the US The program included visits to NBC, NPR, ARD, KABC, KTLA and meetings with LAist journalists.   In addition the group met with former Governor Pete Wilson and Richard Grenell, former United States Ambassador to Germany.

Damla Hekimoğlu, Hamburg

Los Angeles – it might seem like a world for the rich and famous. However, this image is showing some cracks. The massive wealth gap – it’s worrisome. We saw this on the first day of the trip. We started on Skid Row: one of the most dangerous places in America, tents to the right and left where people sleep, the streets are filthy, a pungent odor in the air from people who probably haven’t showered for weeks or maybe even months . Approximately 15,000 homeless people live here, some of them are addicted to hard drugs. Violence is part of their daily life – the place, as we were told, the police have all but abandoned. In sharp contrast, just a few hours later, we found ourselves in a splendid office building in Beverly Hills. A fresh scent as you enter the lobby, velvet sofas on both sides, the floor so clean you could probably eat off it. At the shiny marble table, the focus was not on the existential struggle for survival as in Skid Row but on matters related to major statewide politics. Bringing these two experiences and images together in your mind and processing them – it’s a real challenge. Private conversations afterwards with other RIAS alumni who felt something similar helped us come to terms with all that. And that’s exactly what enriches the journey – in addition to all the exciting appointments with major players in LA, it’s the multifaceted perspectives of RIAS alumni that broaden horizons, provoke thought, and inspire us all. Because we see this first hand: Hollywood is showing cracks. The Hollywood Museum – still fascinating but somewhat outdated, the Walk of Fame remains impressive – but not quite up to date in a time when some social media influencers receive more attention than the classic Hollywood stars of yesterday. The presence of these cracks was also experienced firsthand on the way to NBC, just a few meters away from Disney and Netflix – people walking around with posters, chanting slogans. Actresses and actors from the SAG-AFTRA union have been on strike for months, demanding better pay, increased production budgets – and resisting the potential replacement by Artificial Intelligence. Films featuring AI versions of actors could become a reality in the future. The text here could already be AI-generated, and a trip to Los Angeles – one can already experience it from the comfort of their home using a VR headset. However, what will remain, at least for now, are the real encounters we had, which no AI can replace. Thanks to everyone who made this possible.

Gesa Eberl, Cologne

How do you manage to go live on air with 25 German journalists on a local station? The Americans make it easy. They are masters of improvisation, repartee and entertainment, especially in the media! And so, during a visit to KTLA, thanks to host “Lu Parker,” we simply stood at the anchor desk for the end of the show! Between Beverly Hills and Skidrow, neutral political analysts and Republican hardliners, between striking actors and German cultural fellows in Villa Aurora and the Thomas Mann House, between burgers and tacos, between sandy beaches and hills – A journey to a city full of contrasts, but which represents the variance, the beauty and the brutal dark side of the whole country and thus the brokenness. Los Angeles has also changed in recent years. Glamor was then, today the red carpet remains empty. The RIAS Commission made it possible for us to have a week that is second to none. Without the warm support of the US alumni, we would not have had this intensive insight into the metropolis of millions from all the different perspectives! How grateful we can be to belong to this network. Colleagues who become heartfelt encounters in the US as well as in this country. Thank you to all who helped organize this trip. Thank you #riascommission

 Anja Heyde, Berlin

We’re on the bus. In Los Angeles! Everyone warned us about this. They said it was too dangerous. Well, first and foremost, bus rides in Los Angeles are one thing: long. Everything takes time in LA That’s the first thing I learned on this RIAS trip.

And that you can go by bus from the most luxurious part of town to the poorest. The 720 goes from Beverly Hills to Skid Row. We took it several times because you can appreciate the extremes of this country on this one ride. Even without getting off.

But we got off many times. Not only in skid row. Probably the hardest appointment of our RIAS trip. To see how a small team without government funding tries to fight homelessness in LA is at the same time impressive and terrifying.

And we got off at 7abc news, at the mayor of Beverly Hills, at NBC, at Garry South, a political strategist, at the Wende Museum and at the Thomas Mann House.

We were wanderers between the extremes. Between the California lifestyle and tent cities on sidewalks. Doors were opened to us that explained America a little better again – with all its contradictions. Thank you RIAS, for this great experience!

Christian Wilp, Berlin

10,000 cameras ensure full transparency. 10,000 cameras on traffic lights, buildings and power poles in a city with 34,000 inhabitants. And the population, says the police chief, fully supports this China feeling in Beverly Hills, California. The problems of the greater Los Angeles area, such as crime and homelessness, are thus largely kept at bay, but have not been eliminated.

Fortunately, our tour group is anything but camera shy. Most of the participants of this RIAS alumni tour work in front of or behind a camera, so the hotel location in the middle of the showcase village with the euphonious name is perfectly chosen.

From Maison 140, as our boutique hotel is called, the cosmos of LA is explored a bit. By Uber, Lyft, on foot and, quite crazy, by bus or even bicycle. It’s straight into the wilderness of contradictions. To Skid Row, where thousands camp out in tents on the street. To sophisticated Pacific Palisades to the residences of the Feuchtwangers and Manns. To various radio stations that are desperately trying to fight social media. To Hollywood, which has definitely seen better days. And last but not least, to the convention center around the corner, where the left-wing, right-wing and centrist talking heads vividly illustrate the country’s divisions.

In short: a week of pressure refueling with content from politics, society and culture. And all of this under the banner of the RIAS Berlin Commission. Its tireless as well as intrepid representative Erik Kirschbaum manages to breathe turgid life into the dry talk of “promoting transatlantic relations.”

PS: For sure, the cameras also recorded the strange movement profile of the German squad. I wonder what the officers were thinking?

Susan Falkenstein, Munich

By bus from glamorous Beverly Hills to streets full of homeless tents to the dangerous neighborhood of Skid Row. Such contrasts presented themselves on the RIAS alumni trip to Los Angeles. We exchanged ideas with Jürgen Klinsmann, the ex-coach of the German national soccer team. He explained why his new South Korean team recently lost a match: Because a younger player, conscious of tradition, didn’t want to tell an older player what he was doing wrong. We met US alumni who, inspired by the RIAS spirit, gave us a tour of their television stations, NBC and KTLA. The meeting with the ex-US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, remains in the memory. In Trumpian fashion, he enumerated alleged facts: Corona was a kind of flu and China had a mature peace plan for Ukraine. He parried objections from our side with the sweeping sentence that all German journalists are “lefties.” The USA, Los Angeles, a country, a city of contrasts, that’s what I took with me from this special RIAS trip and the memory of the special journalists with whom I was able to share my experiences. Thank you RIAS!

Andreas Büttner, Berlin

After I had my RIAS Station Week in Los Angeles last year, it was clear to me: I have to be there for the Alumni Program this year in LA. On the one hand, to see my host Frank Mottek again. On the other hand, to get to know more about this fascinating city and its people. What kind of organization manages to host meetings with the former governor of California, the homeless charity on Skid Row, the mayor of Beverly Hills, the former US ambassador to Germany and many, many TV stations in one week? I can tell you: RIAS can do it! But what really makes this alumni program is not the Los Angeles weather. It’s not just the high-level meetings with politicians and institutions. It’s above all: that you get to share these experiences with such incredibly great journalists from Germany. I am infinitely grateful for every new acquisition and draw so much strength from it for my job and my private life. I look forward to participating in future alumni programs. These programs give many journalists the opportunity to get to know these unforgettable trips and impressive people.

Florian Sädler, Berlin

The idea to gather a handful of former RIAS fellows and send them to the US through an Alumni program turned out to be great. To me, one of the best things with RIAS is the people you meet, the connections you make – but since the network spreads across various cities, even countries, it is usually hard to get to know too many alumni outside of your usual circles.

Our LA trip did just that: gather a bunch of alumni that otherwise would have never come as close as we did on this one-week trip. The appointments were great too, as usual, giving valuable insights and kickstarting at least a story or two that would have remained untold if it was not for this trip.

I believe RIAS trips are fundamental. There is no better way to strengthen connections or even friendships among its fellows, as well as transatlantic understanding.

Annette Yang, Hamburg

A place of longing. Now we are right in the middle of it: 25 journalists in Hollywood.

We experience a city that still thrives on the glamor of days gone by: peeling plaster on historic buildings, time seems to stand still at the Hollywood Museum, the posh Jonathan Club maintains the old school.

And we meet people who are looking ahead: to get the homeless off the streets, to connect the city through public transit, to lead the media industry into the future.

Beverly Hills 2023: A Cliffhanger!

Thank you RIAS for these insights.

Theresa Greim, Munich

You will see the good, the bad and the ugly of Los Angeles. This promise, which we were told when we arrived, was 100% fulfilled. It started with the good: Our boutique hotel was located in Beverly Hills, surrounded by beautiful and well-maintained apartment buildings, mansions and restaurants where police officers sometimes serve pizza to the community for a charity event. Handsome and courteous, perfect for a souvenir photo. Some even went for a drink on the rooftop of the Waldorf Astoria with its fantastic views // “All I want to do is have some fun until the sun comes up on the Santa Monica Boulevard.” (Sheryl Crow) // The bad and the ugly are just a bus ride away. The extent of homelessness in LA is nowhere more apparent than on Skid Row. People living in tents on the littered, smelly sidewalks. The city still doesn’t seem to have a solution to the drugs, the violence and all the human misery. // “At least I have her love, the city, she loves it, lonely as I am, together we cry.” (Red Hot Chili Peppers) // Besides the good, the bad and the ugly, we were once again shown how incredibly valuable the program of the RIAS Commission is. It is the exclusive appointments with interesting politicians like Julian A Gold, Mayor of Beverly Hills, strategists like Garry South and Hollywood insiders like Frank Fastner. In addition, we gained a glimpse into the American media landscape, and some even made it briefly onto KTLA’s midday newscast. But above all, it’s the enriching conversations with our US colleagues. It helps to create a world of understanding. This one week with RIAS will resonate with me for a long time to come. // “I can feel the rhythm play. The whole night long. Guess I’ll stay in LA, and listen to this song.”(BBKing)

Julia Rubner, Dresden

Bus 720 takes us from rich to poor, from Beverly Hills to Skid Row. The driver stops too late, and so a throng of German journalists, dressed conspicuously passably, wanders through the squalor. Past people who are undoubtedly not well, past tents on sidewalks, past shopping carts full of belongings. The journey in a city of extremes cannot begin in a more eye-opening way. On this day we meet Reverend Andy Bales, the head of the Union Rescue Mission, who is trying with his team to alleviate some of the suffering. Many encounters will follow on the trip. We met the mayor of Beverly Hills, police officers, political strategists and analysts, artists at the Villa Aurora and the Thomas Mann House. Colleagues open doors for us at NBC, NPR, KTLA, KABC and the ARD studio.

Thank you RIAS and our hosts for this great alumni week in LA, thank you for exciting insights into the US-American way of life and especially thank you for this unique network of colleagues. Every encounter with you has inspired me and it will remain unforgettable. See you in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Cologne, Munich – or even in LA, who knows. And if you are in Dresden, let me know. You are very welcome. Always.

Frauke Holzmeier, Cologne

Los Angeles – what a ride! Between art, culture, politics and social differences. It’s hard to believe how many different experiences and impressions fit into just under a week. Thanks to everyone who made this trip possible!

LA is definitely a city of contrasts. 50,000 people live on the streets here. Especially on Skid Row, you can see what that means for people. It’s all the more encouraging to see the important work Union Rescue Mission is doing to pave a way back for as many people as possible.

On the other side, rich, clean Beverly Hills with the glamor of old Hollywood. The police are upgrading technologically – 2,000 cameras monitor the goings-on in the city of 35,000. Everything for safety! And you can definitely feel safe in Beverly Hills. From discussions with former US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the mayor of Beverly Hills to RTL reporter Frank Fastner – the diversity of the conversations was just great! In addition, many visits to TV stations with once again many good discussions and impressions. Thank you, RIAS! These experiences are simply priceless!

Birgit Becker, Cologne          

What impressed me most on my second RIAS trip?

The people, so different from each other, represent the enormous range in the USA: we met successful people, people on their way to success, people with hopes – and also some without any hope. In the slum Skid Row and in dignified neighborhoods in Pacific Palisades. In the luxury district of Beverly Hills and in colorful Venice on Muscle Beach.

Many of them are immigrants who have found a new home in the US. They came from Germany and many other countries, fleeing hunger, poverty and political persecution. Or they came because they want to live the American dream in America, in Hollywood. For so many, the USA was and is a place of longing and a place of refuge. But not all of them manage to gain a foothold there.

(Okay, Thomas Mann wasn’t quite a typical refugee; when he came to the US from Europe in 1940, he had already won the Nobel Prize – and he left the US again in 1952, during the McCarthy era, when he became suspected of being a dangerous leftist).

We met inspiring people who have been hosting successful morning shows or evening shows and producing news in the highly competitive US TV market for many years. People who fervently adore Trump, people who are close to Hollywood greats like Schwarzenegger, smart strategists in US politics, people who have dedicated their lives to charity without regard for their own health. Intellectuals, artists and the German Consul General, who wants to explain to those in Berlin what makes Americans on the West Coast tick. And we saw Putin, as an installation in an abandoned checkpoint in Berlin – in the Wende Museum.

Above all, we met incredibly friendly and helpful colleagues who tirelessly made sure that we RIAS people got to know good conversationalists and reflected attitudes, and always stopped at the right photo spots.

Many thanks to everyone who made this trip possible! You all provided me with lasting impressions and a deeper understanding of the USA and Angelinos.

What remains for me? The resolution to keep in touch with RIAS colleagues in Germany – and to continue to show colleagues from the USA how we work in the media in Germany. I look forward to meeting new and familiar colleagues in Cologne and wherever we meet!

Marcel Grzyb, Cologne

Los Angeles – city of angels and shattered dreams, of stars and the lost. Probably nowhere else in the Western world are glamor and bitter reality so close together. For us journalists, the RIAS program once again provided unique opportunities: To immerse ourselves in the society and politics of the US West Coast, to meet exciting interlocutors and to get to know great colleagues from the US and Germany. Valuable memories and contacts that remain.

Lydia Leipert, Munich

Sun, palm trees, Beverly Hills. Sure, you know the picture from various series with the unhappily rich stars. Our RIAS alumni group was able to take a deep look into the world-famous city, which is part of LA County. We were able to learn what makes people around Rodeo Drive tick not only with the help of our great host Frank Mottek, but also, for example, during an informational speed-dating session with the city’s marketing director, a senior police officer, a chamber of commerce representative and the mayor of the city himself.

With a population of about 32,000, Beverly Hills has fewer residents than my hometown of Memmingen in the Allgäu region, but of course a very different urban structure: densely paved with high-end hotels and expensive boutiques, Beverly Hills is a “luxury city” trying to reinvent itself after Covid and worldwide conflicts.

But this appointment is only a fraction of the diverse and exciting program that the German journalists were able to experience. And quite incidentally, LA captivated us with its diversity: The shear area of ​​the super metropolis alone was impressive, but thanks to Erik Kirschbaum we didn’t shy away from public transportation – I was even able to ride a bike several times (this is the moment when the Angelenos shake their heads, because that’s completely crazy for the city’s residents).

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all the alumni who helped organize and of course to the entire team at RIAS. It was an unforgettable week.

Gregor Schmalzried, Munich

Los Angeles is not just known as the City of Angels, but also as the City of Dreams: the place to move to for big swings and big opportunities. On our RIAS alumni trip to Los Angeles, that promise still held true. However, these days, dreams in LA have little to do with the Hollywood glamor of old. The dreams of stardom, paparazzi frenzies and red carpets are gone, and have given way to dreams of the startup world, of the AI ​​revolution, of luxury consumer retail and of affluent social circles, aiming to separate themselves from the struggles of US inner cities (both socially and physically). As the world has changed, so has Los Angeles. And yet, in other ways, Los Angeles hasn’t changed all that much. The city is still centered around car traffic and Downtown LA’s many beautiful outdoor spots are almost never frequented by the people who actually live or work there — instead becoming gathering spots for groups of German tourists, or at least, in our case, German journalists. Thanks to the amazing RIAS alumni program, I left Los Angeles immersed in the culture and energy of the city, still replaying fascinating conversations with businesspeople, journalists and politicians in my head. Despite LA’s shortcomings (which most residents will acknowledge frequently), you can’t help but leave the city with the feeling that the echoes of the American Dream are still alive and, somehow, anything’s possible. Although, that feeling may also be about RIAS.

Dania Maria Hohn, Hamburg

Until two years ago I had never been to the US. RIAS made it possible. And RIAS did it again. My second first time in the US. With the extraordinary Rias alumni program in Los Angeles – an experience I will never forget.

 

I’ve met people, I never would have gotten the chance to meet (from mayors to anchors to my wonderful alumni group). Saw places I never would have thought to visit (Skid Row, Clippers Game or on air at the KTLA studio). And learned about the complexity and challenges (“or opportunities”) of Los Angeles, which I have only known from movies and shows.

The very first day of RIAS in Los Angeles showed me the immense value the alumni program offers. We went to Skid Row, one of the most dangerous streets in the US. Where Rev. Andy Bales fights homelessness and drug abuse. An almost impossible fight. We got to see the streets covered with tents while driving back downtown. Where we then met entrepreneurs for lunch in the exclusive Jonathan club. Two appointments back to back, two realities, one city. Hollywood is suffering. “The glamor is done”, we hear from the inside. But if you look close enough, you can find it. Hidden almost everywhere. From the Beverly Hills Hotel to the rooftop of every building in Los Angeles. And at Venice beach surrounded by amazing people with a Margarita in hand. I am so grateful to be a RIAS alumni.

Friedrich Steffes-lay, Berlin

It is well known that the United States of America is a country of extremes. But no newspaper report, podcast or TV documentary can explain it to you like personal experience on the ground. Thanks to RIAS, we spoke with the mayor of Beverly Hills, encircled by the flagship stores of Louis Vuitton & Co. And saw the misery of Skid Row, where homeless people and junkies house in tent cities ignored by the city. We spoke with Democratic kingmaker Garry South and Republican Trump ultra Richard Grenell. The fact that I was able to do this just a year after the great student program with the alumni program meant a lot to me and was very valuable for my journalistic horizons. And to keep the spirit alive, RIAS alumni Florian Sädler and I flew directly from Los Angeles to Kentucky afterwards, to dive straight into the next extreme.

Simone de Manso, Brussels, NATO Press Officer

Time flew during this exciting week thanks to the efforts of our RIAS friends and the hospitality of our hosts in Los Angeles. “We are not LA”, we heard from city hall officials in our temporary home Beverly Hills, happy to highlight how lucky we were to be there. As the mayor explained, Beverly Hills is a major luxury travel destination and the planned opening of a metro station there will increase access of individuals transiting through the LA network, making the “borders more porous” which is likely to bring changes. So far Beverly Hills is nearly the only neighborhood in the LA area exempt from ‘unhoused communities’. The population is aging and there is an effort to attract young investors, however a main obstacle is affordable housing, which is a challenge elsewhere as well. The housing problem in LA is visible from downtown to side streets in Santa Monica, with people surviving in tents on the sidewalks. As part of LA’s diverse media landscape, broadcasters compete with each other also in Spanish, a first language for 20% of the city’s population. We learned more about this large audience by meeting the anchor of the 5am to 7am program of KMEX Univision, who kindly joined us in the morning just after a whole night’s work. During the week we also were warmly welcomed at the TV studios of KTLA and KABC, two leading broadcasters in LA. KTLA is located next to the Sunset Bronson studios. Where there was once a film set with horses for the production of cowboy sagas, is now a neatly decorated parking lot with blue flower shrubs. Right at the entrance, a picket line with striking actors wearing matching t-shirts looked more like a party than a protest. And yet the actors’ strike had been going on for a very long time. Rising costs in LA are driving film production to other cities, while new technologies are perceived as a threat to actors and film workers’ revenues. Silicon Beach is where new technologies are thriving and the city is reinventing itself. In Santa Monica we visited DNE, a start-up developing immersive content technology for the film industry. This was our first experience with what is called “extended reality” and felt like a step into a not too far away future. The global media landscape is changing rapidly, and LA is at the forefront. Coverage of celebrities has been a main focus of journalists in Los Angeles for decades. However, with the advent of online influencers, celebrities no longer need to give television interviews to promote their films or shows. They can address the public directly online, with meticulous full control of their image, down to the lenses employed to take their pictures. As we heard from a long-standing independent TV producer, the time for celebrities on TV is over. Overall TV viewership keeps dropping and TV streaming seems to be the only way to keep young viewers on board. Thanks to the RIAS network, We also had an insightful discussion with a high-ranking diplomat from the former US administration and a stimulating exchange with a professor whose website starts with “Dan Schnur Helps You Make Sense of a Confusing Political World”. According to him, people today are in general alienated, geo-politically frightened and exhausted; and polarization in the United States is just a symptom of this. We visited the historic Jonathan Club in downtown LA and the Wende Museum in Culver City, dedicated to the Cold War; the art deco Hollywood Museum, where Max Factor turned Marilyn Monroe into an iconic blonde, the Villa Aurora where Lion Feuchtwanger lived for over a decade and the house of Thomas Mann in Pacific Palisades, both today venues for fellowship programs for artists and scholars. This was a week where I had the great pleasure to meet fellow alumni and American hosts that I want to remain in touch with, and that brought new insights about the media industry as well as intriguing questions about what will follow. Thank you RIAS!

Anna-Maria Schuck, ZDF 

Los Angeles, the city of stars, of high hopes – and of shattered dreams. For me, Los Angeles is just that: a city of contrasts, reflecting the many voices of this so unequal US society like a kaleidoscope. Dazzlingly beautiful and roughly run-down. To be able to experience this contradictoriness up close in so many different encounters between Beverly Hills and Skid Row in such a short time is a real privilege. Thanks to RIAS, thanks to a wonderful group. One week in La La Land has been a blast and a real privilege!

 

Wiebke Keuneke, Berlin

Los Angeles has everything your heart desires: sun, beach, sea, stars, big mansions and a casual vibe. Especially on the first day we experienced the contrast between wealth and poverty within a very short time. We start in Skid Row, where thousands of homeless and unfortunately very often drug addicted people live on the streets. Investors, by the way, continue to build apartments here, except that no one wants to move here because it is far too dangerous for them. For the homeless, of course, these luxury apartments are far too expensive. So what happens? The homeless people camp out with their tents on the sidewalks in front of the vacant apartments…. This is hard to understand, much like the subsequent appointment at the Jonathan Club, which is a scant two kilometers from Skid Row and whose one- time admission fee is $85,000. In short, Los Angeles has it all – just not for everyone.

Elena Kuch, Hamburg/Berlin

Los Angeles is one of those cities that you feel like you know very well. So many iconic places: The palm trees on the side of the boulevards, a pool painted by David Hockney, the Hollywood Hills, or just a hot dog stand that has been in many movies. Because of the cultural influence, the USA is close to me. But every time I’m there, I realize that I’m actually not that familiar with it. Thanks to the RIAS network, some doors have been opened for us: We met a real Beverly Hills cop. We learned that the population of Beverly Hills has grown very old, and that this city of cars doesn’t seem to have a real idea for a traffic turnaround yet. And Hollywood? “The paint is off,” said one of our conversation guests. The doors of Universal Studios were also opened for us. But inside: Standstill because of the Actor Strike. And at TV and radio stations, similar uncertainty as in our newsrooms, because fewer and fewer people are consuming broadcast media. NBC is uploading its own newscasts to YouTube, and NPR is considering whether the future lies more in linear media again, because podcasts have so much competition. In the meantime, however, they continue to produce excellent journalism. Because California is also known for being a trendsetter, I’m confident that great ideas for the future will soon be forged here again: For journalism, the city and the film industry. Many thanks to the RIAS Berlin Commission and all alumni for this trip and the insights!

Vladimir Balzer, Berlin

What an experience! A week to remember in one of the most exciting cities in the US – Los Angeles. Well, maybe more than a city, an urban landscape with hundreds of topics to cover. We focused on some of them, one being the homelessness crisis which still makes the social divide visible and the troubles to ease it. But as always in the US, when there is a problem, there is also a common sense of civil activities to face it. The visit to the Union Rescue Mission in troubled Skid Row was impressive – to see that there is help even though not yet a solution for the problem itself. Also impressive during this inspiring alumni trip – the controversial talk with former US ambassador to Germany, Rick Grenell, who took us journalists out of our comfort zone.

Not to forget the wonderful exchanges with so many talented colleagues in different newsrooms in the LA area – most of them having been RIAS fellows and now being proud alumni. It shows: the spirit of RIAS lives on and brings journalists together for many years. So thanks to the RIAS Commission and thanks to this wonderful network of RIAS fellows!

Susanne Papawassiliu, Berlin

What a week. Who in Beverly Hills knows that there is a direct bus connection to the city’s most shameful slum? Just over an hour away: Skid Row. Here live, or vegetate about 15000. (!) People who were ultimately abandoned. If there were not institutions like the Union Rescue Mission. Our first program point intimately illustrated the extremes that also make up Los Angeles. And motivated. There are people who care. A strong start to this week, which made us realize that “low budget” will never be an advertising slogan for Beverly Hills, this island of dignified affluence.

We navigate our way from there by bus and subway to appointments that showcase a huge swath of this elusive city. TV stations presenting “news you can use ” to Latinos, good ole Hollywood Museum and the finest German support programs for artists in breathtaking scenery. We discussed (or argued) with a Republican hardliner. We sang karaoke in Koreatown. We mingled, searched for the perfect spot for a photo with the Hollywood Sign, made friends and continued to build this great network of RIAS Fellows. Our colleagues from the US planned a lot of things for us, and maybe we proved them wrong about riding the bus.

Erik Kirschbaum

What an unforgettable week in Los Angeles this was with RIAS Berlin Commission alumni members and our inspiring guest speakers. We saw slices of the city that we could never have discovered in our own. We learned about each other and about ourselves. We’ve made new friendships. We’ve all connected or re-connected with RIAS, and especially with our American RIAS alumni counterparts. And we all became a bit more American for at least this week while getting around this sprawling metropolis. Thanks to all of our terrific speakers such as former Governor Pete Wilson, KMEX anchor Gabriela Teissier, KABC business editor Frank Mottek, former ambassador Richard Grenell, Consul General Andrea Sasse, Mayor Julian Gold, KABC anchor David Ono, South Korea national soccer team coach Jürgen Klinsmann, Union Mission Director Andy Bales and Jonathan Club’s Johannes Massner along with many others for their enthusiasm and taking time for RIAS. We all have an insatiable appetite to learn. I can’t thank you all enough for sharing this ride together with me in LA this week.