Analysis: The state of journalism and multiculturalism in German public radio

Journalism's changing

Editor’s Note:  This is a personal narrative and commentary about German public radio, and multiculturalism therein, based on my experience in the last years.  I offer my observations, suggestions, and hopes, perhaps to prompt further thought or consideration from journalists and newsreaders alike.  Warning..this is a long one!

“You have no idea what you are talking about, Luka*.“  The small Greek colleague pushed a harshly dismissive comment toward Luka, incensing something primal in the latter.  I had not yet met this colleague, after all I was just considered a Praktikant, an intern, a visitor, a stranger and kept more or less to myself unless prompted.  I sat at the back corner of the meeting table in a German editorial meeting.

“How do you know what I have an idea about?” Luka shot back in his thick accent—Bosnian or Hungarian, I wasn’t quite sure.  The other members of this multi-cultural editorial staff shifted their eyes nervously, some chuckled, not sure what to do.  I stopped moving all-together, frozen in a pose for observation: my posture slouched, my chin buried in my hands, my eyes fixed.  A discussion about refugees from Eastern Europe quickly turned heated.

“You don’t know what the refugees need.  You don’t know who they are, or what they are doing.”  The Greek colleague looked sure of himself, almost taunting the situation to escalate.  A soft winter light shone in through the windows behind me, and story ideas pinned to a tack board fluttered slightly.

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Burns Alumni Newsletter, Oslo

I was fortunate enough to be able to write this article for the Arthur Burns Fellowship alumni newsletter.  To see the whole newsletter click here.  (Opens in a new window.)  For just my article, keep reading…

The transformation of sleepy Oslo to fortified Nobel host city was tangible. There was anxiety on the sidewalks as citizens walked carefully by concrete barricades, policemen with machine guns and bomb-sniffing dogs—all in place for the arriving VIPs.  Even manhole covers were welded shut as a security measure—the official sign that a U.S. president is or has been to a city.

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Restoring Journalism

Though our time in Germany is great for seeing sights, and making personal breakthroughs (like learning to eat bananas and spaghetti: good work baby) there is a more serious reason I am here: Journalism.

I am listening and learning as much as I can about the radio system in Germany, but also on the state of journalism in general.  In the States the numbers are grim, but Germany’s problems are different, and may be tougher to solve.

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Finding Fairness

Murrow's Way

Depending on your perspective, the “Mainstream Media” may be part of either a vast left-wing, or equally vast right-wing conspiracy.  These judgments are often based on a person’s own sense of injustice to a certain cause.  If a news outlet passes over, or offers inadequate coverage of a subject held dear, said outlet must be serving its own agenda. 

I don’t wish to defend or explain the perceived lack of neutrality of certain outlets, but in the same breath I can talk a little to what a news story should contain. 

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Journalists interviewing journalists

Arguably one of the most important news events I’ve taken part in covering was the case of Sami Omar Al-Hussayen.  Al-Hussayen was a University of Idaho graduate student, living with his wife and children in Moscow in 2003*.

In the early morning hours of a regular day, SWAT teams and federal agents “breached” Al-Hussayen’s home, and took him into custody for alleged illicit activity of supporting anti-American overseas operations.

Ultimately Al-Hussayen was acquitted, but deported, and his family voluntarily left the states before being booted themselves.

But within this fascinating post-September-eleventh dynamic, of which your humble correspondent was a part, bloomed a side of journalism I never knew existed.

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