The “American” Problem

US Shoreline

One thing an American journalist, in theory, can be without fear is an American; a civic-minded, well-informed citizen.  Again in theory, journalists need not fear having patriotic tendencies, or overall pride in one’s community.  That pride or patriotism doesn’t prevent cynicism, skepticism, or displeasure with that same community, of course.  In my opinion that mixture of pride and skepticism is what helps fill a journalist-sized hole in society—we are the ones who see the darkest souls and brightest angels our communities nurture or neglect, and we are the ones who can shine a brighter light on the virtue and vice.

Young journalists are warned to be careful of their associations before they’ve sharpened their first pencils for their first scoops.  “Be careful of clubs you join” or “If you are covering a political rally, don’t leave pamphlets on your dashboard” are not uncommon pearls thrown to the rookie reporter.  The reason is straight-forward enough: a journalist shouldn’t associate in a way which might question the integrity of his or her journalism.  Even the perception of bias could corrupt the public view of all subsequent coverage by that reporter, with justification or without. Being an American, though, well that’s just okay.

So what happens when an American reporter can’t be “American” without hesitation?  What happens when a journalist has to tread lightly with one’s patriotism?

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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, Boris.“  The small Greek colleague pushed a harshly dismissive comment toward Boris, 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 an editorial room at West German Public Media.

“How do you know what I have an idea about?” Boris 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.

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Journalists and Playing “Hardball”

Chow
Chow
Your correspondent (center left) enjoys fruit and pastries with the French minister of immigration. (not pictured) (Photo: Aurelia Figueroa)

It has been a fascinating year as a Bosch fellow in terms of group dynamics.  I was told before the fellowship began that journalists tended to be chosen to spice the group up a bit and keep things interesting.  During Bosch meetings with policy makers, journalists, politicians, etc I didn’t really remember that I was supposed to “spice things up.” 

It just sort of happened naturally.

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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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