Patrick McConnell

Grady Graduate Student Patrick McConnell Participates in RIAS German Exchange Program

Patrick McConnell, a doctoral student in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, joined 17 other journalists and journalism instructors for a two-week study tour of Germany in June that included a side trip to European Union headquarters in Belgium and a visit with Germany's chief terrorism investigator.

The tour was organized by RIAS Berlin Commission, a German organization that sponsors study tours and exchanges for U.S. and German broadcast journalists.

The James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, a unit of the Grady College, hosts German journalists at the University of Georgia each year as part of the RIAS program. The Cox Center also selects a doctoral students each year to participate in the German tour.

McConnell, who worked in radio before beginning his graduate studies, is a research assistant in the Cox Center. He also teaches undergraduate classes in the Telecommunications Department of the Grady College.

For the first week of the June program the fellows were in Berlin, meeting with various government and political officials, as well as with German journalists. The German national elections in September were a main topic of many of the informational meetings, which featured discussions with members of Germany's various political parties.

One of the highlights of the stay in Berlin was a luncheon meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's election campaign manager at the historic Hotel Adlon in Berlin. The journalists and journalism instructors also toured the Bundestag, home to the German Parliament, and participated in cultural activities.

From Berlin, the group traveled to Brussels for meetings at the European Union and NATO. Discussions at the EU focused on the enlargement process, in which up to 10 new countries could become a part of the EU. At NATO, discussions centered on efforts to prevent terrorism and the future role of NATO.

The program continued in Frankfurt, where the group visited the European Central Bank and engaged an a discussion with ECB Vice President Lucas Papademos. The ECB was responsible for the introduction of the euro, the single currency that has been adopted by 12 European countries. The euro currency rollout was a massive undertaking, but despite some concerns, it was implemented without any major problems.

While in Frankfurt the group made a short trip to nearby Wiesbaden to meet with Manfred Klink, a director and chief terrorism investigator in the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), which is a German security agency similar to the American FBI. Herr Klink talked about the ongoing investigations in Germany regarding terrorists activities relating to the September 11th terrorist attacks in the U.S., as well as efforts to increase cooperation among Germany, the U.S. and other European nations to fight terrorism.

The trip ended on a relaxing note, as the group spent its final day together in the Rheingau wine growing region for a tour and wine tasting at the Eberbach Monastery. The monastery is perhaps best known as the setting for the movie "The Name of the Rose," which starred Sean Connery.

"It's a very interesting time in Europe," McConnell said. "The introduction of the euro, the upcoming EU enlargement, efforts to deal with economic and immigration issues, the successes and lingering problems 10 years after German reunification, all made for some interesting discussions.

"I've spent a good deal of time in Europe, but this exchange allowed me an opportunity to experience Germany in a way I hadn't before, meeting with many politicians, government officials, business leaders and journalists. I really learned a great deal."

Working journalists on the trip represented Fox Television, Univision, Minnesota Public Radio, Voice of America, WXIA-TV Atlanta, and other broadcast organizations around the country. Instructors from Valdosta State University and University of Texas at Austin also participated.

Background to the two-week trip was the World Cup soccer championships. Television and radios everywhere were tuned to World Cup broadcasts, McConnell reported, with many large screen TVs set up in squares and other public areas. With the German national team advancing all the way to the championship match, there was an electric atmosphere all around, according to McConnell. Brazil defeated Germany in the final.

"I love soccer, so being in Europe while the World Cup was taking place was really exciting," McConnell said. "Even though the Cup was held in South Korea and Japan, the atmosphere, with everyone watching the matches in squares, pubs and restaurants, was incredible. World Cup fever was everywhere. It was definitely a highlight of the trip."

McConnell is the third Grady College Graduate student to participate in the RIAS exchange. Heidi Edwards was involved in the exchange program in summer 2001, while George Daniels made the trip to Germany in summer 2000.