RIAS fellows Isabelle Tuemena, Petra Noelkensmeier and Julia Leonhard.

Three German Broadcast Journalists Meet with Grady Faculty and Students

Georgia, Germans and journalism.

This unlikely nexus comes courtesy of the annual RIAS/RTNDF international journalist exchange program.

Broadcast journalists Petra Noelkensmeier, Julia Leonhard, and Isabelle Tuemena met faculty and students in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia the last week of October and toured the University of Georgia campus.

The journalists observed telecommunications courses and shared their observations of American media, comparing and contrasting it with the German media. They also visited the Red and Black newspaper, the independent daily newspaper published by University of Georgia students, and student radio station WUOG.

While in Georgia, they also toured CNN, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Atlanta.

The visit was organized by the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, a unit of the Grady College. The group was the fifth to visit the Grady College as part of the ongoing exchange with the RIAS Berlin Commission and the Radio- Television News Directors Foundation in Washington.

Noekensmeier is a reporter/producer with Deutsche Welle TV's news show, "Journal," which focuses on politics. She has earned a master's degree from the Institute of Journalism at the University of Dortmund. Leonhard serves as an editor for ARD-aktuell, Tagesthemen. ARD is Germany's largest television network. Tuemena is a reporter/producer in the political editorial office of ZDF, working primarily with the weekly political broadcast "Landerspiegel."

The three arrived at the University of Georgia on October 25 after spending a week in American television newsrooms as visiting professionals. Noelkensmeier was in Sioux Falls, S.D. and Leonhard was in Denver, Colo., while Tuemena was in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The journalists observed stark contrasts to the German media during this portion of their exchange.

"There's a lot of sex and crime," noted Tuemena while fielding questions in Dr. Ann Hollifield's Telecommunications Management class in the Grady College. "We're not that interested in sex and crime." Tuemena added that she saw many live reporter stand-ups that, in her opinion, "didn't prove very much."

The emphasis on entertainment values over public affairs issues was echoed by her colleagues. "We'd do lots more on the political parties [here]," said Leonhard.

Tuemena said she noticed that international affairs and politics seem to be more valued by German viewers than by Americans. Local news is hard to find in Germany, they said, with the exception being Berlin. Most news programs, like those produced by the RIAS journalists, are national or international in scope.

The journalists praised the overall production quality of programming. The German journalists said they also were impressed by the professionalism of American newsrooms and the journalists working in them.

"There is much more teamwork over here," Tuemena and Leonhard said, noting that reporters and photographers seemed to cooperate as a single unit to produce a story.

In addition, they were surprised to see videographers at editorial meetings, contributing story suggestions with the rest of the staff. Tuemena also noticed a difference in speed. "The work is much faster here," she said.

The group also visited Washington, D.C., at the beginning of the month-long program and New York City at the program's conclusion.

The RIAS program is operated in collaboration with the Radio Television News Directors Association. Three others U.S. universities, the University of Hawaii, Brigham Young University, and Duke University, also hosted journalists. A total of 12 German journalists were part of the Autumn 2003 program.

The three UGA visitors were welcomed to the Grady College by Cox Center Director Dr. Lee Becker and Center Assistant Director Dr. Tudor Vlad. Kornelia Probst-Mackowiak and Michele Head, Cox Center program coordinators, arranged details of the visit.

Among the classes attended by the journalists were those dealing with electronic news gathering and production, media management, public affairs reporting, and journalism ethics. They also met Dr. Horace Newcomb, coordinator of the prestigious Peabody Awards program, which is housed in the Grady College. The journalists shared their American experiences and observations with undergraduate students and enjoyed professional exchanges at an informal gathering with the Grady College's graduate students.

"It was interesting for me to see the differences that exist between the German way of education and the American one," said Noelkensmeier.

Tuemena appreciated the contrasts as well. "I think in Germany in the universities you have more of a hierarchy." She also commented on classroom technology in the Grady College. "I think it is great to see that everyone is able to have access to Internet, is able to have access to the studio. That was very impressive."

Leonhard agreed. "There are very high standards here when it comes to the journalistic skills being taught," she said.

The Cox Center and Grady College have hosted RIAS journalists each autumn since 1999. In addition, three doctoral students from the Grady College have traveled to Germany as part of the RIAS exchange.

The RIAS Berlin Commission is a binational organization for the promotion of German-American understanding in the field of broadcasting.