Thomas Frank, Austrian Journalist.

Austrian Journalist Learns About U.S. South from University of Georgia Visit

Austrian journalist Thomas Frank spent three days at the University of Georgia in April learning about the media and about political, economic and social issues in the state of Georgia.

His program in Athens, organized by the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, was part of the three-month fellowship, Transatlantic Media Network, coordinated by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

The Cox International Center is a unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and partnered with CSIS for the visit.

Frank is a reporter for Kleine Zeitung, Austria's second largest daily, the monthly news magazine Datum, and the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation. He received his Master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon.

“I’ve had the opportunity during my lifetime to see how history has been made in the South,” Dr. E. Culpepper Clark, dean of the Grady College, told the Austrian guest. “The battle for human rights has not been a war here, if we take into consideration the relatively small number of casualties, but it has been a painful and complex process.”

Students in a Grady College introductory journalism class interviewed Frank as part of a classroom exercise. This also gave Frank a chance to meet with undergraduates and learn of their interests.

Frank told the students he had driven from the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, to Athens, home of the University of Georgia, the day before and was struck by the contrasts he saw.

Frank said those differences are not so pronounced in Europe.

“In the states, the contrasts are much stronger in terms of different groups of people,” Frank said. “You can have groups of people living in one place and region, but they are very different.”

The class was taught by Dr. Lee B. Becker, director of the Cox International Center.

Dr. Tudor Vlad, associate director of the Center, accompanied Frank to meetings with Dr. Charles Bullock, political sciences professor, and Dr. Douglas Bachtel, professor of consumer economics.

The discussions focused on voting trends in Georgia and in the South and on the dynamics of demographics in the state of Georgia, with a special focus on Atlanta.

Professor Valerie Boyd of the journalism department told Frank how a new graduate program being developed in the Grady College will have a narrative specialization. “The focus will be not only on news reporting and writing,” she said, “but also on longer forms of non-fiction works.”

Frank had a meeting with Pulitzer Award winner Cynthia Tucker, visiting professor in the Grady college and veteran newspaper journalist, and learned about the future of print journalism in the United States.

Journalism professors Patricia Thomas and John Greenman talked with the Austrian visitor about health and poverty issues in the South and about media assistance programs for journalists who cover health and socio-economic challenges in rural Georgia.

Frank also had meetings with Grady doctoral students, and with Laura Schneider, a German doctoral student collaborating Drs. Becker and Vlad on a media freedom evaluation research project.

Dr. Vlad also took Frank to a luncheon of the Rotary Club of the Classic City of Athens, of which Dr. Vlad is a member.

After his departure from Athens, Frank visited the CNN headquarters in Atlanta. The next destinations of his fellowship in the United States were Minnesota and Oregon.