Photos by Helen Fallon

Michael Stengl, product manager of advertisements at Sueddeutsche Zeitung, shows the students and faculty specially printed BMW advertisements. (Helen Fallon photograph)

Michael Stengl, product manager of advertisements at Sueddeutsche Zeitung, shows the students and faculty specially printed BMW advertisements.

Professor Aimee-Marie Dorsten gets Carson Allwes moving to a Munich visit.

Professor Aimee-Marie Dorsten gets Carson Allwes moving to a Munich visit.

Alexa Blanchard and Johnie Freiwald check out a special advertisement in the pages of Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Alexa Blanchard and Johnie Freiwald check out a special advertisement in the pages of Munich’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Johnie Freiwald gets a birthday surprise at the last dinner in Munich.

Johnie Freiwald gets a birthday surprise at the last dinner in Munich.

Zack Durkin in his new lederhosen, right in the midst of Munich's Marienplatz.

Zack Durkin in his new lederhosen, right in the midst of Munich’s Marienplatz.

Checking out a cemetery following the final Berlin dinner.

Checking out a cemetery following the final Berlin dinner.

Munich tour guide Anroud Beck explains a model of the rebuilt Munich to students on the day they arrived.

Munich tour guide Anroud Beck explains a model of the rebuilt Munich to students on the day they arrived.

Axel Springer Academy students explain what they're learning to the Point Park students and faculty.

Axel Springer Academy students explain what they’re learning to the Point Park students and faculty.

Alexa takes Zack's photograph on the outside deck of the Reichstag.

Alexa takes Zack’s photograph on the outside deck of the Reichstag.

Following the Deutsche Welle visit, managing director Fabian von der Mark took the Point Park group to the station's rooftop for a fabulous view of downtown Berlin. Here part of the group poses for a photograph.

Following the Deutsche Welle visit, managing director Fabian von der Mark took the Point Park group to the station’s rooftop for a fabulous view of downtown Berlin. Here part of the group poses for a photograph.

Carson Allwes takes a photograph from the Deutsche Welle rooftop.

Carson Allwes takes a photograph from the Deutsche Welle rooftop.

Berlin tour guide Lorena Bianchi leads students and faculty through Berlin on their way to a media visit.

Berlin tour guide Lorena Bianchi leads students and faculty through Berlin on their way to a media visit.

The Topography of Terror, a commemorative site in Berlin, details the Nazi Party's rise to power in 1933 through the end of the war and the Nuremberg trials. Here Professor David Fabilli views some of the public shaming Jews endured in the years leading up to the Holocaust.

The Topography of Terror, a commemorative site in Berlin, details the Nazi Party’s rise to power in 1933 through the end of the war and the Nuremberg trials. Here Professor David Fabilli views some of the public shaming Jews endured in the years leading up to the Holocaust.

Professor David Fabilli and several Point Park students stop to take photographs at Mirabel Gardens in Salzburg, where scenes from "Sound of Music" were filmed.

Professor David Fabilli and several Point Park students stop to take photographs at Mirabel Gardens in Salzburg, where scenes from “Sound of Music” were filmed.

Munich tour guide Arnoud Beck explains how the Dachau prisoners were crammed into the barrack's sleeping quarters.

Munich tour guide Arnoud Beck explains how the Dachau prisoners were crammed into the barrack’s sleeping quarters.

Tour guide Ursula  leads Point Park students through Salzburg streets.

Tour guide Ursula leads Point Park students through Salzburg streets.

Some final thoughts

Sitting at home writing this final blog post, it seems surreal that just two weeks ago we left Pittsburgh for Germany. I know from our past trips that these journeys — trips we start planning months in advance — just end far too quickly.  That’s one of the reasons I started writing blogs. I want to remember as much as I can, and these entries help me recall the big and small things that make these trips so special.

Every time we go, I collect random experiences that don’t fit in one cohesive blog about a certain day or city. So here goes:

Berlin was certainly under construction. Cranes and work sites everywhere. It’s a reflection of Germany’s economic strength as compared to the other European Union countries. I didn’t expect this much, though, and the projects ranged from more hotels to new museums and cultural attractions.

But with that growth came enormous sacrifice. Several of the media outlets we visited told us about severe staff reductions in 2008, a reaction to the worlwide financial crash and severe drop in advertising revenue. We heard that in Berlin and Munich.

Munich was a stark contrast to Berlin in many ways, but what I was not prepared for was the number of beggars so close to our hotel. Women and men, some with children at times. I can never get used to this when we travel, and we’ve seen it everywhere. You want to give them money, as they appear so pitiful, but our tour guides and hotel contacts always tell us not to do so. And we saw the same people again and again. Just awful.

German men wear their wedding rings on their right hand, not the left. In fact, at one of our visits, one of our hosts told us he wore his ring on his right hand while engaged and then moved it over.

One of the loveliest sights in Salzburg were the couples or parents and children dressed in Austrian garb, strolling casually along the streets. Many were headed to shops and restaurants, enjoying their Sunday afternoon together. And not that many stores were open on Sunday, just those in the tourist center. They do know how to relax.

Germans are energy conscientious to the maximum degree, and the reminders of their efficiency and dedication to conserving resources are everywhere. But Jan and I had a hilarious experience at a restaurant one of our last nights in Munich — an energy saving bathroom with toilets with spouting water and rotating seats. You just had to be there.

Shopping was not a great experience for me.  Beer steins, cuckoo clocks, and leiderhosen and dirndl skirts could be had at any number of shops, mostly in Munich, but very little in the way of interesting jewelry and art items that I love to bring back. Great chocolate, though, and delicious gelato! (Hope you’re reading this, Audrey Prisk! Almost as good as what we had in Italy ….)

We had lots of German food, but visitors can eat their fill of Italian and Turkish food, too. Falafel and kabobs on every corner, it seemed. I don’t want sausage anytime soon, that’s for sure. But I enjoyed the meals, even though I have pledged to eat vegetables and salads for at least a week. Very little of that in our dinners … and if you wanted it, it was extra. (But no spargel — asparagus — for me for a while. It was in season, and I had quite enough!)

I didn’t have time to do much museum exploring, outside of our scheduled visits, which is just something my husband and I always loved to do. I really wanted to go to Museum Island in Berlin, as well as the Jewish Museum where the “Jew in a Box” exhibition is running. It just leaves room for another visit someday.

Visiting Dachau complemented what we saw in Berlin and brought the agony and terror of those photographs to a new light for me. First we learned that Hitler and crew used Dachau in particular for getting rid of his political opponents. Mostly men were there, and many came from other countries as prisoners of war. The Germans performed horrible experiments on these poor people, and the torture and humiliation inflicted upon the prisoners defy description here. I purchased two books — a catalog of an excellent photography exhibition of survivors and a Dachau memoir. I read them both before returning home. The memoir, written by a South Tyrol native who was really an Italian citizen, explained what happened to you if you refused to serve in the German army. It’s a miracle that he survived. One of the most terrible things was at liberation, the prisoners ran to the barracks after the guards had fled. They stripped off their filthy and vermin-infested clothes and put on SS shirts. That prompted the American soldiers to send them to another prison camp before they finally were let go, extending his jail time and preventing him from being reunited with his family. An amazing tale.

Two things we learned there: First, the Germans were so unbelievably cruel to these poor souls. Making them stand at attention outside in horrible weather or hanging them by their arms for hours or depriving them of what little food and drink for infractions such as leaving a coffee ring on a table. Second, many of these guards got away with their horrible deeds. They re-entered German society and returned to their farms and jobs. I suppose they all couldn’t be tried, but I hope they suffered … they certainly deserved it. Seeing all of this explains why the Nazi hunters continued to look for them decades later, including several Americans.

Some of the cathedrals and churches we visited we so plain compared to the Italian churches we saw last year. Former Pope Benedict’s church in Munich is one example. Lots of plain brick, not many stained glass windows. But again, many were horribly damaged in the war. The church in Munich where Jan and I attended Mass was just beautiful. Lots of attention and love in that church. It was a beautiful candlelight Mass and special service. We enjoyed being there, and when I took communion with all the others, I was moved almost to tears thinking back to the horrible things I saw at Dachau earlier that day. Catholics in particular were persecuted by the Nazis. May those victims have found peace as well as their descendants.

I did not expect Munich to be as packed with tourists as it was. Some days you could barely walk there were so many people. THe Glockenspeil there is quite lovely (although the one in Prague is more ornate). Jan and I snagged a ringside seat for that one and had some marvelous pastries and drinks. We saw lots of stag and bachelorette parties in Munich. We had fun talking to several of the brides and grooms in Marienplatz, who often wore matching T-shirts or hats marking the countdown to the big day.

And one thing we didn’t see as much were people constantly talking or texting on their cell phones. They had them, but it wasn’t what you see here in the States.

Munich is over the top today, I am sure, with Bayern Munich’s win in the Championship League. Wish we could still be there to watch the celebration!

Auf Wiedersehen, Germany!


Suddeutsche Zeitung’s printing presses begin production at 6:00 p.m. and run through the night.
(photo by Alexa Blanchard)

Our final day in Munich could not have been better or more fulfilling. While it’s always difficult to get to this point in the trip, the tug of not wanting to leave yet is tempered by our appreciation for the wonderful insight we have gained into the German media and culture. And yes, we do have to go home sometime.

Thanks once again to the wonderful (and greatly missed on this trip!) Bob O’Gara, we had a great morning visit to Ketchum Pleon. The health care team members took us through their media strategy and digital media work for their clients. Their work confirmed what we learned before we traveled and what has been reinforced here again and again: Germans are readers and they love to write. So a great deal of work is through traditional media, although Facebook is the popular social medium. But their emphasis is that their media placements wouldn’t work at all without being able to tell a story. I emphasize this to students as the begin to learn to write as professional journalists and communicators, and many advertising and PR students always pooh-pooh the need to understand the format. I wish I had recorded them for future classes to hear.

I’ll let the student writing the story tell more about this, but we saw a hilarious animated video to sell a Procter and Gamble anti-flatulence OTC product. It defies description. You have to see it.

The students heard, once again, that Twitter is not catching on here. I also keep hearing that it’s on the wane in many places as more and more channels are created. Fast and furious changes, that’s for sure.

Alexa Blanchard and Johnie Freiwald check out a special advertisement in the pages of Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung. (Helen Fallon photograph)

Alexa Blanchard and Johnie Freiwald check out a special advertisement in the pages of Munich’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung. (Helen Fallon photograph)

We spent the afternoon at Suddeutsche Zeitung, the newspaper and publishing company that stands as the No. 1 circulation broadsheet national paper and a huge printing company. It was the first paper to gain a license from the U.S. military to start printing in Bavaria on Oct. 6, 1945, and we were fortunate to receive a copy of that first paper and tomorrow’s edition at the end of our visit and printing plant tour.

We heard from a number of people of the various initiatives — printing and online — and how the paper has moved forward from some pretty dire financial circumstances in 2002 that nearly led it to file for bankruptcy. But its huge printing facility and specialized approach to serving a higher-income and educated Germany public has led it to a great niche and a solid status even in the face of declining print sales.

Two major thing: The newspaper has many innovative and creative approaches to advertising and working with their clients. We saw just beautiful ads and posters, and I so hope the photographs we took do them justice in the media reports the students will write. And the tour of the printing facility just completed the day. Those massive presses working with that famous German precision and efficiency (for example, all the plates are recycled and the color printing is just pristine) roaring away gave us such a close look into their operations. Fabulous!

Best of all, Mr. Stengl, the product manager of advertisements, just came to life when he showed us with great pride those beautiful ads. And his in-depth explanation of the printing process was  incredible. He loves his job and the 20 years he has spent with this company, and he knows this newspaper inside and out, even with that firewall between editorial and advertising. And of course, I always love people who just love newspapers. I am just a homer when it comes to this.

As we ate our delicious last German meal tonight and celebrated Johnie’s birthday (complete with fireworks!), Jan and I marveled again and again how much time once again the people at Ketchum and Suddeutsche Zeitung spent today with our students, as with all of our visits here. And without fail, they look at our itinerary and are dumbstruck at what we do in just 12 days. We’re pretty amazed ourselves!


BMW Welt: a Munich landmark

Today we had the opportunity to have an introduction to a true visionary company, the Bavarian Motor Works. The luxury automobile company (famous for its beautiful sedans and sports cars, Minis, motorcycles and high-level customer service), offered us a presentation at its BMW Welt (world headquarters) on its new line of electronic cars.

BMW i is about the development of visionary vehicles and mobility services, inspiring design and a new understanding of premium that is strongly defined by sustainability, a paper for the media provided for us stated right up front. And that’s just what Manuel Sattig, communications director for project i, explained to us. BMW has carefully researched and tested electronic mini and BMW vehicles before getting ready for its launch of the BMWi this year and the BMW i8 next year (the urban, city vehicle one year and its racier, flashier sports car the next). Mr. Sattig explained that what they’re creating is more than just an electric care — It’s offering 360 degree electronics and the joy of driving, long the company’s mantra. But, he said, BMW, is at the point of ionic change, and the future means it must focus on sustainability and mobility. Sara is writing much more about this, so all will have to read her article to understand this product R&D, launch, marketing and promotion.

A fact that left an impression upon me: By 2030 more than 60 percent of the world’s population will live in cities, a reversal (particularly in the U.S., where people had fled to the suburbs). So the new to control emissions, conserve energy and suit urban lifestyles is critical. BMW is reaching into the mobility business that reaches way beyond the cars and motorcycles it is famous for that are beloved by its customers.

He impressed upon us BMW’s attention and devotion to superior products and service, and in our BMW museum tour, led by an excellent guide originally from Milwaukee, that resonated with me. We saw how products are created, traced the company’s history back to the early 20th century, marveled at the Rolls Royce automobiles that company now produces, oohed and ahhed over the race cars and specialty luxury vehicles, and learned a great deal about the company and its customers.

A favorite part: Watching customers come to BMW Welt to pick up their automobiles. It costs extra, but it sure seems worth it if this is the car you can afford and strive for. The new owners and introduced to their cars inside and out, bring family members to check it out, and then drive it off the museum floor onto to open road after spotlights are shined upon the new car and its owner.

Interesting fact: That the Rolls Royce motors  are hand built. When the starting price is 245,000 euros, it should be …. including the paint stripe along the graceful car’s side. (Loved the doors that open bench style … very cool.)

The BMW contacts treated us just as royally. We had an excellent lunch in the small cafe in the headquarters, and we each received a model car of the BMW i8. The box included the title Mission: Accomplished BMW Vision EfficientDynamics. Indeed!

Two trips through the countryside

We’ve spent the past two days visiting the countryside — a journey to Salzburg, Austria, and to Neuschwanstein Castle. We planned this trip with the goal of showing the students the urban and more rural side of this lovely country. And we kept in mind its history and close allegiance to countries like Austria.

To keep the costs low and to show the student how the average German citizen travels, we decided to take the trains to both locations. That meant we had to mind schedules and take some extra time, but both journeys were quite comfortable and permitted great scenic views for us and the chance — if we took it — to talk to other tourists and German residents (which I always try to do). The Alps and the countryside — just lovely. My small camera won’t do them justice. I’m relying on the students to provide this.

Ursula, our guide in Salzburg, whisked us through the beautiful streets there, pointing out “Sound of Music” shooting sites (and some insider information), Mozart’s birthplace and homes, beautiful concert halls and cathedrals, and more before she left us to shop and enjoy an Austrian dinner together. Despite the constant rain, Jan and I walked along the river and the  artists’ tents, talking to a number of them and admiring their wares. We had a long conversation with a musician who created some very special CDs, and we both bought one as gifts.

It’s amazing to look at a city such as Salzburg, with so many beautiful buildings, cathedrals, monasteries and castles built into the hills and rock. And the pride of its citizens. Many couples, dressed in traditional Austrian clothes, walked the streets on their way to dinner or to Mass or a concert. Ursula says this is very common and a show of cultural pride. Just beautiful.

Today we headed to Neuschwanstein Castle, one of four castles created by King Ludwig II, the supposed mad king. It’s the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, and it is beyond lovely and well maintained. The tourists just packed into it, despite a very long walk up the mountain and then back again, and we took a mass tour through its public areas with others. More steps to climb than I want to count or remember, but it was well worth it. Beautiful artwork, luxurious furnishings and innovations for the mid to late 19th century that proved to me that king wasn’t all that mad. I am sure he had all that money could buy and could not. No wife or lover, a brother who died of mental illness himself, and a reclusive life. Marina bought a book, which I read on the train ride home. He had a sweet tooth and a large appetite, which left him with no food and 288 pounds when he died of mysterious circumstances at age 40. But he left such a marvelous gift to German citizens. A tremendous gift.

At our meeting upon our return I told the students today that this holiday weekend’s visits to Dachau, Salzburg and the castle provided them with first-hand history that can’t be learned completely in any classroom or  private reading and research. The care the Germans and Austrians take to maintain these wonderful sites and the legacy they leave for so many generations to come is no minor feat. Some may say they exist for tourism and not history, but the costs and operations to do so are immense. The revenue from tourism keep these sites alive and well, and that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.


On to Munich

We arrived safe and on time in Munich Friday, a blessed change from our journey overseas from Pittsburgh. We met our new tour guide, Arnoud Beck, who is originally from Amsterdam, and made our way into the city.

Arnoud gave us a nice introduction to the city once we dumped our luggage at our new hotel. He was kind enough to bring a wheelchair for Carson. Lots of walking here, and he stunned us with the most amazing feat: He held on to that wheelchair as we rode the escalator up to the Marienpletz. (We found out on the way back there is indeed an elevator to transport her down the underground mall that led to the square. Thank goodness! I could see her rolling back down the escalator and the two of us back in a hospital ER again.)

I don’t know what I expected to find in Munich. I knew it would be different from Berlin, but I didn’t expect it to be the tourist attraction that it is … so many people here! We’re also arriving on a holiday weekend, but really! Just throngs of people walking through this center of town, looking around, shopping in stores, eating in cafes and restaurants, and just having a great time.

Lots of churches, beautiful architecture and buildings to see. Much of Munich, like Berlin, had to be rebuilt after the war. More construction is going on here, but not nearly as much as in Berlin.

We ended with a traditional German dinner — sausages and sauerkraut, pork and pretzels. Most of us came right back to the hotel to sleep. I did fall asleep quickly once I got settled into my tiny, tiny room (I call it the cheese wedge, as that is how it is shaped).  Unfortunately, I am above a street lined with a number of hostels. Lots of noise last night. That and an upset stomach meant I tossed and turned for quite a while.

Today we traveled to Dachau, the concentration camp I had listed as a must-see on this trip from the start. Arnoud led us around the buildings with good authority. Seeing first hand the barracks, the memorials, the crematorium and more brought back so many memories of world and American history classes.  He told us we would get emotional, but I already knew I would.  The museum exhibition, the film, the re-created rooms and the stories just were heartbreaking. How could people do this to fellow human beings? Why could this happen? Fear and a quest for absolute power is the answer, along with economic conditions that provided the excellent backdrop for such butchery. I won’t get those photographs out of mind for a long time, and I bought two books to learn more.

I had looked up Dachau’s website and knew there was an photography  exhibition of Dachau survivors who returned to visit. The nun who took those portraits, Sister Elija Bossler, lives in the convent right behind it. The exhibit of 30 portraits of the 100 she took was striking in it simplicity and display of her talent. I bought the catalog and will read it carefully. She knew recording these survivors would maintain the camp’s history.  She didn’t treat them as victims but brave survivors who came to confront their past.

Looking at the site, its museum and information center, visitors can see the care that has been taken to maintain this camp, striving to keep it as a reminder of the evil that inhabited this planet. We have so many genocides and wars tearing apart countries, killing innocent people, and ruining lives right now. Why does this occur and how can they be stopped? Difficult questions with no easy or simple answers.

Jan Getz and I spent the shopping leisurely and enjoying Marienplatz on our own. We ended the excursion by attending a special Mass and candlelight service at St. Peter’s Church, a lucky find as we searched for some small gifts. Jan said it best: It was almost necessary to find some solace and comfort in a church ritual after our morning visit to Dachau. Just beautiful singing and music in a beautifully rebuilt church that had been bombed in World War II proved to be that perfect complement.  We couldn’t understand much but relished this small look into German culture and religion. And exchanging hugs and handshakes at the sign of peace took on a special meaning for us today.

Our last day in Berlin

Our final full day in Berlin flashed by today, with a full-day session at Axel Springer, Europe’s largest publishing company. The company is headquartered here and has operations in 36 countries with more than 230 newspapers and magazines as well as 80 online offerings and television and radio holdings.

Rudolf Porsch, director of Axel Springer’s Akadamie (a two-year training program for young journalists), started by explaining that German journalists are different from Western journalists in that the relationships with politicians and governments isn’t that adversarial and while they strive to inform and please the public, operations are more commercially oriented.

But Axel Springer was a visionary whose family was in the newspaper business. He wanted to ensure good journalism for Germans after the devastation of World War II, and he set his headquarters right next to the Berlin Wall in West Berlin. Some thought he was crazy; they feared all of Germany would become communist. But he called his building the Lighthouse of Freedom and proved them all wrong. His influence and principles continue after his death. In fact those principle are written into each employee’s yearly contract he or she has to sign. And the building remains its bright yellow color.

The journalism training program began in 2007 and Rudolf says it’s the most progressive journalism school in Europe, complete with a partnership with Columbia University in New York. The company selects about 20 students twice a year for this program. They first spend time training and writing and then are placed throughout the company. If they finish (and yes, they get a salary) and stay, they must remain in the company for three years or repay for their schooling.

We met some of the students and they told us about their work. Most have some journalistic experience already. They range in age from 18 (yes, someone straight out of high school) to the early 30s. Delightful bunch! I’ll let the students tell more. One young woman is a Munich area native, and we hope to see her next week.

Martin Heller told us all about the company’s video department. He came over from broadcast television. His employees cover breaking news, work on licensing video content to TV stations, and work on some talk shows, live event streaming and more. A fun quote after he told us about being the “aliens” in the company: “No one understands what we do. We’re always asked ‘Why does it take so long?’ and ‘Why does it cost so much?’ ”  His 40 employees include a large number of freelancers.  His dream is to develop an online video platform like YouTube for Axel Springer.

The day there ended with a great presentation by Leeor Englaender, assistant to the Die Welt editor-in-chief.  He’s overseeing the change from a print focused format to an online first production. Leeor sees this as a continuation of Axel Springer’s innovation and foresight, noting all the firsts the company is recognized for, as well as the fact that its properties control the largest share of Germany’s daily newspaper market: 23.6 percent.

The newsroom has totally changed with proprietary software that enables one process from writing to editing to online to publication. But the online product comes first now, and Leeor said it was the first Germany nationwide  newspaper online and the first to create its own iPad app that’s not a pdf version. It also has a paywall similar to The New York Times. For 14 euros per month, readers have unlimited access, and it’s working, he said. And Axel Springer has Kompakt versions of Die Welt, its daily, and Sunday, among other papers. Same content but smaller size to please younger target audiences.

The students were impressed with the process and rightfully so. But one thing the professors heard clearly — the company could do this because 10 years ago the company slashed its editorial and other staff in half. Regional newspapers in Berlin and Hamburg combined operations and share content. Some of this would have happened anyway without the push for innovation — advertising has steadily 30 percent, just as in the U.S., particularly classified. But the downsizing and combination of efforts makes money available for all of this to occur.

But he noted in response to a student’s question that the company needs to keep the print product alive. It still pays the bills and covers expenses. And so does its tabloid, Bilt. That is still extremely popular (still naked women and sports, pleasing those who want that ….), and he was clear to note this is a totally separate operation. Both staffs are in the building we visited. But they don’t meet, don’t share content, don’t work together.

“We’re like Volkswagen. On one end of the plant it produces Volkswagens, [and] on the other end Porsches,” he said.

Just as we thought we ran out of topics, Alexa Blanchard raised her hand, God bless her, and said when she Googled his name, she found he was part of an exhibition called “Jew in the Box.” I had heard this on NPR early last month and brought a short clip to play for the class.

Yes, he was a participant, he told us, and that started with one of his Die Welt columns about this mother. He said being a Jew in Germany, which has about 200,000 Jews, about 1 percent of its population, means you can’t be incognito. “For me the box is a symbol,” he said. “You’re always like a piece in an exhibition.”

The participants take turns in the Jewish Museum answering questions from visitors. “It’s normal,” he said. “People always want to know about Jews and Jewish life.” He added that happens because “more than 99 percent of Germans have never met a Jew.”

Often hear hears complaints that too much time is spent on Jewish history and the horror of the World War II, although the city to me has done an excellent job with its memorials and museums and recognition of what happened 60 years ago. He also said that Axel Springer saw what happened to Jewish writers and authors and wanted to make it right. So a free and unified Germany, a friendship with Israel and the Jewish people, and a free social marketplace in a free and unified Europe were important to him and were part of his company’s principles.

As we collected our belongings, we had lost track of half of our group. They came back down amid some of the Akademie students. One of them had taken them up to the 19th floor to see the bar up there. They told me that’s where the euro was conceived and created. Amazing what you can learn about history, isn’t it, when you travel?

Wednesday in Berlin

We had an incredibly early start today to be part of the audience for ZDF Redaktion Morgenmagazin, a morning magazine show, and it was definitely worth it. Not only did we participate as audience members, which the students can tell you more about, but we had several surprises. I sat with two lovely German women who despite our language difficulties (more mine than theirs) made me feel very welcome to their table and explained to me that all the pretty young women wearing German traditional garb and crowns were pageant contestants in a Bavarian wine festival. We met a group of intelligent and insightful young Palestinian women studying to be diplomats with their professor and a German foundation representative, and they joined us for a roundtable with Wulf Schmiese, one of the show’s presenters afterward.

First, he was incredibly candid with us and welcoming. Second, the Palestinian women asked him some great questions about German’s non-recognition of Palestine as a nation and not a territory, pressing him, ever so diplomatically, on the ties and relationship to Israel. We had a history lesson about their struggles, down to the significance of what they were wearing today  to commemorate the ouster of their family members  from their homeland in 1948. I told them I hoped they can change the world someday.

Wulf has made the switch from a print political journalist to broadcast television, and he was very frank with the us about how he had to learn, the differences in his work, and how he brings his writing and editing skills to better his performance. I find it so interesting that the broadcasters here call themselves presenters and not anchors. That’s a term I had not heard before.

Our next top at the Germany press agency dpa exceeded my expectations. I teach students every year in our Survey of Mass Communication class what a wire service or news agency is, and every year they don’t quite get it. I hope our students today understood what this fourth largest news service in the world does. It provides news, photographs, video, multimedia content to Germany and the world, working with German media, European news agencies, the Associated Press and Agence France Presse, as well as other clients.

Christian Rowekamp, head of corporate communication and a former dpa editor, and  Michael Kappeler, chief photographer, Berlin, thoroughly described the operations. Both were well prepared for our visit, graciously answered our questions and led us on a tour of their marvelous newsroom.

What stood out to me: Christian conveyed passionately that dpa plans to take its service to a higher level. Yes, dpa provides content, but it also strives to present the most credible, accurate and fast service to its clients, ensuring they inform the public on all matters.  This news service does not directly serve the public, but it takes its role across the nation and world seriously and has revamped its operations to include as much multimedia as possible and ensure that happens.  I always love listening to photographers, and Michael told us wonderful anecdotes about his work. We all enjoyed his retelling of covering Pope Benedict’s decision to resign and the election of the new pope. He decided to focus on the pope’s ring,  a piece of jewelry that was set to be destroyed with the election of the new pontiff. I know I have seen this photograph, possibly in Time magazine, and now I need to look for it again and see if his credit line is attached. As he explained he took a chance, striving for something that was creative and stood out, not just for him but for his news service and its clients.

We ended tonight with a visit to the Reichstag Rooftop Terrace and Dome, a perfect spot to view this gorgeous city on a warm May night. I loved learning more about this structure, which had burned right before Hitler came to power and was bombed heavily during World War II. The fact that this building was rebuilt paying homage to its past and creating a place that provides a beautiful panorama of the capital city speaks volumes to me about the resilience of the German people. Think about what they have lived through here: two world wars, a city and country divided, two dictatorships, and a Holocaust of unbelievable trauma and loss.

Before Jan and I had headed to a quick dinner in between the media visits and the Reichstag visit, I headed back to the Topographie of Terrors to finish what we had started on Monday night.  The display of the Nazi atrocities and attempted extermination of the Jews and other undesirables, the complicity of the German people in Hitler’s terrible vision of Aryan dominance,  and the inability of the Allies to end the war sooner and save these people from such a horrible fate is a must-see for everyone. I found myself fighting back tears several times as I studied the photographs and read the text. But I forced myself to get to the end, the Nuremberg trials and the execution of Nazi and Gestapo leaders.  So many of the guards and the secret police and military who carried out the murders of all these people still managed to find their way back into jobs and places in German society. Some escaped, too, and some committed suicide rather than face the trials.  The display explained to me why some still want to bring the now 80- to 90-year-old guards and officers to trial and justice for their horrible roles in this awful chapter in history. But will that ever be enough?

An interesting Tuesday

Today certainly didn’t start out as planned.  Carson Allwes, one of our students fell last night, and Lorena Bianchi (our tour manager) and I took her to Charite Hospital. It took about three hours to find out she has a ruptured ligament in her right foot. With crutches and an air cast, we were on our way to our visit to Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster.

An aside: Thank goodness for Point Park’s international travel insurance. The triage clerk wanted 300 euros from us before Carson could be treated. HTH Worldwide cleared that up quickly with a fax. And who would we meet and talk to in the tiny waiting room but a guy originally from Scotland and a teacher with an English accent who teaches in a private school here and wants to come to the USA for a creative writing fellowship in Nevada. The guy was a hoot, no matter his aching back, telling us Berlin is really an ugly city (we let him go on ….). She told us how the Germans disdain anything that’s not science or technology driven; her students don’t start writing essays until ninth grade. And she claimed they don’t want to remember their horrible past in World War II and the Holocaust. But we admired her: She had been hit by a tram (injured the same foot as Carson, but still went to school first and stayed there until the pain became too intense. Her students’ work is important at this time of year, and she wanted to be there for them.

On to Deutsche Welle and the enthusiastic Fabian von der Mark, head of office managing director multimedia global. DW just marked its 60th year in operation. It’s job: as a public broadcaster,  disseminate news of the country around the world and foster the German language.

(We tell students all the time that the European media aren’t used to visits and tours like ours. They are flattered! And we always learn so much more about international journalism with these visits. We can study and research all we want back home … seeing and witnessing it first hand is something else entirely.)

The station and its six channels of operations (German precision here, that’s for sure) were intriguing, and the students’ blogs can explain more. What I loved was his obvious yet quiet and professional dedication to DW’s mission. This 24/7 operation doesn’t focus on breaking news but instead provides documentaries and magazine shows (which I love) on many topics to many countries. Fabian also displayed a passion for his country’s beautiful language and long history of great philosophy and literature.  It’s something I haven’t given much thought to, I must admit.  I loved it.

He was also very open about why DW came into being after Germany was such a pariah to the rest of the world after its awful destruction of Europe, the Jews and other groups. “Rightfully so,” he told us, down to being banned from soccer’s 1950 World Cup.

Having seen most of the Topographie of Terror  yesterday, (and so sad that with all that occurred today I didn’t get back there today to finish it …. maybe Thursday if I get a chance) Germany deserved that sentence. And maybe even more. The stories of the men and women killed or who committed suicide in 1933 in Hitler’s run-up to his awful reign …. just horrible. And the photos of Germans going along with the public shaming and humiliation, book burnings, and violent beatings and torture until death are particularly abhorrent.

But you must give the Germans credit for offering this display and information center to its citizens and visitors at no charge. It’s backdrop of most of what remains of the Berlin Wall reminds us of the communists’ ugly chapter in history here. But you sure can convince people — as Hitler and his leaders and the Soviets tried to mimic — to follow you with jobs, food, shelter, money and security. Both came into power during times of tremendous despair and poverty. And people can be fooled.

Fabian took us to the rooftop of DW as we ended our visit, and the students took and posed for photographs with the expanse of Berlin as the background. Beautiful Berlin, I’d say, despite what the Scotsman turned German resident (he followed a woman here, he told us ….) claimed today.

Fabian pointed out to me that where the Berlin Wall once stood the Germans have turned those areas into parks, beautiful squares and more. It’s hard to see where it was, all 92 miles of it, he told me, because it wound its way through at weird angles and paths through the city and then the Soviets added on death traps and secondary walls from the original. The curved two paths of cobblestones around here marks it forever. And I think it’s marked and will be remembered forever with journalists and other people like Fabian, as it should be.

Learning and discovery

Today we learned a great deal and discovered even more about Germany, its media, culture and people.  We set off this morning to Freie Universitat, led by our tour manager Lorena Bianchi and Dr. Elfriede Fursich, visiting professor of journalism studies at the International Center for Journalism there. We have Dr. Dane Claussen, a wonderful former colleague at Point Park, for suggesting her as a contact (he had met her during his doctoral studies at the University of Georgia), to thank. She is just lovely — the right combination of intelligence and insight, with a warm personality and good sense of humor. Her students must love her. Tremendous presentation.

Elfriede lectured us on Influence of the Media on the German people during World War II and the Fall of the Berlin Wall, as well as the Current German Media Landscape. Lecture isn’t really the right word. She informed and engaged us, offering great insight into those two time periods and right now. She put Hitler’s rise to power in perspective: great propaganda, excellent use of new technology (radio and film) and unbelievable ruthlessness, set against the backdrop of severe economic depression and political disarray. People wanted solutions, and he delivered them. And after he was conquered and the country and Berlin divided among the Allies, the communists  used and blocked media (of course no freedom the press was permitted, but technology beat their attempts to stifle media messages — particularly from TV and radio) to suit their purposes. It succeeded to great extent until 1989 (and really 1990 if you count the reunification).

Germans are strong people and determined to have their way. The students have extreme power in their university system’s administration, she told us for example, and can strike and disrupt operations. Advisory councils can hold sway over media programming. The government assists some media with license fees while subscriptions fill revenue gaps with limited advertising.  But media here are experiencing declines, much like the United States, but maybe not as much. Conglomeration has cut jobs and closed outlets. You’ll have to read Sara Tallerico’s story to get the full details.

Jan, David and I spent some time at the Topographie of Terrors after our return from the lecture. This combination of outside exhibition, including some of the Berlin Wall, and the accompanying museum detail Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, taking control of the government and systematically getting rid of opponents and the undesirables. The photographs are horrifying, sickening, deplorable — just not enough adjectives to describe it all. But it’s mesmerizing. We didn’t get all the way through and plan to finish it tomorrow if we can squeeze it in with our schedule. But we will see it.

That shameful period in German history is on view in many places, including the double path of  cobblestones that run the 92 miles the wall had been in place around the city. But you must give this city credit for offering this particular incredible history lesson for free to all who visit or live here.  And I hope those reading this get the same chance that I have to see it in person. I’m incredibly fortunate to have this experience.