| RTNDA EXPERIENCE
I didn't know what to expect. Sure, I had done some of the
readings on East and West Germany suggested by Jon Ebinger
from the RTNDA office. I also bought two dictionaries, an
English-German and a Spanish-German edition - por si las moscas!
(Just in case!) . Both proved to be worth their weight in
gold during the month and a half I spent in that country as
one of twelve U.S. professionals selected to participate in
the German-American Journalists Exchange program sponsored
by RTNDA and the Radio in the American Sector (RIAS) Institute
As soon as I stepped off the plane at Berlin Tegel Airport,
it became quite clear, quite fast that reading something and
seeing it unfold in front of your eyes are two entirely different
things. Our group, made up of producers from local television
stations, reporters from the major networks and public radio,
and even a journalism graduate student, was able to experience
first hand the triumphs and struggles of a reunified Germany
As a group, we had the opportunity this past fall to meet
officials at the highest level of the German government, NATO,
the Central European Bank and community leaders from various
aspects of society. The exchanges, where we were encouraged
to ask tough questions, were meant to give us a better understanding
in European-U.S. foreign affairs.
But not all we did in Germany had serious overtones. I brought
along a small digital camera on this trip to interview officials
who are preparing the country for its hosting duties of the
FIFA World Cup soccer championship games next year. In reporting
this story I was fascinated by the sheer number of Hispanics
- mainly Mexicans - who left their homeland to work in this,
their new country. They more than anyone are eager to greet
their compatriots and welcome them into their restaurants,
stores, bars, and clubs where they hope to celebrate the many
victories of their homeland's national soccer team, EL TRI.
After the main core of the program ended, I was fortunate
to have my application extended to stay in Germany for two
additional weeks. Being the only Spanish-speaking reporter
in the group, I used this time to work for Deutschewelle Television
en Espanol. Even though I do not speak any German, I was able
to produce packages for them, report, do voice-overs and,
learn how they go about producing news for the Latin American
market. Equally important, I met a number of professionals
there whom I now count as friends.
Overall, the experience taught me the importance of freedom
and the price some have had to pay to obtain it. It has been
exactly 15 years since the Berlin Wall came down, and we all
remember the footage of people hugging, crying, and celebrating
the end of Communism in East Germany. However, most of us
didn't keep up with what happened in the years that followed.
After the street celebrations died down, anger, frustration
and resentment arose on both sides of the now defunct fence.
Those in the West accused their Eastern brothers of being
lazy, of not doing anything to better their lot. Those in
the East grew tired of hearing Westerners tell them how to
run their lives and truly resented being treated as, according
to them, second-class citizens. "The first two years
we were happy", I was told by an East German who became
my personal guide and gave me a unique perspective on how
his life changed post-reunification. "We loved the freedom.
We just wanted to be able to travel and buy stuff". Economics,
infrastructure, everything changed in Germany after 1989.
Believe it or not, some Germans still refer to the days before
the Wall fell as "the good old days". This type
of education, and too many other examples I could share with
you, is something you will never find in a history book.
If you are even mildly interested in that region, I strongly
encourage you to go apply to this program. Believe me when
I tell you it will change your perception of the world, your
beliefs and maybe even of yourself. It sure changed mine.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sal Morales is a former Telemundo 52 anchor and APTRA award
winner features reporter currently freelancing. You can contact
Sal at email@example.com