A special evening and a special honor

Permit me some very brief horn-tooting. Last night in Berlin, I was presented with a journalism prize, my first since high school, for a story I wrote in the fall. The Arthur F. Burns Prize is given annually by the German Foreign Ministry to one German and one American alum of the Burns Fellowship (which I did in 2010) for a story written in the previous calendar year. This year, the jury selected this story of mine on nuclear power in Germany, published in The New Republic.

I can safely say that last night was the first occasion on which I received congratulations from multiple U.S. ambassadors and the NATO commander. It was an honor to be among so many journalism, politics, and business VIPs, and it was more than a little surreal to be at the center of it all. Thanks to any Burns folks who may be reading this. I hope to live up to your very high standards.

For any Germanophones among you, here’s the press release from the Foreign Ministry.

Update: Ah, here’s an English version.


This is where I work

The Tageszeitung (taz) has a pretty fierce rivalry with the Axel Springer publishing group, which prints the conservative-leaning tabloid Das Bild and daily Die Welt, among others. When I was first given a tour of the taz building back in the fall, my guide brought me up to the lovely rooftop deck and pointed out the huge Springer building a block away. “The enemy,” she said.

Of course, it’s a fairly one-sided rivalry: The taz has a fraction of the revenue, readership, and reputation of Springer. But the tazlers have gotten their revenge in little ways.

First, they managed to get the street that runs from taz HQ to the Springer building renamed, from the neutral Kochstraße to Rudi-Dutschke-Straße, after the radical 1960s student leader. (Dutschke and his compatriots routinely attacked Springer and once blockaded the company’s newspaper distribution.)

But the tazlers weren’t satisfied. Read more of this post

I, tazler

Yesterday, having wrapped up three months as a guest reporter at Der Spiegel, I moved down the street to the tageszeitung, better known as the taz. The paper — and yes, it is too cool for a capitalized name — has a reputation as a witty, edgy, lefty rag. It’s a cooperative, owned by over 10,000 paying members, with some funky staffers, including a middle-aged man who hasn’t worn socks or shoes for decades. And in a German media industry dominated by men, the taz charter specifies that at least half the staff, including the top editor, must be female.

But lest you mistake the taz for an agenda-feeding hippie haven, it’s one of the most respected daily papers in the country, with lots of brilliant reporters and editors (and a great cafe with half-price for tazlers, to boot).

Anyway, I started there yesterday, and today I wrote my first-ever story in German. It’s just a little thing, culled mostly from a report that came out today. But for any German speakers out there: have a look.

German tabloid’s Page One Girl goes bust

For a journalist who fears the decline of the print newspaper, Germany is a beacon of hope. Subways and streetcars are full of newspaper readers, and though some downsizing has occurred at the country’s big papers, it’s nowhere near the level of American media layoffs.

But then you remember that the country’s largest-circulation paper, by far, is Bild. The daily tabloid is best known for its massive, sensational headlines and its topless Page One Girl.

This morning, it featured both, and even bigger than usual. But they marked something of a milestone, and one millions of Germans will surely mourn.

The headline: “Bild Eliminates Page One Girl.”

The photo: “the beautiful Eva from Poland,” the last Page One Girl ever.

Read more of this post

It’s a bird! It’s a tree! It’s a Kim Jong Il miracle!

North Korea’s state news agency tends to be — how to put it mildly? — a bit hyperbolic. But today’s story on the miracle outside the North Korean embassy in Berlin was really something.

A bird, the report claimed, came to the embassy’s mourning station after Kim Jong Il’s passing and stood vigil for an hour. At the same time, a tree suddenly burst into bloom, in the middle of winter, to “mourn his demise.”

I called the embassy and had a thoroughly ridiculous phone conversation, beginning with a woman who kept repeating the word “telephone” and ending with enthusiastic affirmation of the full news story by an embassy official.

My report for the LA Times is here.

Mark your calendars

I just finished recording an interview with PBS’ Frontline on nuclear power in Germany. They’re doing a show on nuclear energy around the world after Fukushima, and it’ll air on January 3. Tune in!

Merkel Is God!

Or so say the German media in the wake of the latest debt deal. Here’s a post I wrote on the love-fest (with caveats) for the LA Times.

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