Meeting die Deutschen

I can’t work like this! Classic example of a Silicon Valley problem at SFO. SFO yoga room

This week I flew to DC to meet the other German and American journalists switching sides of the Atlantic to work in foreign newsrooms on an Arthur F. Burns fellowship this summer. After the program orientation, I’ll take a crash-course in German in Berlin before beginning work at Deutsche Welle TV.

I arrived in DC early and took the opportunity to visit the Newseum, a museum of journalism with great exhibitions and a cringeworthy name. Funnily enough the basement exhibition focuses on the Berlin Wall. The Newseum claims to have the largest collection outside of Berlin, because shipping multi-ton slabs of 12-foot-high concrete to the United States makes sense.

berlin wall

(Just me or wasn’t this directive the problem in the first place?)

The Burns fellowship’s goal is to foster awareness and understanding between Germany and the United States, particularly among journalists, which means we spend a lot of time drinking and discussing hot button issues in transatlantic relations. (Sometimes, but not usually in that order.) All this at a time when German-American relations are arguably at their lowest point since 2003. Lots of House of Cards references, so everyone was very pleased to meet Frank Underwood, aka Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York’s 18th district. (Photo by program director Frank Freiling.)


Our conversations this week reveal that the Germans are shocked by NSA spying allegations and perhaps equally shocked by the Americans’ lack of shock. It took a few rounds of panelists to explain the general American nonchalance: if our government spies on us, we’re not particularly surprised they spy on you. The anger over the issue runs deeper than I expected, and it has been a central theme when speaking to academics and policymakers this week. Move over CIA station chief, here come the journalists!