Anchors Abroad: An Interview with Brent Goff

From his beginnings at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Brent Goff has made his mark across national and international news platforms.

DW's AGENDA with Brent Goff

DW’s AGENDA with Brent Goff

Goff’s broad news presence ranges from CNN in Berlin and Washington, Time Magazine in Germany and German radio stations to news outlets in the U.S., NewsChannel11 in North Carolina and mid-Missouri’s own KOMU-TV.

Now, he is considered one of the best known faces at Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster.

With a passion for politics and foreign affairs, Goff hosts his own DW talk show, “AGENDA,” and he is also DW’s main anchor or presenter.

He shed some light on his transition from the U.S. to Germany, along with varying positions he’s held in the journalism field.

Rachel Wittel: Your career seemed to take off quickly after working at KOMU and NewsChannel11 in North Carolina. What drove you to make the move over seas?

Brent Goff: I had always been interested in reporting overseas. While working on my MA at Georgetown University in WashingtonDC, I worked part-time for CNN International. Frank Sesno was the bureau chief at the time and he encouraged me to go abroad. I worked as a producer for CNN in Berlin after I finished my MA at Georgetown. And once I was in Berlin, I knew that international news was the place to be!

DW's

DW’s “Talking Germany” presenter Peter Craven interviewing Goff

I’ve heard it tends to be easier starting out as a reporter in order to remain a reporter and possibly move up to an anchor position. That’s not at all the case in your path. How did you decide to make the switch back to reporting after producing and also working in print and radio? Then taking on anchoring roles?

There are no rules in this business when it comes to charting a path. My path may appear to be unusual, but once you talk to other journalists who have worked abroad as reporters, anchors, in print and radio, you quickly realize that they all have unique stories about how they ended up where they are.

You earned a Bachelor’s in German, Journalism and Political Science [at MU] – wow! What role has German played in your life and career choices? Similarly, what intrigued you most about German to continue studying and working in that business?

I had learned Latin in high school and I wanted to try something different when I arrived at Mizzou. German was my first choice because I had always been interested in Germany’s rich history with its glorious high and tragic lows. I was a Fulbright Scholar in Hamburg in 1995-96. I assisted in lecturing journalism courses at the university in Hamburg–in German! But my language abilities served me most once I arrived in Berlin. Speaking the language opens up so many doors…and one of those doors was at Germany’s international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle.

What should reporters in the U.S. investigate or focus on in Germany? What important factors tend to be missed in newscasts?

Journalists in the US who report on Germany should not rely on cognitive crutches. Too often we use what we know to explain what we don’t know. That translates into an abundance of stories about Oktoberfest, German beer, Nazis and the Holocaust. Germany is Europe’s most powerful country. It is a global exporter, second only to China. And its geopolitical influence around the world is enormous. Obama calls Merkel everyday to find out what Putin is doing! All of that needs to be reported….in addition to Bavarian beer lovers!

AGENDA's Goff giving commentary on DW's Insider blog

AGENDA’s Goff giving commentary on DW’s Insider blog

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like you’re working your dream job now! From what I can tell, your talk show – “AGENDA” – allows you to anchor while reporting on political issues not only in Europe, but across the globe. How did you get to this point? Is this what you’ve always wanted to do? What’s your next move?

I love hosting my own talk show! AGENDA started in 2012 as an experiment. We wanted to combine the elements of a hard talk one-on-one interview with the breadth of a news magazine. The result was 3 guests talking about 3 headlines of the week. The show has just been nominated for an international Emmy in current affairs. There are other projects in the pipeline. Perhaps that is the part of this profession that can be a “dream.” News and consumers of news are changing constantly. We have to keep up with that change. That means never a dull moment—for me, a dream come true everyday!

For more biographical information about Brent Goff, click here.

To see related blogs I’ve written featuring Goff’s work, click here.

Is Less Face Time More Effective For News?

Newscasts in the United States rely heavily on made-up men and women with deep, enticing voices to present the best, most current news to viewers across the world.

NBC's Brian Williams

NBC’s Brian Williams

NBC Nightly News‘ Brian Williams is the face, voice and main icon for the network, representing one of the most reliable sources broadcasted on television. Audiences trust him, interpreting news through expressions and tone.

However, this does not seem to be the case when it comes to news-watching on Deutsche Welle (DW), a global media forum featuring multiple languages like German – if you couldn’t already tell by its name. Watching DW’s live stream was visually stimulating, but not in the way Americans are used to.

DW's Brent Goff

DW’s Brent Goff

I watched “Germany Today” followed by “The Journal,” along with newscasts by DW’s main presenter Brent Goff. Notice I said “presented” rather than “anchored.” Normally, when you watch a U.S. newscast, an anchor like Brian Williams welcomes you and leads viewers through the show. The segment “Germany Today” merely started with the male presenter saying, “Here’s what’s happening today,” and the newscast was off.

Interestingly enough, I spoke with Goff through Facebook, and he agreed with he differences in U.S. and European news anchors, especially since he’s an MU grad as well. DW’s newscasts are extremely informational, but again, less personable.

A “package” is what broadcast journalists refer to as a story with video, interviews and the reporters voice speaking over it all. DW’s newscasts generally consisted of package after package, along with other national stories presented as voice overs layered on video. Click here for an example of one of my own, published for KOMU-TV in Columbia, Mo.

Those packages and stories were broken up only by music sounds and transitions. We don’t see the presenter’s face at all, whereas Willams gets face time every 30 seconds to two minutes, depending on the story.

Now, DW produces newscasts more similar to what we’re used to in the states as well, but the fact that other faceless shows also exist is intriguing. Below is a DW newscast that uses more anchoring like a Nightly News segment, showing Goff’s Missouri roots.

While the anchors lead the show more in this example, I still don’t find them as conversational as I’ve been taught (trying) to be. Feel free to check out one of my newscasts below. I’ve been working on facial expressions and tone to improve my delivery of the news.

If you’re not sad during a sad story or express any inappropriate expressions while anchoring, audiences lose faith and respect in you, just like that. However, if you master these methods, the rapport you establish with your viewing area can benefit you and skyrocket your show up the ratings.

I’m wondering what is more appealing to viewers because many people do relate to local and national anchors, feeling like they’ve grown up with them or known them for an extended period of time. Without that face time, you lose the personal element of the news, even if it may be distracting during a flub, at the very least.

DW presents the facts just like U.S. networks do, but I wonder what actually suits audiences better and provides the best platform for news consumption. There are so many positive reviews of DW online that I had trouble finding any other opinions out there about its coverage.

Meet the faces of Euromaidan

Euromaidan, the persistent group of protesters occupying the Independence Square (Майдан Незалежности) in Kiev, has been protesting for three months now, and are still going strong. Although there has been news coverage about the fight as a whole, it is interesting to note that the opposition group consists of people from all sorts of backgrounds and in my opinion this is why the opposition has been so strong. The name Euromaidan stands for two things: Europe, which is what the opposition wants Ukraine to be integrated into, and maidan, meaning open place or square, which exactly matches the name of the street being used for ongoing protests.

Men and women alike participate in opposition's protests. Photo credit to Ivan Bandura.

Men and women alike participate in opposition’s protests. Photo credit to Ivan Bandura.

Euromaidan is focused on bringing down a government deemed to be corrupt, so class, race, and gender differences have seemed to vanish because of a singularity of purpose existing for this group of protesters.

Woman carrying medicine to Euromaidan's wounded fighters. Drawing by Oleksandr Komyakhov.

Woman carrying medicine to Euromaidan’s wounded fighters. Drawing by Oleksandr Komyakhov.

The group of protesters is made up of men and women- young and old, average class folks and even oligarchs. Among the protesters, there are several notable stereotypes. GlobalVoices shows drawings from Oleksandr Komyakhov. Among these are drawings of a wealthy man bringing tires and a woman carrying bags with medicine to help those who are beaten by the Berkut police.

The most outrageous is a picture tweeted of an old Euromaidan protester lady, being pulled away by a Berkut policeman. It seems that Berkut is trying to hang onto power in every way possible, even if it means attacking an older woman who probably wouldn’t even cause much harm to the police in the first place.

Berkut policeman drags away elderly Euromaidan protester.

Berkut policeman drags away elderly Euromaidan protester.

Among the protesters is a group known as the women’s 100. Yulia, a university student, is part of this women’s 100 group. According to her, this women’s group takes in women of all ages, even 12 year old girls, with their parents’ permission. She says that the women’s 100 goal is to “Try and hold peaceful talks with the Berkut police and the young men who oppose Euromaidan.” They do not support violence from either side, so their main goal is to try and help Euromaidan succeed under peaceful circumstances.

“Чувства страха нет, — откровенничает Юля. — Даже когда нас разгоняли, его не было. Мы наравне с парнями несем вахту. Им ведь тоже нужно отдыхать.”                                                                       (“There is no feeling of fear, – shares Yulia. – Even when they were trying to make us leave- there was no feeling of fear. We carry our responsibilities equally to the guys. Because even they need a rest.”)

Those who do not support Euromaidan’s movement consider fighters of Euromaidan to be violent and extremely dangerous. A certain anonymous blogger was quick to label Euromaidan protesters as “fascists” who beat up innocent men and women of the “For a clean Kiev” group, which supposedly seeks to keep Kiev clean and rid of violence.

 

Both sides have a pretty negative opinion of one another, and it is clear that neither side is willing to give up, which poses a dangerous predicament. If eventually both sides do not come to some kind of agreement, the type of civil violence Ukraine is to encounter will be devastating.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOkKuDRpBDE

 

Click on the link below to follow Euromaidan’s official Twitter page.

https://twitter.com/euromaidan

 

The importance of Colors for German Authorities

This is my last blog post for the semester, and I wanted to end with something that would get everyone talking—something I, personally, find interesting. I began my quest on Google and when I couldn’t find anything, I moved to Twitter. #TGFTwitter! (It means “Thank God for Twitter” for you Twitter acronym amateurs).

Tweet post on racial profiling case in Germany

I came across an interesting interview recently conducted by Spiegel Online International with a 26 year-old Black German man who won a two year proceeding court case. It finally came to an end, but this marks the beginning of a never-ending battle of racial profiling.

I never thought about racial profiling as a critical issue in Germany as it is here in American, but this matter affects human rights all over the globe. Racial profiling is a subcategory of racism, and should not be accepted. I know the race talk is a touchy topic to discuss and many don’t like to enter those boundaries. But, sometimes those sticky subjects are the ones that get ignored and need the most attention.

I found interesting facts about Black Germans as I searched various blogs, Youtube channels, Google, Twitter, and other news sources.

Gong back to the issue involving the black German architecture student, he was racially profiled when two German police randomly asked to see Identification in Kaasel Germany.

The black German student tells his story as follows:

Yes. I had just purchased a cup of tea from the snack vendor in the train when the police officers asked me in a commanding tone to show them my identification. I wanted to know why, but got no real answer, so I refused. […]  Yes. I had just purchased a cup of tea from the snack vendor in the train when the police officers asked me in a commanding tone to show them my identification. I wanted to know why, but got no real answer, so I refused. […]  I didn’t want to be treated differently any longer. The police brought me back to the station in Kassel, where I was asked if I spoke English and had papers. They threatened to charge me high fees for taking my photograph and fingerprints, and for holding me in a cell. Then I showed them my driver’s license and they let me go. It was the worst day of my life.

He is not the first to experience this racial profiling as a black German. When considered a foreigner n your own country, it hurts. Everyone yearns for the same respect and acceptance. There is an assumption that people make, and I am also guilty of thinking, that there can only be White Germans. My misconception of no Blacks in Germany stems from the lack of their history, and culture presented in mainstream media. When I think of Germany, I think of their Nazi past, BMWs, Frankfurt beef, and beer. Could it be because of my own personal ignorance, or because the media purposely leaves out information that doesn’t fit within the “norm”? I believe that we are both responsible.

A few comments I found shows the lack of knowledge people have, including myself, about other race and racial profiling:

juju88: there isnt such a thing as a black german, like there is no such thing as a white chinese, is the typical anti-white rethoric.

LairdKeir: As a foreigner married to a Chinese woman and whose son was born in Germany, I can say Germany has been an extremely hospitable and welcoming country provided you follow the rules and respect their country as a guest. I write this as someone who actually has experience with the country and its people, and will not attack people out of ignorance.
I also teach outside Dachau, so am all too well aware of its history.

Kriol Kidd: Give Germany a break……it’s not like they have a history of asking different looking people for their papers or something…….

KamranAghajani:90% of violent crime in Germany last year was done by Turkish, Moroccan and Somali immigrants….
aka people of at least some color.
sorry, this is good news for all Germans, as thugs do not care what color you are when they rob or assault you.

 

I could read on and on the comments people made about the court ruling, but it shows that people have different levels of knowledge and opinions when it comes to the topic of race. While reading a few, I had to shake my head in shame for what some people thought was politically correct.

Black German Student Story continued…

  The first ruling of this case resulted in a dismissal of the case. A German court ruled police authorization to carry out ID checks on the basis of skin color. This created outrage among human right activist organizations such as the Amnesty International and the Initiative of Black People in Germany.

If this is true, it is essentially illegal, Tahir Della of the Black People in Germany Initiative rights group told The Local (a German publication). The authorities always said the police do not do racial profiling.

 Initiative of Black People in Germany (http://vimeo.com/18867923)

Source: Huffington Post

To bring the situation up to current ruling, a court in Koblenz, Germany

The case closed this past Monday. The judges ruled in the favor of the Black German student and said police should not conduct spot checks on people based on their skin color. Many rejoice in this victory.

There’s disagreement among the police as to whether they welcome the ruling.

 The court’s deal with the law in an esthetically pleasing way, but they don’t make sure their judgments match practical requirements,” said Rainer Wendt, chair of the German Police Union. The ruling will make the work of the police more difficult.

I am happy to hear the ruling was in favor of the German student, because equality rewarded to all citizens of a country is fair.

Black German groups responded to the ruling and racial profiling issue in creative ways. A flash mob video, created by African Socialist International (A.S.L.) group, took a stand to create awareness of the troubling issue of racial profiling among Africans and Blacks in urban Germany that many try to overlook.

African Socialist International (Video)

This is not the only incident I found in which race is an issue, and racial gestures made towards Black Germans.

Here is an example of blackface used in a German UNICEF’s extremely patronizing ad. The fact that the ad agency found it okay to place this type of message in Germany shows that it is accepted in Germany.

One point that stood out for me that the German student said in his interview is very important to this entire article.

First, this isn’t just about me, but about everyone who has had a similar experience. It also isn’t a very nice thing to be the person who speaks up about racism. Additionally, I don’t want people to point their fingers at me because I filed this long-overdue case.

The moral of this post is that there was an underlying issue that needed addressing, and somebody needs to take a stand. This reminds me of a past blog article I wrote about, and how Twitter was the first to take a stance online in the removal of a Neo-Nazi group. It is all about being the leader that starts the chain reaction. Racial profiling and racism still exist, and change needs to occur not only in Germany, but also in all nations.

If you are interested in more sources and topics regarding Black Germans and racial topics here are some other things I found:

 

Soccer: Balls and Brothels

In times of trouble I turn to my parents, that is when I run into trouble. But what would I do if my work or club needed quick cash to keep going on? Probably not turn to brothels, but it happens.

Amateur soccer teams in Greece faced a hard time after budget cuts drastically reduced the money received; this is yet another side-effect of the Greek Euro Crisis. In an attempt to keep playing the sport, they turned to sponsors for a cash flow. The new money comes from a range of vastly different places. From kebab shops to funeral homes, feta cheese to a jam factory, variety really is the spice of life. But a small team, Voukefalas club, from the city of Larissa in central Greece, turned to two brothels, Villa Erotica and Soula’s House of History. Just an FYI, prostitution is legal in Greece.

Pictured Right: Brothel owner attends  soccer match with two workers

The deal, initially a joke between the team manager and the owner of the brothel, also known as a bordello, came to reality one remark about getting sponsorship and “other benefits” later. I guess it wasn’t the mutual idea of “play” that made the deal seem natural.

The newly sponsored team now sports pink jerseys that display “Villa Erotica” on their backs, though they are not allowed to play any real matches in them. I can only imagine what effect this has on the players and other teams going against them. Let’s hope it isn’t making the sport too hard.

When the chairman/travel-agency owner/backup goal keeper of the team received question on this action, he responded that “It is a question of survival”. Villa Erotica has already supplied the practice jerseys and 1000 euros ($1312), only a tenth of the 10,000 euros needed for a year of play.

(Pictured Left: Voukefalas Soccer team poses with new jerseys)

Most people in social media have linked to several articles over and over again, but a few have found a way to capture the humor of the situation. Some are using witty sayings,  most people seem to hold a neutral ground. Personally, I think it’s fine. Though I would like to see more “ball play” puns.

I think the teams should look a merger. The Voukefalas club stated that they still lack a midfield, something you would have no trouble patching up with a combination of two teams that are only two-thirds full. But then it becomes a question of there being enough teams to play each other.

Pictured Right: Tweets about the news of Voukefalas Sponsorship  

Does the community see this as a troubling thing? Should the team be aloud to keep their sponsorships? My theory is, if you can legally have brothels, then you can have them sponsor your team. They are a company just like the rest of the sponsors and should not be prohibited from sponsoring due to their type of business. What about your thoughts?

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story/_/id/1193095/brothels-rescue-cash-strapped-greek-soccer-team?cc=5901

http://news.yahoo.com/brothel-funeral-home-bail-greek-soccer-clubs-160930111–sow.html

http://brittneyinla.com/2012/10/19/brought-to-you-by-brothels/

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/soccer/10/17/greece-brothels-voukefalas.ap/index.html

http://frontierfooty.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/sex-trade-saves-greek-amateur-football-club/

Komödie vs. Comedy – Understanding German Humor

© Cinetext

Germany is experiencing the end of an era with the recent August 22nd death of Bernhard Victor Christoph Carl von Bülow, pseudonym “Loriot.”  For decades, Loriot has characterized and personified German humor, as well as confused and confounded American and British comedians.

It would be a decently safe assumption to say that Loriot lead and directed German humor.  His influence is massive and lives on even after his death.  Dieter Wedel, one of Germany’s most famous television directors (known for shows like Tatort and Schwarz Rot Gold) once said, “The Germans don’t have any sense of humor — the Germans have Loriot!” However, such a broad, sweeping statement also asks the question, what is German humor and why is it so widely misunderstood?

Loriot is known for his live action sketches, but even more so, for his cartoons.  His work reflects the mindset and pervasive “German” perspective on life and human interactions.  Most of his humor stems from problems with communication between individuals during every day life, the comedy therein coming from the staunchly formal nature of the German language.  Loriot was, as per usual with all typically German writers, a stickler for grammar.  In this sense, Americans attempting to understand German humor often deal with the problem of the fundamental humor being, so to say, “lost in translation.”

Many German jokes are based on double meanings, coming from German’s favoritism towards taking many words, ideas and concepts and crashing them into one (sometimes absurdly) long compound word.  The German language has very strict grammatical structure and often relies more on humorous ideas opposed to English’s reliance on wordplay.  Loriot brought a sort of inanity to his work with the juxtaposition of his character’s dignified behavior against the exaggeration of their features.  This is typified in his short sketch Herren im Bad.

For the original version (auf Deutsch) click below

Herren im Bad (Men in the Bathtub)

Seriousness combined a focus on banal flaws is a stereotypical theme in German humor.  This is also seen in the way that Germans observe and perceive the world and people around them.  I mean, there is no serious data to prove this and I’m being entirely subjective, but in my experience, Germans do not focus on personality flaws as something you can easily change, but instead as something that is a basic part of a person’s being.  You aren’t dumb because you don’t study, you’re just dumb because you are.  They’re not going to shun you for being a bit socially inept, they’re just going to accept that you’re kinda weird and run with it.  Needless to say, Americans generally DO NOT get this.

The problem with German humor, is that you need to understand German to get it.  You can’t explain or clarify the nuances of German diction or the play of grammar in English.  Comedy doesn’t translate.  Loriot’s genius comes from the fact that he was exactly as meticulous with his words as he was with his physical comedy.  He made fun of the narrow-mindedness of and excessive formality of German while maintaining respect for the language’s tone and essence.

In response to Loriot’s death, Germany’s president of parliament, Norbert Lammert, captured von Bülow’s lasting effect on German humor and culture stating, “Vicco von Bülow put his stamp on cultural life in Germany for decades and, as Loriot, helped Germans to gain a more relaxed view of their mentality and habits.”

Stefan Kuzmany, a correspondant from Der Spiegel(Germany’s top newsmagazine) summed it up nicely: “Abschließend bleibt zu sagen, dass Loriots Tod absolut nicht nötig gewesen wäre. Unsterblich war er längst. Er wird es bleiben.”  (“Loriot’s death was absolutely unnecessary.  He had long since become immortal. And will remain it.”)