Ten Years FT Deutschland. Part 8: The South

Southern charm: New Orleans

Southern charm: New Orleans

What is not to like about the American South? It has New Orleans, where you can listen to the big band at Snug Harbour or watch Kermit Ruffins fry sausages between his gigs. And it has Charleston where you can sip your drink on a porch and eat yourself into a coma. Continue reading

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Ten Years FT Deutschland. Part 7: Texas and Alaska

Two places in the U.S. that I would have liked to write more about are Texas and Alaska. Texas is to the U.S. what Bavaria is to Germany – a place with a strong economy that values its heritage, votes conservative and is stubbornly independent-minded. Stetson hats and cowboy boots are for the Texans what Lederhosen and Dirndl are for the Bavarians. And just as the Bayernpartei advocates for Bavaria’s independence, 70,000 Texans just recently signed another petition to allow their state to secede from the U.S. Continue reading

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Ten Years FT Deutschland. Part 6: The Midwest

Where it all began: Obama office in Des Moines

Where it all began: Obama office in Des Moines

The Midwest was where it all began for Barack Obama – and for me. Democrats and Republicans hold the first primaries for the nomination of their Presidential candidates in Iowa. Two weeks into my assignment as FTD’s Washington correspondent in December 2007 I was on a plane to Des Moines. Don’t be fooled by the French spelling – the way the locals pronounce it, it sounds like the “oink, oink” of a pig. There are many pigs in Iowa, and as I found out, they would play a big role in Obama’s victory. Continue reading

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Ten Years FT Deutschland. Part 5(b): Pakistan

Maulana Sami Ul Haq (right) greets guests

Maulana Sami Ul Haq (right) greets his guests

The mullahs greeted us with all the respect that is due to guests in Pakistan. Maulana Sami Ul Haq, leader of the Haqqani Islamic seminary in Akora Khattak, received us in his office. We sat on sofas facing a group of men with beards and bare feet. Students served glasses filled with green lemonade. Continue reading

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Ten Years FT Deutschland. Part 5(a): Afghanistan

My first encounter with Afghanistan happened in the pedestrian zone of Königswinter. Instead of the mountain range of the Hindu Kush I could see the Petersberg mountain by Bonn. In late November 2001, hundreds of Afghan leaders as well as thousands of diplomats and journalists descended over the sleepy little town to attend the first conference on the future of Afghanistan after the Taliban had been driven out of power.

As a junior reporter at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, I accompanied a more senior colleague to the Bonn Conference. While she covered the news about the negotiations, I wrote features about the exotic Afghan delegation: grim-looking warlords with beards and turbans, clean shaven members of the Afghan exile community and a great number of the newly liberated Afghan women, wearing fancy headscarves that barely covered their hair. Continue reading

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Ten Years FT Deutschland. Part 4: India

If you are looking for challenges as a reporter, try P. Chidambaram. The man who currently serves his third stint as India’s Finance Minister was clearly not impressed when a young female reporter walked into his hotel suite in Berlin in November 2004. He barely looked up from his desk and ignored me for 10 minutes before joining me in the sofa group. I sweated my way through questions about India’s growth and the effect of high oil prices on its economy. He answered my questions (see the interview here), but his body language was clear: This man had no patience for banalities.

The meeting with Mr. Chidambaram, the accomplished lawyer and Harvard MBA, was one of my first encounters with a member of India’s highly educated elite. As I made more Indian acquaintances, I was impressed by their articulateness, versatility and intellectual curiosity. At a garden party in Berlin, I met the famous UN official Shashi Tharoor who pursued a successful literary career beside his peacekeeping work. Continue reading

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Ten Years FT Deutschland. Part 3: South East Asia

The Tiger Bar in Phuket was the last place where I would have seen myself on New Year’s Eve 2004. It was filled with techno beats, smoke and drunken tourists, many with Thai girls sitting on their laps. It was life as usual at Patong Beach – except that it wasn’t. The houses down the road had been swept away by the tsunami. Along the beach, silent groups of people gathered around fires commemorating the dead.

When the disaster hit on Boxing Day, we thought at first that we could rely on the Financial Times correspondents in Asia for our coverage. But we soon realized that up to 1000 German tourists were missing in Phuket. Somebody had to go, and I was the Asia editor. The regular flights had been cancelled, but I managed to get on a charter flight from Munich. My fellow travelers were rescue teams and their dogs as well as a few regular Germans who were looking for relatives. Continue reading

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Ten Years FT Deutschland. Part 2: China

North Korea might have kept me busy during the first few months in my job, but as a China Studies major, of course I longed to go back to China. In the summer of 2004, a fellowship by International Journalists’ Programmes gave me the opportunity to work there for two months. I spent several weeks at the offices of China Daily in Beijing where I admired the courage and competence of my Chinese colleagues in face of the obvious political restrictions to their work. But then I packed my bags and traveled to Hunan where I had spent half a year after graduating from high school.

With Liu Zishun and his family in Wangchong

With Liu Zishun and his family in Wangchong

It was fascinating to revisit the same places almost ten years later as a journalist. In the village of Wangchong I stayed with Liu Zishun and his family whom I had first met back then in 1993. I slept on the kang, the big bed in Chinese farmers’ houses, with Liu’s wife, the toilet was a hole in the ground in the pig stable behind the house. Continue reading

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Ten Years FT Deutschland. Part 1: North Korea

When I started my job as Asia desk editor of FT Deutschland in February 2003, the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear activities became my personal crisis. I had hoped to flaunt my knowledge about China in my first weeks on the job, but instead I had to write my first commentary for FTD about nuclear diplomacy in East Asia. Continue reading

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Death of a Newspaper

Tectonic shifts in my journalism career usually happen on the day before Thanksgiving. On November 21, German publisher Gruner + Jahr decided to shut down Financial Times Deutschland – making me the paper’s last Washington correspondent. Ten years ago on the day before Thanksgiving my first employer, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, had informed me that I would be laid off  during Germany’s first severe media crisis.

The times are different, but the questions are the same. It is remarkable how, ten years later, we are still debating how quality journalism can survive and thrive in the digital information age. And it is frustrating that we still don’t know the answer. Continue reading

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