Only a week after returning from my fellowship in Europe, I had a unique chance to continue my trans-Atlantic learning exchange by hosting a German RIAS fellow in East Texas.
Charlotte Potts, a presenter for ZDF and political correspondent for Deutsche Welle, is no stranger to the U.S., having lived in Washington, DC for seven years. She studied foreign policy and journalism for two semesters at American University and later worked as a producer for German TV stations ARD and ZDF. The German side of the RIAS fellowship had journalists spending a week in Washington, DC, their second week in a city of their choosing, and the final week visiting broadcasters and government sites in New York City.
We traded emails in the months leading up to her arrival, discussing the schedule and learning objectives, as well as getting to know each other. I was excited to learn that she had previously visited Texas on a reporting assignment near the border, but had never traveled through East Texas. I got to work assembling a whirlwind itinerary that would introduce Charlotte to the history, culture, food and people that make the Pinewoods of Texas so unique.
The primary focus of the fellowship is to broaden the understanding of trans-Atlantic cooperation and the role of broadcasting in the U.S. and Germany. With both of us anchoring morning newscasts, I knew Charlotte and I would have much to discuss. Throughout the week, she spent time shadowing our anchors, producers, reporters, digital team, and news managers. She was particularly interested in spending time with Joan Hallmark, who is an East Texas institution and pioneer for women in the broadcast industry. Joan shared highlights from her 40-plus year career and discussed her book, Sound Bites, which delves into the list of celebrities and notable figures she’s interviewed through the years.
Later in the week, KLTV’s Vice President and General Manager Pat Stacey gave Charlotte some valuable insight on the changing landscape of the broadcast industry and explained advertising sales in the United States. She also shadowed members of our digital content staff, learning about our website, suite of mobile apps, social media, and East Texas Now channel. We even gave our viewers a chance to meet Charlotte and ask questions through Facebook Live. As a news presenter for ZDF’s daily morning news broadcast, she shared some fascinating observations about the differences and similarities between ‘Morgenmagazin’ and ‘Good Morning East Texas.’ Charlotte, my co-anchor Erika Bazaldua, and I engaged in an enlightening discussion about objectivity, ethics, and journalistic philosophies.
The Tyler Morning Telegraph, the largest daily newspaper in our area, hosted us for a quick tour of their newsroom. They’ve made changes to their business model and services in order to adapt to declining revenue, a national trend in the newspaper industry. Editors and reporters gave some great perspective on the challenges and opportunities within local journalism and the value it provides communities.
History came alive on several stops during the week, including a visit to the Texas Museum of Broadcasting and Communications in Kilgore, the Kilgore Oil Derricks, and the Goodman LeGrand House in Tyler. Charlotte even got to take part in one of Tyler’s oldest traditions, the 84th annual Texas Rose Festival. After attending the ribbon-cutting for the festival, we walked among the 600 varieties of flowers at the 14-acre Tyler Rose Garden Center, the largest municipal rose garden in America.
I knew Charlotte’s week here wouldn’t be complete without delving into Texas politics. Having published her Ph.D. dissertation on the Tea Party and the Occupy movement, Charlotte was interested in meeting with local politicians and party representatives. She learned about the Tea Party movement from JoAnn Fleming, the director of ‘Grassroots America, We the People.’ It’s the largest constitutional conservative citizen organization in East Texas and one of the largest in Texas. Mayor Martin Heines hosted us at City Hall to discuss the Council-Manager form of city government and his career as a small business owner and real estate developer.
Though her time was limited, Charlotte was able to soak up great food, music, and personalities in one stop. My friends at Stanley’s Famous Barbecue, a Tyler institution, took us on a tour of the kitchen and their enormous smokers and pits. This is where the magic happens. Hundreds of satisfied customers are served their award-winning ribs, chicken, and pork each day. Add a little of their signature sauce and you’re in heaven. With the sampler plate, Charlotte sank her teeth into the menu’s most popular picks. I went with my favorite, the Cadillac Clucker, which is described as, “Spiked & smoked chicken thigh filet with spicy BBQ mayo, cheddar cheese, house-made guacamole, candied bacon, topped with an over easy fried egg and served on toasted jalapeno cheese sourdough.” No dinner would be complete without live music rocking the Texas sunset. Restaurant owner Nick Pencis and his band, Big Funky Cloud, took the stage after spending a few moments welcoming our visitor.
After five days in East Texas, I feel certain that Charlotte left with a worthy introduction to life in the Pineywoods. Most importantly, our conversations led to new perspectives and a commitment to bi-national cooperation in the field of broadcasting. I’ve also forged a new friendship in the process!
Lane Luckie, a news anchor and reporter for KLTV in Tyler, Texas, recently traveled to Germany and Belgium as part of a fellowship with the RIAS Berlin Commission. The bi-national journalist exchange, which is a partnership with the Radio Television Digital News Foundation, was established in 1992 to promote understanding between the United States and Germany in the field of broadcasting. Click here to learn more.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of KLTV/KTRE-TV or Raycom Media. They are solely the opinion of the author. All content © Copyright 2017 Lane Luckie