A correspondent for a German TV network is learning about local journalism from the largest news organization in East Texas.
Tom Garus of Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB), an affiliate of the internationally respected ARD network, just completed a week embedded in the KLTV newsroom in Tyler. Based in Berlin, he serves as reporter and moderator for multiple news programs on Germany’s largest public broadcaster.
Garus is in the United States as part of an exchange program for American and German broadcasters. Since 1994, the RIAS Berlin Commission has organized and sponsored fellowships for more than 1,200 journalists.
RIAS was the acronym for Radio in American Sector, a U.S.-funded station that broadcast information and music across East and West Germany during the Cold War, first via radio and later as a TV network, before it was shut down after German reunification.
Garus and 10 other German fellows spent the previous two weeks in Washington, D.C. and New York City before dispersing to various news organizations around the country.
They visited the U.S. Capitol, the White House Press Briefing Room, toured the newsrooms of U.S. and German news organizations, and met with current and former lawmakers.
Their week in America’s biggest city was equally as enlightening.
“The journalists from public and commercial TV and radio stations across Germany and from six different ethnic backgrounds had the chance to take a deep dive into the United States with up to five meetings per day with journalists, politicians, think tank policy experts, Jewish community leaders, Broadway musical stars, a 9/11 survivor and first responder and even Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen,” a news release stated.
Once in Tyler, Garus got a glimpse of local journalism from the perspective of KLTV’s award-winning journalists. He spent time shadowing producers, anchors, reporters, photographers, digital content producers, and news managers.
Arranged by KLTV anchor Lane Luckie, a 2017 RIAS fellow, the East Texas itinerary also included meetings with elected officials, community leaders, in addition to tours of the Tyler Rose Garden and the Texas Museum of Broadcasting and Communications, a firearms demonstration, and sampling traditional Texas barbecue.
Garus also interacted with everyday East Texans. On Monday, he joined a Christian men’s lunch group for their weekly meeting at a Tyler restaurant.
“I was surprised to see how omnipresent religion is in Texas,” he said. ”For many people it seems to be the foundation of their moral compass, when it comes down to family, marriage and love for one another.”
Tuesday, Garus shadowed KLTV anchor and reporter Blake Holland, who covered the Smith County Commissioners Court meeting that morning.
The week’s discussions also touched on culture and traditions in East Texas, from the annual Texas Rose Festival, to the influence of Hispanic heritage.
Christian Spanish-language radio station Fuzión 102.3/103.1 FM hosted Garus for a tour on Wednesday, where board member Ivette Zavarce also shared her family’s immigration journey from Venezuela.
Garus had previously spent time in Mexico working on a documentary and was interested in learning more about the state’s largest minority group.
“Though migration is a difficult topic to handle, Texans open their hearts and minds and try to give as many migrants as possible the chance to start a new life in the USA,” Garus said.
Each day of his itinerary explored the innovative ways technology is incorporated into digital news gathering. Garus learned about the station’s television broadcasts and digital platforms, which include streaming channel East Texas Now, websites, social media, and 7 mobile apps dedicated to news, weather, high school football, Spanish language news, as well as cooking.
Meetings with News Director Joe Terrell and Assistant News Director Jason Goodwin provided valuable insight about the current landscape of the broadcast industry and the challenges and opportunities for local journalism.
Garus also watched his first Texas high school football game, accompanying KLTV Sports Director Michael Coleman to the Gilmer vs. Big Sandy matchup.
Garus also appeared on-camera in a feature for KLTV’s ‘Red Zone’ weekly high school football highlights show.
“High school football is so much fun,” he said. “In particular, like how everyone can get involved: in the band, as cheerleaders, as supporters or as players on the field.”
Garus is the fifth RIAS fellow hosted by KLTV since 2017.