Members Of German Press Visit Wheeling

Photo by Alec Berry Journalists Andreas Braun, left, Christian Scafmeister, center, and Juern Kruse, right, attend a discussion with local media professionals Saturday.

WHEELING — Seven German journalists visited Wheeling on Saturday afternoon as part of a 10-day national tour to learn more about the United States’ media industry.

They met with local media professionals to talk shop, as well as discuss topics revelant to both countries such as shifting energy markets and politics. The trip was organized by the U.S. Department of State, and it has led the group through cities such as Washington D.C., Detroit, Mich. and Columbus, Ohio.

The journalists expressed significant interest in West Virginia’s coal industry to further understand the current national conversation regarding energy production. Andreas Braun, one of the seven journalists, said he grew up in a region of Germany similar to West Virginia, in that its economy heavily depended on coal at one time, yet suffered with the downturn of the industry.

He said the last coal mines located in this region were shuttered in the 1990s, yet many still face unemployment — about 10 percent of the population. He said this is mostly due to a lack of jobs, which were lost with the mines. Braun said it has been a difficult transition.

“That takes some time,” he said.

Juern Kruse, another of the seven, said this example is not typical for all of Germany, though, as other regions have sucessfully adapted to more sustainable means of energy creation. He said younger people have stepped in to fill these jobs.

According to the group, coal is still a piece of Germany’s energy market, as wind and solar are not entirely reliable with the current technology available. Another main resource is natural gas, which is mostly piped into the country from Russia.

The people of Germany are “deadset” against fracking within the country, according to the group, and there is not enough land for such development.

The seven agreed their work as journalists now faces louder push back from the public, echoing some U.S. media members’ experiences of being labeled “fake news” and all else.

“Journalists are hated everywhere,” said Michael Hanfeld of the Frankfurter Allegmeine Zeitung. “You always have people saying you’re lying because they don’t want to hear the truth, even just simple facts.”

The group agreed social media has played a part in amplifying public resentment of the news business, yet it also expressed the point a majority of their audience simply digests news stories without comment.

Hanfeld said so far the group’s trip was comprised of conversations in which journalists asked similiar questions of one another, finding common areas of curiousity. He said this curiousity is vital in such a profession. He said he found this willingness to ask questions alive and well in the United States.

“But in Washington, D.C., they seem and act like they know everything,” Hanfeld said.

His statement made the room laugh.