Chris Ivanes joins the Shop Talk panel for this week’s discussion. Ivanes was a high school student in Romania when the Berlin Wall came down on November 9, 1989 and he remembers how the news spread through the Eastern bloc.
Ivanes said Romania had a state-run television station that broadcast nothing but communist propaganda for a couple hours every night. However, people in his neighborhood pitched in to buy a black market satellite dish and it was tuned to a fashion channel that interrupted its regular programming to show the wall being torn down. Ivanes initially thought it was a movie until he realized it was a news feed from some other channel, perhaps from West Germany.
Ivanes said that in those days he generally relied more heavily on radio sources such as Radio Free Europe to get information. He said many Romanians felt like Radio Free Europe was a member of the family.
Ivanes is a Fulbright scholar who’s in Macomb through early next year, teaching comparative broadcasting at Western Illinois University.
Panelist Rich Egger recalled watching CNN as crowds dismantled the wall. He said CNN was the only around-the-clock national news channel in America at the time and he was surprised by what he saw -- there was no advance indication the East German government was about to allow the wall to be torn down.
Panelist Jasmine Crighton said video of the moment always reminds her of the importance of a free media. She said without a free media, the government will spin information however it likes.