Advice to American journalists looking for work: Learn to speak German

Andrew Bulkeley is a Littleton native who attended journalism school at Colorado State University with an eye toward working in the media. Little did he know that he'd find his greatest success only after leaving the United States. Today, Bulkeley is a Berlin-based correspondent for, a New York-based news source specializing mergers, acquisitions and so on -- and in the age of Obama, he's become a regular television commentator, helping Germans understand what's happening on this side of the pond.

How did Bulkeley wind up in such a good place, albeit so far from home? He explains in the account below, which details the difficulties he faced in establishing himself stateside, his better luck in the Old Country, and the reasons why journalists in Germany aren't quite as edgy as their U.S. peers during the current media-transition period. Also on view after the jump: a video clip in which Bulkeley demonstrates why we should have all applied ourselves more diligently in foreign-language classes.

I grew up in Littleton but eventually graduated from high school in L.A and got a Lit degree from CSU in 1992. I actually worked in Denver for six years but left because it felt like there was no real market for Colorado journalists, just those relocating from similar-sized markets with experience. At the very least, if there was such a market, I never felt like I had access to it.

At CSU I was a reporter and editor for the [Rocky Mountain] Collegian since it looked like careers as a pro cyclist or Great American Novelist weren't going to pan out. After college I worked at General Communications, a trade publisher in Cherry Creek, and the Douglas County News-Press in Castle Rock in various positions. Then I joined [former Westword staff writer] Gil Asakawa at AOL's Digital City Denver three months before they laid everyone off. (During this period I was also doing summaries of New Times features for some prim and humorless New Times editor at the old Westword offices).

During my Denver stretch I applied to any and every editorial position in the metro area as well as Bloomberg News in Frankfurt. Bloomberg was the only one that really bit, mostly because I had learned German as an exchange student in high school. That made deciding what to do after Gil and Digital City Denver pretty easy.

I eventually relocated to Berlin and got married and had two kids. I now pay the bills as a correspondent for a New York M&A paper, The Deal. The day Obama announced he would campaign in Berlin I got a call from N24, a national all-news channel, to talk about Obama and America. I did and have been on at least once every week since as a talking head. It's fun and the pay is great so I'm trying to figure out what's next.

Anyway, the correspondent scene here was decimated during the last downturn (I think only the NYT has a reporter here these days) and the wire services (AFP, AP, Reuters) have been at fighting weight since that recession too. German journalists are nervous, but there are a lot more papers here than in America -- Berlin is the size of the metro area and the city has three daily broadsheets and two tabloids. Broadcast journos have it good too since the government has its own Voice of America kind of thingy (Deutsche Welle) plus there's things like N24, which also produces newscasts for private stations.

Here's a clip of Bulkeley on N24. He's introduced at just shy of the thirty-second point, and his communication skills prove to be sehr gut!:

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts