A virtual what? asked the perplexed high-school principal on the other end of the line. I was halfway through my one-minute pitch of the BEST Virtual Newsroom, a new cross-cultural media-literacy program for German and American teens. Apparently in a hurry, he huffed and quickly passed me on to a teacher of English at the Hamburg school. To my relief, she was more enthusiastic about the opportunity. She promised to distribute the call for applications.
I made that first cold-call in spring 2021. The Amerikazentrum Hamburg, a binational cultural institute, had approached me a few weeks earlier with the germ of an idea. Why not develop a virtual program to teach teens in Hamburg and its U.S. sister city Chicago the basics of journalism? A firm believer that media literacy is needed now more than ever, I loved the idea. I threw myself into the planning right away.