Thirty years after the Berlin Wall fell, do media consumers, journalists, owners and regulators in Central and Eastern Europe have the media they hoped for back in 1989? Is the news industry of today in the region sufficiently open, probing and independent to give people the news they need, and the tools and analysis to assess the impact of events? If another Wall were about to fall, would the general public know change was afoot? Or would it still come as a colossal surprise, despite modern technology that enables us to keep track minute-by-minute?
Alison Smale is a British journalist and a veteran editor and correspondent at The New York Times, focusing on international affairs. She was based in Bonn, West Germany, for The Associated Press from 1978 to 1983 and in Moscow from 1983 to 1986, chronicling the transitions in Soviet leadership. Then, as the Vienna bureau chief for The Associated Press, she reported extensively from Central Europe, covering the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the post-communist transitions in Bulgaria and Romania, and the war in the Balkans in the 1990s. She joined The New York Times in 1998 as the weekend foreign editor and became deputy foreign editor in 2002. She organized much of the paper’s prize-winning coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2004, Smale became the managing editor of The International Herald Tribune and was elevated to executive editor in 2009. In 2013, she was named Berlin bureau chief for The New York Times, and she covered, among many stories, the refugee and migration crisis in Europe. From 2017 to 2019, she was the UN under-secretary general for global communications.