Stories From California

I fell in love with being a reporter when I got an internship at the RIAS in Berlin, weeks after die Berliner Mauer between East und West came down. I moved to Los Angeles in 2003 when I was assigned to be the head of German public radio’s West coast studio. In 2008, I became the California correspondent for Weltreporter, the largest network of German freelance foreign correspondents. I mostly work for Deutsches Public Radio, LA’s NPR station KCRW, and the journalism collective RiffReporter. If you want me to write a story for your publication, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Farmers' Market - Mar Vista, CA

Among the avocado stands, falafel samples and activists hoping to reverse bike friendly lane changes on a major thoroughfare her cards stand out: dream like visions of women in splendid colors.

Third eyes.
Story lines on open hands.
Skulls and wings.
Roots, leaves, lace and butterflies.

"Want to pick a card?" the artist dares me with a warm smile and sparkle in her blue eyes. She is ready to play. Am I? Sure!

I pick a card from her set. Fire red is the first thing I see. Or is it bood red? Eyes looking right at me. Is that the setting sun behind her or a rising moon? An underwater bubble? Winter fields in Eastern Europe? Full lips. A butterfly at the throat.

"Find Your Voice", the card encourages me.

Well, you would think that as a radio journalist that's what I do all day: find and use my voice. Speaking into a microphone. Heard through speakers. So what about my voice?

Bernadette W. South L.A., CA

"My grandmother was born in Belize. She came here when she was in her 20s. I appreciate her, because if it weren't for her decisions, I probably would not be here."

I met Bernadette through the story telling of her grandson J., a high school student in South Los Angeles. For a book project we collect memories he shares with her, and compare his life with Bernadette's. The way J. talks about her, I can tell, he loves his grandmother a lot. She likes to laugh and to shop, works hard and tells him about times when she was able to walk the streets of his neighborhood without a care in the world.

She came here from Belize, where she spoke Garifuna, a language - and a culture - I had never heard of, and almost nobody understands in the USA. It is the language of a proud people. Bernadette left her mother and her young daughter behind looking for education and a job in California. She built a new life, her daughter joined. J. was born in Los Angeles. 

One thing he vividly remembers is, how one day when his grandma and his mother picked him up from school, they  started speaking this language he did not understand:

Frances Sch. - Hollywood, CA

"Das Dorf hatte eine große Wirkung auf mich,
und ich wusste immer: wenn meine Mutter stirbt,
dann geh ich nie mehr dort hin."
"The village made a big impression on me. I always knew: when my mother dies, I will never return."


Frances Schönberger interviewed them all: Hollywood stars, TV celebreties, Rock'n' Roll legends and teenage heart-throbs. She got wet in Woodstock, made out with David Bowie, put KISS on a cover for the first time, and watched Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nastassja Kinski splash about in her pool. The highlight of her reporter career was a day with John Lennon in New York.

But it all started in a small Bavarian village ...