Laureate 2001: Thomas Mayer

Thomas Mayer 1

Thomas Mayer, former editor in chief of the Leipziger Volkszeitung, initiated the Leipzig-based fund-raising drive “Kosovo Relief” in 1999 and personally took part in the relief-aid transports.

3rd Prize goes to Thomas Mayer

The Foundation Council of the Media Foundation of the Sparkasse Leipzig has awarded the 3rd "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" 2001 to Thomas Mayer, editor in chief of the Leipziger Volkszeitung. The prize has a purse of 10,000 deutsche marks.

Thomas Mayer 2
Thomas Mayer

From the jury’s decision:

The fundraiser started by Thomas Mayer is symbolic for his sensitivity to injustice and truthfulness as well as for his journalistic work, which has always focused on the – ever vulnerable – human being. Thus, in the years before the Kosovo conflict he reported on the children of Chernobyl, street urchins in Bucharest and Moscow, Sinti and Roma in Transylvania, and land-mine victims in Sarajevo. In the same way, Mayer made a substantial contribution to the relief operation of the Leipziger Volkszeitung in cooperation with UNICEF.

Thomas Meyer

Easter 1999. The stream of Kosovar refugees makes headlines around the world, including the Leipziger Volkszeitung. The newspaper’s editor in chief, Thomas Mayer, resolves to become active and start a charity drive. Additional partners are quick to follow: Wolfgang Tiefensee (Lord Mayor of Leipzig), Sparkasse Leipzig, and publisher Nenad Popovic (Zagreb). Thomas Mayer organizes local operations, collecting a total of 350,000 deutsche marks in donations.

With lightning speed, numerous relief programs come into existence. Apart from delivering aid supplies, which Mayer personally accompanies to their destination, or delivering a Jeep donated by Leipzig car dealers, he succeeds in rescuing from the crisis region the family of a former East German citizen married to a Kosovar.

Writing about people, ordinary and famous, portraying their fates after sometimes perilous journeys and in a manner anything but sensationalist – this is what Thomas Mayer is all about. Even before the Kosovo conflict began he was reporting live on the children of Chernobyl, on street urchins in Bucharest and Moscow, Sinti and Roma in Transylvania, and land-mine victims in Sarajevo. Thomas Mayer was instrumental in organizing and promoting the relief actions of the Leipziger Volkszeitung in cooperation with UNICEF.

Thomas Mayer learned his profession “from scratch,” even though his career development might not seem like a linear progression (he began as a stage technician at the theater in Dresden). Journalism is his job and his calling. Even in the GDR he could test his moral courage on the job, for example, in a scathing article attacking the favoritism towards “BFC Dynamo” football club. “Oh no, I was no hero,” Mayer counters.

And yet his ability to keep his personal fears under control, letting his curiosity and his love of the truth prevail, gives him the courage to face sometimes unpredictable occupational hazards. His wife Gudrun is a constant source of support and encouragement.

The prizewinner has been working as editor in chief of the Leipziger Volkszeitung for over ten years now, tracking down stories between the lines. He enjoys the search for contemporary witnesses, especially those who have lived for nearly a century and have a unique story to tell – for example, refugees from Kosovo. Thomas Mayer retired in 2012.