Most people think that first the Berlin wall fell, and then East Germans got their freedom. “The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall,” a recent book by Mary Elise Sarotte explains that it is the opposite.
Whereas the larger context of perestroika and the attractions of the West played an important role, the decisive factor was the conduct of provincial actors—information smugglers, pastors, artists, students, journalists and housewives who met every week mostly at churches, and slowly undermined the regime. (source)
But what made the wall fall?
Apparently, Communist Party Official Günter Schabowski did not know how to handle a press conference. (source) He bungled a question, leading to confusion about a plan to relax travel restrictions a little bit.
The East German government was not, at that time, really all that ready to thaw. There was almost a German Tiananmen Square massacre in Leipzig. (source) And why not? There were no consequences for it in China.
There is a journalist’s credo that one should report the news, not be the news. But, as we remember the fall of the Berlin Wall, lets remember the journalists who simply questioned the Wall out of existence. In doing so, they threw a spark on tinder that was waiting to burn.