We were quite intrigued what Twitter users abroad might think about a tweet by Voice of America (VOA) senior correspondent and VOA White House Bureau Chief Steve Herman. Might they think the tweet is funny? Or perhaps some may see it, God forbid, as signaling a physical attack on free press in the United States by U.S. Marines piloting the presidential Marine One helicopter? Please don’t think that.
We rush to assure our readers who may not know America as well as Steve Herman does that his VOA tweet should not be seen as journalistic reporting in the category of news. Steve Herman has a lot of international experience as a VOA foreign correspondent so he had to have a special reason for his tweet, but we can only wonder what it was. Since it was not the opening salvo in the war on media, perhaps Mr. Herman simply wanted to show a winter scene in Washington, but that might be a too simple explanation.
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) January 14, 2019
What happened in the video is not at all unusual, so perhaps what Mr. Herman wrote, “Marine One blows snow on @WhiteHouse press corps,” can offer some clues to those who analyze such tweets. Mr. Herman is a prolific social media user.
He no doubt knows that Marine One helicopters flying the President of the United States have been blowing snow on the White House press corps waiting on the White House lawn for many winters.
“As if this is a huge story,” one former VOA foreign correspondent perhaps somewhat sarcastically commented, sending us a link to a post by award-winning news photographer Pete Marovich who has photos showing that snow has been thrown at reporters waiting at the White House lawn many times before. It allows photographers to take good looking photos.
“south lawn blizzard (man made)” Images by Pete Marovich
Writing during President Barack Obama’s administration, Marovich pointed out:
“Now of course we were prepared to get snow blown all over us…”
“A hovering helicopter can generate winds between 70-115MPH…“
If anyone thinks that President Trump has ordered a snow ball attack on the White House press corps, we can assure them with a reasonable certainty that almost definitely this was not a deliberate assault on the pesky American media whose job it is to be annoying but not politically biased or obviously partisan. In the past, VOA made a big deal of various individuals comparing President Trump to Lenin, Stalin and Mao because of his criticism of what he called the “fake news media,” but since then nothing really happened.
See the VOA report, “Trump’s Attack on Media as ‘Enemy of the People’ Has Historic Echoes,” which was co-written by Mr. Herman in February 2017.
The Trump administration has not imprisoned any journalists. We don’t want to appear partisan, but the Obama administration actually secretly investigated Fox News and AP reporters in relation to their journalistic work. It also did not amount to any kind of serious attack on free media in the United States. Partisan actors on both sides tend to greatly exaggerate comments and actions that can mean very little or a lot. The job of journalists, especially VOA journalists, is to figure it out and explain what it means for foreign audiences. Whether someone likes or dislikes Mr. Trump or Mr. Obama, they are no Stalin, Lenin or Mao– not by a really, really long shot, like a light year or two. The others were mass murderers who ordered the killing of millions. They, by the way, employed armies of so-called “journalists” who produced their propaganda and disinformation.
We have absolutely no idea why the VOA White House Senior Correspondent found the video of the Marine One helicopter taking off on a winter day newsworthy for his tweet which attracted comments mostly from Americans like himself. Technically, VOA should not be targeting Americans, but you can’t avoid it in the era of the Internet. All a VOA reporter can do is to make his news reports and tweets both newsworthy and relevant for a foreign audience. He or she should try to tailor them for a reader abroad without confusing anyone.
It should not be too much to ask. Voice of America reporters are currently furloughed due to the federal government shutdown, but because they are considered essential U.S. federal government employees, they by law have to work, even without pay. After the past such U.S. federal government temporary shutdowns, VOA employees eventually received their back pay, even those who were not considered essential employees and did not have to work. They are employed by the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM), previously called the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
In an attempt to perhaps further explain this for our own foreign readers:
Marine One is the call sign of any United States Marine Corps aircraft carrying the President of the United States. It usually denotes a helicopter. Wikipedia. Retrived January 16 2019 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_One.
“Blowing someone off” means in American slang to ignore someone. McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. (2002). Retrieved January 16 2019 from https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/blow+off
“To blow off” means to become angry; to lose one’s temper; to blow off (some) steam.” Ibid.
“Blow-off,”, written usually with a hyphen, means the final insult; an event that causes a dispute; a dispute; an argument. Ibid.
Since the VOA White House correspondent wrote about blowing snow, we rush to explain even further:
A “snow job” is an idiom which means a systematic deception; a deceptive story that tries to hide the truth. McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. (2002). Retrieved January 15 2019 from https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/snow+job
It could be an effort to deceive, persuade, or overwhelm with insincere talk. The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. (2003, 1997). Retrieved January 15 2019 from https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/snow+job
A “snow job” could also be described as an attempt to deceive someone by telling many lies or by giving praise that is not sincere. Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed.. (2012). Retrieved January 15 2019 from https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/snow+job
We still wonder why the VOA senior White House correspondent and Bureau Chief posted his tweet? What do you think?