BBG Watch Commentary
Following the earlier BBG Watch criticism that “Voice of America was not updating Facebook news page during key hours of Dallas crisis,” VOA is doing a relatively good job today updating its Facebook page and website on the ongoing military coup in Turkey.
After the earlier criticism of VOA by BBG Watch, former VOA director David Jackson wrote an op-ed for our website, “The Voice of America is Not a Wire Service, And It Shouldn’t be Expected to Act Like One.” Former VOA senior White House correspondent Dan Robinson strongly disagreed with Jackson in an op-ed for BBG Watch titled, “Not Unfair…Or Outsized…Or Erroneous.”
At least this time, VOA seems to be following Dan Robinson’s advice and has been on top of the Turkey coup story, posting frequent updates to its website and Facebook page. This is somewhat unusual since until last week the VOA newsroom was almost always deserted at night and on weekends. VOA has been incapable of quickly updating breaking news for many years even though it has over a thousand employees and hundreds of contractors. Its budget is over $200 million. The vast majority of Voice of America employees, including the large contingent of managers, are given nights and weekends off.
While VOA is still not as quick or as detailed and comprehensive on the Turkey coup story as BBC or Russia’s RT and SPUTNIK, with the two Russian sites providing impressive live online coverage but with the usual element of propaganda and spreading confusion, the Voice of America is doing far better this time under new director Amanda Bennett. At the very least, she got VOA to post to its VOA News Facebook page multiple times since the coup started earlier today.
In fairness to David Jackson, during his tenure, the Voice of America did quite well in breaking news coverage, but those standards have deteriorated sharply after his departure in subsequent years under increasing mismanagement and micromanagement by VOA’s parent agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
The initial months of Bennett’s tenure have also been marred by numerous VOA news reporting mishaps (late, superficial and/or one-sided coverage of major U.S. and international news developments). VOA English News website posts still show minimal audience engagement compared to similar news reports on most other international and U.S. domestic media sites.