BBG Watch Commentary
In an Associated Press (AP) report posted on the Voice of America (VOA) news website, the U.S. government-run and taxpayer-funded multimedia outlet targeting foreign audiences but available on the internet in the United States linked to President Trump the killing of five journalists by an individual who appears to have had a personal grudge against a newspaper in Maryland.
The AP report posted on the VOA website included the following statement in the second paragraph:
“The shooting came amid months of verbal and online attacks on the “fake news media” from politicians and others from President Donald Trump on down. It prompted New York City police to immediately tighten security at news organizations in the nation’s media capital.”
The AP report on the VOA website did not offer any evidence that the suspect’s attack against the newspaper was politically motivated or in any way linked with President Trump and his criticism of the media. While some media personalities and politicians on the left alleged that President Trump was indirectly responsible for the attack on the newspaper, the Voice of America did not report these accusations according to the balance requirements of the VOA Charter.
The AP report posted on the VOA website did not mention criticism of linking the killings with the President without offering any supporting evidence. While such speculations and attacks on President Trump by some liberal media personalities and politicians in connection with the killings in Maryland could have been reported with counterveiling evidence, counter-criticism, and with information about the broader context of any such political or partisan accusations, this is yet another example of careless reporting combined with lack of leadership, oversight and editorial standards at the taxpayer-supported Voice of America.
Some VOA reporters have publicly called President Trump offensive names, some of which cannot be printed. One VOA report compared his criticism of the media to attacks on free press by Lenin, Stalin and Mao. As early as June 2016, Voice of America director Amanda Bennett and her boss, Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) CEO John Lansing had been warned about social media posts by VOA reporters calling Donald Trump obscene names as serious violations of journalistic ethics, but many of these anti-Trump memes and slogans remained on personal but public Facebook pages of VOA reporters even as late as mid-December 2017. John Lansing, an Obama administration holdover official, said earlier that the organization has the highest respect for the President.
VOA should not be using AP reports when they do not meet the standards of the VOA Charter. Everything worth reporting can be reported under the VOA Charter, but such reporting must follow strict rules of accuracy and balance. In this case, VOA has failed again. Since this is not the first time, the blame goes to the senior leadership of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the Voice of America.