Voice of America story romanticizes a terrorist, experienced VOA reporters complain

BBG Watch Commentary

Crisis Management

Some of the most experienced Voice of America (VOA) journalists are complaining that many of their poorly trained colleagues who lack proper direction from senior leaders, managers and editors, are posting reports and create broadcasts which romanticize terrorists and their families. In commenting on a new Voice of America project featuring a now dead ISIS terrorist and an ISIS propaganda eulogy, ‘Hope to see you in the afterlife’ for the ISIS “martyr,” which was posted on his Facebook account and repeated word-for-word by VOA, one former VOA reporter commented: “That’s incredible. Seems like something from AJ or an IS propaganda website. What in the world are they thinking putting this on VOA?”

But Voice of America director Amanda Bennett disagrees with critics. “Kudos to all who worked on this,” she wrote in a tweet promoting the VOA program.

This is how VOA News presented the new project on its Facebook page: “Rasid Tugral once fell in love with the sky. He tried to capture the celestial beauty in his camera. Jihad was not the path on which Tugral started. Questions about Tugral still haunt his friends.”

“Smart, handsome, adventurous and outgoing,” is how the Voice of America described the Turkish-born terrorist Rasid Tugral who before joining ISIS “entered a prestigious graduate program in astrophysics in Finland.”

A former BBG communications specialist commented: “Here they go into dangerous territory” with no clue how it should be done.

Crisis management is desperately needed at the Voice of America and its parent agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) with its FY 2017 $777 million budget, current VOA reporters also tell BBG Watch, pointing to OPM surveys which show the BBG as being the least attractive place to work in the federal government.

The Voice of America has become known for interviewing family members and close friends of terrorists and posting to VOA websites and social media pages their one-sided, biased and often factually wrong comments without challenge or attempts to provide alternative viewpoints.

Under the failing watch of VOA director Amanda Bennett, her deputy Sandy Sugawara, and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) CEO John Lansing, Voice of America programs have reached also an unprecedented level of partisan bias in reports on the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign and in post-election reports on U.S. politics.

Such drastic violations of the VOA Charter have not been seen until recently, but mismanagement at the VOA and BBG level has been there since the Broadcasting Board of Governors replaced the United States Information Agency (USIA) in the 1990s.

SEE: Voice of America whips up anti-Trump hysteria with one-sided reporting, BBG Watch, December 5, 2016.

 

ALSO SEE: Voice of America Civil Service Employees Satire Trump, Future First Lady, BBG Watch, December 17, 2016.

 
A recent Voice of America production, Descent Into Jihad: A young Turk’s transformation from astronomer to Islamic State fighter,” praised in a tweet by VOA director Amanda Bennett, romanticizes a terrorist, one experienced former VOA reporter posted a critical comment on social media.
 
 


 
 
Several Voice of America reporters told their colleagues that the program praised by VOA director Amanda Bennett is not at all exclusive. Newsweek magazine did a much better story on the same terrorist in May 2015.

Experienced Voice of America journalists who are still with VOA complain that the VOA program not only glamorized a terrorist but was also poorly written and poorly edited. VOA reporters whose comments were shared with us do not want to be identified by name since they are still Broadcasting Board of Governors federal government employees.
 
 

 
VOA REPORTER:
 
I think one could say the [Voice of America] story glamorizes the ill-fated young Rasid Tugral a bit. But more than that, it’s just not very good or very well-written, and it’s way, way, way too long (16 pages to print out the text). I think whoever was pushing this one was mesmerized by the catchy program they were using to display very big​ photos throughout the text, in layouts that the webdesk’s normal CMS cannot handle … so mesmerized that they didn’t read the text with any kind of critical eye. It meanders, it’s episodic, without any narrative arc, gives too much detail where you don’t need it and not enough where you do.
 
(Well down in the story, there’s a link to Newsweek, which chronicled the tale of Rasid Tugral much more skillfully, in May of 2015!)
 
And why is this non-exclusive the lead story all night? There is a solid hard-news story today, Trump’s comments about nuclear weapons, that are good enough to lead the New York Times and Washington Post webpages.
 
 
voa-homepage-screenshot-december-22-2016
 
 
As you can see from the screenshot of our [Voice of America] home page on the web, our Trump nuclear story is cleverly placed beneath “Colo, World’s Oldest Gorilla, Turns 60.”
 
And the screenshot of the dreadful VOA web app shows not a word about the Trump nuclear story.
 
 
voa-news-homepage-mobile-site-screenshot-december-22-2016
 
 
Nothing on the fancy ‘Descent into Jihad’ either, since that software doesn’t translate into the web app. Heck, it’s even hard to find anything about Colo’s birthday.
 
​S​ometimes I wonder if anyone here knows what the hell they are doing.
 
Somebody should be ashamed, but I doubt it would be Amanda Bennett.

 

 
 

BBG board chairman Jeff Shell, BBG CEO John Lansing and VOA director Amanda Bennett have expressed effusive praise for what they describe as their “excellent” management team despite the fact that according to the latest independent and non-partisan Partnership for Public Service 2016 rankings, the Broadcasting Board of Governors is not only the last among 27 mid-size federal agencies in senior leadership and employee engagement but is going backward on these employee morale measures.

BBG Watch had reported previously on the U.S. taxpayer-funded media outlet (VOA FY 2017 budget is $224 million) doing one-sided interviews with family members and close friends of terrorists in the United States.
 

SEE: Your tax-funded Voice of America: NYC terrorist ‘friendly’; Minnesota terrorist ‘smart and reliable’, BBG Watch, September 21, 2016.

 

SEE: Voice of America Boston terror trial report sends confusing, wrong message abroad, January 5, 2015.

 

SEE: Voice of America quotes: a Muslim terrorist ‘all over the media’ – a terror attack by a Westerner doesn’t have the same [media] impact, BBG Watch, July 1, 2016.

 

SEE: In a report on New York LGBT Pride March, Voice of America fails to call Orlando shooting terrorism, doesn’t mention murderer’s oath to ISIS or even his name, BBG Watch, June 26, 2016.

 

SEE: Former BBG Governor calls Voice of America video on Islamist terrorism flawed and dangerous, BBG Watch, June 18, 2016.

 

SEE: ‘Wholesale racism’ in Israel: RFE/RL Facebook message paid by U.S. taxes, BBG Watch, March 27, 2016.

 

SEE: Nigerian government: accusations Voice of America skewed in favor of Boko Haram, BBG Watch, March 10, 2016.

 

SEE: Voice of America tells world U.S. is in a ‘State of Fear’, BBG Watch, December 6, 2015.

 

SEE: On the day of Obama’s terrorism address, Voice of America shows 21 hour old Tweet, BBG Watch, December 5, 2015.

 

SEE: U.S. funded RFE/RL posts a puff piece on an Iranian terrorist, BBG Watch, August 27, 2015.

 

SEE: Death for Tsarnaev – earlier speculative Voice of America headlines undermined credibility, BBG Watch, May 15, 2015.

 

SEE: Speculative news headlines: Voice of America can’t learn from its mistakes, BBG Watch, May 14, 2016.

 
 
 

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