BBG Watch Commentary
PUTIN ASKS RUSSIA TO STOP MILITARY OPERATIONS IN UKRAINE TOP STORIES Headline stayed on the Voice of America (VOA) English news website for several hours, Friday, August 29, 2014. It was displayed on the VOA homepage and all other pages and posts. Such mistakes, and not updating of news or offering only superficial news coverage even of presidential foreign policy statements, have become a daily occurrence at the U.S. taxpayer-funded international media outlet experiencing a management meltdown.
U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) gave the world for many hours this morning a breath taking TOP STORY headline: PUTIN ASKS RUSSIA TO STOP MILITARY OPERATIONS IN UKRAINE.
For those who may not know, the headline, which appeared for several hours at the top of the VOA English news website and every VOA news post, was yet another example of the complete recent implosion of management and editorial standards at this once proud journalistic organization more than 70 years old. VOA’s annual budget is about $200 million. Its oversight agency has a budget of over $700 million, which includes $200 million for VOA.
Many of VOA’s top executives have been taking vacations in August and allowing experienced writers and editors to also take vacations despite major international news emergencies in eastern Ukraine, Iraq, and domestically, in Ferguson, Missouri. Members of Congress of both parties are trying to force management reforms at the BBG and the VOA with the bipartisan bill, H.R. 4490, but many senior VOA and agency executives are resisting these legislative reform efforts.
VOA has not only been not updating its English and foreign language websites and social media pages regularly — VOA Kurdish Service online news, Facebook and Twitter were not updated for up to 10-11 hours while Christian Kurds were being slaughtered in Iraq by Islamic State forces.
VOA English news website is also putting out much less U.S. and Washington news than even Russia’s state media outlet RT (formerly known as Russia Today). This includes news about statements by President Obama on Russia’s military intervention in eastern Ukraine,news about the murder of American journalist Jim Foley, and news about anti-police protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
We understand VOA director David Ensor’s statements that the Voice of America is “among the most important tools the United States has in responding to untruths and propaganda from places like Moscow” and that “Voice of America is not a propaganda organization and it is not a mouthpiece of the White House or of anybody else,” but there is something wrong when Russia’s RT has a much longer news report on President Obama’s statement on Russia’s military operations in Ukraine than the Voice of America or when RT posts a profile of slain American journalist Jim Foley and VOA does not.
At least on President Obama’s yesterday’s statement on the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, the hard-working VOA Ukrainian Service had a separate news report, but VOA English and many other VOA language services did not.
Excellent surrogate news coverage of Ukraine and Russia is provided by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), but it does not include Washington news and other news which the Voice of America is required to provide under its VOA Charter. Both VOA and RFE/RL are overseen by the bipartisan Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
SEE: Russia’s RT has more on Obama statement on Ukraine than Voice of America, BBG Watch, August 28, 2014.
SEE: Russian RT paid more attention to American Jim Foley than Voice of America, obliterated VOA in social media, BBG Watch, August 28, 2014.
SEE: Voice of America obliterated by Russia’s RT on Ferguson coverage, social media outreach, BBG Watch, August 27, 2014.
With many of VOA executives and senior staffers gone on vacation in August, VOA English website, which appears to be managed by inexperienced staffers or contractors, has been full of embarrassing typos and other mistakes which remain uncorrected often for hours and days.
Today’s TOP VOA STORY headline, PUTIN ASKS RUSSIA TO STOP MILITARY OPERATIONS IN UKRAINE, tops it all.
The VOA TOP STORY headline may have been a typo, but this is not necessarily a foregone conclusion. Everybody knows that at this time in history Putin is Russia and Russia is Putin, to put it crudely and without considering the repressed and powerless pro-democracy opposition, but whether incompetent managers at the Voice of America know it as well is not certain. They have demonstrated again and again their lack of basic knowledge of international affairs in addition to their managerial incompetence.
We would not be surprised that some VOA staffer or contractor who wrote this headline did not see anything wrong with it, and VOA executives who may have looked at it also did not see anything wrong.
How could Putin be confused with NATO by someone at VOA writing or looking at a TOP STORY headline? The actual report’s headline was: “NATO to Russia: Stop ‘Illegal’ Military Operations in Ukraine.”
The fact that PUTIN ASKS RUSSIA TO STOP MILITARY OPERATIONS IN UKRAINE TOP STORY headline and other glaring errors are allowed to stay on the website for hours and days is at least a sure sign that senior VOA executives, managers and editors do not even bother to view VOA English news with any regularity.
On U.S. and international news, VOA English website is being obliterated in social media outreach and audience engagement by Russia’s RT, which often gets thousands of Facebook “Shares” and hundreds of Tweets and readers’ comments while VOA rarely gets more than a few dozen, often just a few comments if not zero.
Every day, VOA English news website is full of typos and mistakes, often on the lead news story, as shown here on a screenshot of VOA’s top news item yesterday.
SEE: VOA leads Russian troops in Ukraine story with a typo, fails to update, BBG Watch, August 28, 2014.
This map showing Russia-occupied Crimea to be no longer part of Ukraine was apparently produced by one of hundreds of poorly-paid, poorly-trained and poorly-supervised contractors illegally employed by the bloated VOA management.
Two top independent sociologists in Ukraine and Russia, as well as some American experts who have done extensive polling and analysis of polling data in Eurasia, have described a recent public opinion survey ordered and paid for by the United States government through the International broadcasting Bureau (IBB) of the Broadcasting Board of Governors in Russia-occupied Crimea as questionable, while some political observers called it a major public diplomacy blunder for the U.S.
The Voice of America reported the Crimea poll results as perfectly valid — no questions asked.
In presenting the poll results, an IBB executive and a VOA reporter made no mention of any possible problems with gathering data in Crimea, such as a high level of intimidation and fear possibly experienced by Crimean Tatars (about 12% of the population), ethnic Ukrainians and even some ethnic Russians.
Several recent VOA English News reports about Ukraine had errors or presented views of the Russian rebel forces and those opposed to the Ukrainian government in Kyiv without also offering views of Ukraine’s supporters, including ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Tatars in eastern Ukraine in Crimea.