BBG Watch Guest Commentary

BBG Watch occasionally publishes guest commentaries. This one is from a current Voice of America (VOA) journalist who prefers to remain anonymous. This one is a letter addressed to the Voice of America (VOA) Director David Ensor and members of the bipartisan Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) which provides strategic direction and oversight for VOA and other U.S. taxpayer-funded news and information media outlets serving audiences abroad. A VOA staffer who wrote it prefers to remain anonymous.

Views expressed here are only those of the author and not of BBG Watch, its volunteers, or sponsors.

We invite those with opposing views and others who want to comment on this or other issues followed by BBG Watch to submit their op-eds for consideration.


A letter to David Ensor, Director of the Voice of America, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors

By Anonymous VOA Staffer

Please do something to stop the complete and utter chaos rippling among upper management on the third floor — and the trickling down effect to the language services and broadcast studios on the second floor, and even more destructively, to the first floor newsroom and English web operation, which has been ordered to reorganize
its focus to our digital product.

We are exhausted and beaten down by repeated and unfulfilled promises of reforms to come. We are still waiting for this “Digital First” reorg that will fold Central News and English web together with the aim of getting our material online as quickly as possible.

Please understand that with every delay (and lack of communication from you, Mr. Ensor, directly) the rank and file journalists, without which VOA could not exist, lose ever more faith in your leadership. The FaceTime meetings come off as superficial and full of vacuous statements that do nothing to address the very real crumbling all around us.

Please know that the rank and file know about the palace infighting on your floor.

Put yourself — a former network television journalist — in our shoes. We try to remain focused and creative amid a poisonous atmosphere with fewer and fewer resources (field correspondents hampered by not having software programs to access the network or produce their work; reporters in DC having fewer and fewer editors to turn to, unreliable computer connectivity to do the basics). Imagine how hard it is to keep our focus — and initiative — when week after week there is an unexplained delay and/or another destabilizing drama upstairs.

Please understand when the “reorg” came to a screeching halt in mid-summer (after a series of productive meetings with rank and file employees) that the weeks of no communication or explanation from you was very damaging. Much more so than I think you have ever realized. If the course needed to be corrected, couldn’t it have been done in a much more productive and less abrupt way — and included the staff it is directly affecting?

It was never even acknowledged.

Many of us have learned not to expect anything from you when you make promises. We know better than to believe you when you say “change is coming.” We’ve been told to not do breaking news, then do breaking news, do TV, cut the news file, post Reuters, don’t post Reuters, file features riffing off the news, then — boom — where is that breaking news story???

Please articulate a vision that is consistent and workable.

Many of us are demoralized and are acutely aware that we operate without leadership. But we managed to muddle through. Some have produced very noteworthy journalism in the midst of this indescribable dysfunction. But you’ve never complimented those reporters via email or in person.

Do you read the material? Do you have any idea how hard it is to do that kind of work in the current circumstances? A personal stroke from you now and then would go a long way.

Please act. Because VOA’s journalistic function is in tatters.

To the Board: if you have lost faith in the leadership of VOA, then it’s your turn to act and right it.

Voice of America could still matter in key audiences. Please respect the larger mission and stop the bleeding.

If you agree that VOA is in serious trouble, please act and make the necessary changes — now.

Thank you.

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