BBG Watch Commentary

The Voice of America (VOA) English news website is once again showing outdated news and not updating its homepage promptly with latest information already being reported by other international media, including BBC and Russia Today.

By Noon ET, VOA continued to show this headline on its homepage, “Possible Syria Chemical Arms Destruction Site: Albania,” even though the country’s Prime Minister Edi Rama had already been reported by news agencies and other international media as saying that Albania will not allow the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons on its soil.

Both BBC and Russia Today had updated promptly their homepages with breaking news headlines on the Albanian Prime Minister’s statement and posted news reports about the new development.

VOA should have done the same. The news concerned the United States directly since Washington had asked Albania to help with the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons. It was not a minor news item. It had implications for U.S. foreign policy and Syria — a major international news story. BBC and Russia Today understood this by updating their reporting and placing their updated reports at the top or near the top of their news lineups.

The Voice of America English News did not remove its outdated headline for at least an hour and perhaps even longer after news agencies and others already reported that Albania will not help with the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons. As of 12:30PM ET, the misleading headline was still posted on the Voice of America English homepage as number four item in its top news lineup.

The latest news report on the Albanian Prime Minister’s statement that Albania refuses to host chemical weapons destruction was number one news item on the Russia Today homepage and number two news item on the BBC homepage

The VOA English News report to which the homepage headline linked was still informing VOA’s international audiences that “Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said he will announce later Friday whether his government will approve a U.S. request to house a facility that will destroy the weapons.”

VOA Homepage 11-15-13 Albania News

BBC was reporting that “Albania will not allow the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons on its soil, the country’s Prime Minister Edi Rama says.”

BBC Homepage 11-15-13 Albania News

Russia Today was reporting that “OPCW misses Syria deadline as Albania refuses to host chem weapons destruction.”

Russia Today 11-15-13 Albania News

All three screenshots were taken at the same time.

The Voice of America has its own highly popular and successful Albanian Service. The VOA English Newsroom and its English website team could have easily checked with the Albanian Service what the latest news from Albania was. The VOA Albanian Service had the latest news about the Prime Minister’s statement as a number one news item on its website.

Even if the VOA English Newsroom was not able to confirm the latest information, which others had no problems confirming — or due to understaffing could not write and post a new news item quickly — it could have at least removed a misleading headline from its website.

It is possible, however, that due to mismanagement and understaffing, no one in the English Newsroom or on the English website team was monitoring international news regarding Albania late morning and early Thursday afternoon.

The VOA English homepage still had not been updated as of 12:50PM ET. It was eventually updated with a new headline and a report on Albania and Syrian chemical weapons around 1PM ET, long after other international media posted updated reports.

Critics blame VOA’s senior executives for these delays and missed news stories. They accuse them of causing a chronic breakdown of VOA news reporting and news personnel management. But VOA Director David Ensor was quoted as saying recently that “progress is being made” and “the state of the Voice of America is strong.”

BBG Watch has learned from multiple well-places sources that Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) members are highly concerned and are planning to initiate an evaluation of how VOA English News operates that may lead to management reforms.

By 1:20PM ET, the BBC news report on Albania refusing Syrian chemical weapons already showed 754 Facebook “Likes.” The new VOA news report showed 0 (zero) Facebook “Likes.” The outdated VOA report showed 4 (four) Facebook “Likes.”