BBG Watch EXCLUSIVE
BBG Watch has learned that journalist, author and former newspaper editor Amanda Bennett (@abennett; Facebook) is being considered by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and the White House to take over the position of Voice of America (VOA) director which has been vacant since last year.
VOA is the leading taxpayer-funded outlet for U.S. international media outreach overseen by BBG. It operates under its own congressional Charter. There has been no official announcement yet of Amanda Bennett’s selection by the BBG for the VOA post.
Whether Amanda Bennett will end up taking the position of VOA director is not absolutely certain. BBG Watch has learned that another leading American journalist recently withdrew his interest in becoming Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) president after he became frustrated with the prolonged bureaucratic selection approval process. RFE/RL is one of several media outlets overseen by BBG. The agency has been criticized as “broken” by members of Congress and was called “practically defunct” by Secretary Clinton in 2013. Amanda Bennett has more Twitter followers (9,844 as of Feb. 17, 2016) than most longtime VOA English Newsroom correspondents who serve a worldwide audience.
Since last September, successful former private media executive John Lansing is BBG’s CEO and director. He has made some initial personnel changes and reforms at the agency, but members of Congress are demanding and proposing much more extensive structural reforms.
If Amanda Bennett gets and accepts the job, she could play a key role in transforming VOA and helping Lansing to reform the agency. She is the former editor of two newspapers, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Lexington Herald-Leader and author of six nonfiction books. She had a 23-year career with The Wall Street Journal and was the paper’s correspondent in China.
During her media career, she was in charge of several award-winning investigative reporting projects.
In 1987, she and her Wall Street Journal colleagues won a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for their investigation of public funding for AIDS research. She was also a managing editor at The Oregonian. In 2001, the paper won Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for investigative reporting on the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
In September 2001, she became editor of The Lexington Herald-Leader. In 2003, she became the first female editor in the 174-year history of The Philadelphia Inquirer. During her tenure there, The Philadelphia Inquirer became the only major American newspaper to run the controversial Danish cartoon representing the prophet Mohammed. Subsequently, she held meetings with with members of the Philadelphia Muslim community to foster better ties with the paper.
From November 2006 to June 2013, she was executive editor at Bloomberg News, where she created and ran a global team of investigative reporters and editors. A Wikipedia article for Amanda Bennett states: “Under her direction, a team of Bloomberg journalists for the first time tallied the personal assets of family members of a senior Chinese leader – vice president Xi Jinping. The story, which was widely circulated both inside and outside China, won the Polk Award, and also resulted in Bloomberg’s business in China being significantly disrupted.”
She resigned from Bloomberg News in November 2013 and is now a freelance journalist and public speaker. She is married to Donald E. Graham, former publisher of The Washington Post.