BBG Watch Commentary

Several current and former VOA reporters contributed to this commentary.

Not surprising, but BBC beat the Voice of America (VOA) soundly on famous African American musician Fats Domino passing away, with a full detailed story, and a Tweet from Harry Connick Junior.

BBC got the story up on its world front page as a Breaking News item.

VOA page has nothing on Fats Domino as of time of this writing.

VOA eventually got something up on Fats Domino’s death under Arts and Culture at 11:04 AM EDT, but it’s a one sentence story, with a “This is a developing story, check back

“Developing story” is a cop-out. The artist is dead. This means they have no pre-packaged obit material, so they get caught flat-footed.

Does anyone do any real work in that place?

Like I said, they have no prepackaged material. They are now relying on AP. In effect, this makes VOA a service of AP. They can’t generate original material when they should have that capability – as they used to.

Again, does anyone do any real work in that place?

They do have time and resources to prepare hundreds and hundreds of stories on the victimhood of illegal immigrants in the United States, a topic of particular interest to VOA Director Amanda Bennett and her husband, the former Washington Post publisher, as noted on the official Amanda Bennett bio on the VOA website.

What about iconic African American musicians? Who is paying attention to them or any major American cultural figures? Is this the job for AP only?

Would not foreign audiences be more interested in Fats Domino than in yet another illegal immigrant student in America who will fade into oblivion as soon as VOA finishes posting a story? Has VOA become a personal news web page for Ms. Bennett instead of being the “Voice” of “America”? By America, I mean all of America, not just America of special interest to Ms. Bennett.

Is Fats Domino less significant than one of the hundreds of illegal students featured in VOA stories day after day after day under Ms. Bennett’s leadership? I’m not saying that VOA should not report on illegal immigration–it is an important story–but not at the expense of truly major news stories of global interest about Americans whom everyone around the world knows.

Someone needs to set priorities.

Whom will people remember 50 years from now, Ms. Bennett, one of the many illegal immigrants being featured daily on the VOA website, or Fats Domino and his music?

The answer is obvious. VOA needs to have a more balanced focus on news of general interest, especially American news.

Is American culture, including the most famous African American musicians, still a priority for Ms. Bennett’s Voice of America or is Ms. Bennett’s America now the Voice of America?

What happened to the VOA Charter?

The full BBC updated story on Fats Domino had 12 paragraphs.

VOA finally ran a full AP obit.

Photo Credit: By Hugo van Gelderen / Anefo (Nationaal Archief) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

1 comment
  1. This is the kind of story that used to be covered by the bureau in Houston, which VOA management closed late last year with no explanation. Of course, that bureau also covered a region which tends to be heavily Republican and voted for Trump. But one would assume that a spiteful political attitude was not behind the bureau closing. It seems to be more of a general attitude that the America that counts is the part that lies roughly along the Atlantic coast between Boston and Washington, with the latter city being by far the most important. Those unruly, ignorant and strange people who reside in the heartland and south are not to be given too much attention. If we want to delve into their exotic ways or cover some major event that takes place out there we can send a team from Washington to parachute in, get the material needed and then do a report that lines up nicely with what other news organizations are reporting. This is not a reflection on the capable reporters who go out and do their best to fulfill these assignments, it is a reflection on the editors and managers who set the overall policy and tone.

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