BBG Watch Commentary
As Voice of America director Amanda Bennett suspends and investigates VOA China journalists, shouldn’t she also be suspended and investigated?
As the recording of Monday’s meeting shows, Voice of America (VOA) director Amanda Bennett certainly has exhibited her usual Maximums Hubris in lecturing VOA Mandarin Service journalists on the need to uphold best journalistic practices while being completely silent on the need for her, her deputy Sandy Sugawara and other top-level VOA managers to uphold best managerial practices. The same can be said about the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) CEO John Lansing.
VOA Mandarin Service journalists wanted to know what they and their five suspended colleagues did wrong, but Ms. Bennett would not tell them. She kept saying that she may tell them only after the investigation is completed. She kept repeating numerous times that she is not going “to litigate” this issue in public pending a complete investigation. The frustration of Mandarin Service staffers was overwhelming. They were being humiliated once again by the upper management that has failed them and the entire organization.
The question on everybody’s mind that no one dared to ask was why Amanda Bennett herself and her deputies are also not under investigation for the Guo Wengui interview fiasco and why the top managers should face no suspension while lower-ranking Chinese-speaking journalists are humiliated by being put on administrative leave and facing an investigation.
There was little doubt in anybody’s mind in the VOA Mandarin Service as they were listening to Amanda Bennett, BBG Watch was told, that the persons who should be investigated above all are the VOA director herself and her deputies. It was mainly they who contributed to the tremendous loss of VOA’s reputation in China and it happened under their watch. As always, they transferred the blame to lower-ranking journalists by having them suspended and investigated. Led by Amanda Bennett, they showed their usual Maximus Hubris.
At least Amanda Bennett got to hear from a VOA Mandarin Service journalist on Monday what her leadership has done to the Voice of America. The journalist said that she has been with the Voice of America for 20 years but she has never seen such tremendous damage to VOA’s reputation. She described how she has experienced the consequences of the upper management’s mishandling of the Guo Wengui interview. Those listening to the recording heard extreme sadness and disappointment in the Chinese woman’s voice as she addressed the VOA director who provided no explanation or an apology.
The VOA director is never at fault. That’s why there is no need for her to be suspended or investigated. It is always some Chinese or other language service staffers who do not know what the best VOA journalistic practices are, was the message heard from Amanda Bennett and her deputies by VOA Mandarin Service staff, BBG Watch was told.
VOA MANDARIN SERVICE JOURNALIST TO VOA DIRECTOR AMANDA BENNETT: “For the past two weeks, we were flooded with angry posts from our audience, asking VOA to provide an explanation. …I really think we owe our audience an explanation. I understand that the PR Office had a statement, but a lot of people considered that as insufficient. I think we owe our audience an apology or an explanation. But at this point, I think, it’s already too late. Still, something is better than nothing because I see the damage to our reputation. It’s unbelievable. I’ve been working here for 20 years and I have never seen such a PR crisis. Really. I have never seen anything like this. The anger and the frustration of our audience.”
ALSO READ: Staff ‘suspended’ at Voice of America after interview with fugitive tycoon Guo Wengui – Broadcaster says decision based on journalistic principles – not pressure from the US or China, South China Morning Post, May 2, 2017.
ALSO READ: Voice of America management suspends 5 VOA China journalists, BBG Watch, May 1, 2017.
ALSO READ: Voice of America director cut short Guo Wengui live interview, BBG Watch, May 1, 2017.