Broadcasting Board of Governors Information War: Lost
The Never-Ending Downward Spiral
By The Federalist
There used to be a time when there was a saying around the Voice of America (VOA):
“You don’t come to VOA for training. You come here trained.”
Apparently, those days are long gone.
According to a BBG Watch post, Amanda Bennett (the VOA director) has ordered “bias training” in the wake of criticisms of VOA postings under the guise of “news.”
VOA Director Orders Bias Training In Wake of Criticisms, BBG Watch, June 21, 2016
Truly, you’ve got to be kidding.
The first question we have is: do the individuals intended for this training know how to read?
Let’s start with what are supposed to be two basic agency documents, in easy to carry pocket size: the VOA Charter and the so-called “VOA Journalistic Code.”
Who knows – in the atmosphere adopted by this agency, maybe someone threw out copies of these documents. It seems to be the case because too much of VOA content has nothing to do with balance and objectivity.
With what appears to be increasing regularity, people inside the Cohen Building are projecting personal biases onto what they produce for agency content.
The worst for us is the VOA “Orlando” video attempting to parse definitions of Islam in the face of a prolonged Islamic extremist terrorist movement that is global in scope, up to and including individuals “inspired” (by their own claim) the creed of ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria).
ALSO SEE: In a report on New York LGBT Pride March, Voice of America fails to call Orlando shooting terrorism, doesn’t mention murderer’s oath to ISIS or even his name, BBG Watch, June 27, 2016.
So, for all the effete semanticists inside the Cohen Building:
Get with the program!
If ISIS is calling themselves Islamic, so be it. They have branded themselves.
And frankly, it’s the ISIS definition that counts: not the one from individuals inside the Cohen Building who think they know what they’re talking about.
Back to the subject of “training:”
Beyond the seemingly lack of knowledge in what constitutes journalistic principles, there is also a deeper problem.
Let us recall that agency employees have been engaged in their own agenda for quite some time. We refer you to the “Back Off Congress” editorial posted to The Los Angeles Times in June 2014, written by an agency employee, objecting (and not delicately) to bipartisan reform legislation introduced in Congress back in 2014 (H.R. 4490, later replaced by H.R. 2323; neither of them enacted). The employee who wrote the editorial and the then VOA director have since retired.
Let us also recall employees in the VOA newsroom demanding that the BBG renounce a US Government policy directive regarding an initiative attempting to counter the success of ISIS propaganda.
For Ms. Bennett, the problem is more than ill-trained employees.
It’s also an agenda being promoted and advocated by employees who believe that they are above and beyond any sense of accountability and who believe that they – and only they – seemingly have the power and the right to determine the agency’s mission.
We hold to our belief that this agency has passed the point of no return. It cannot be reformed or rehabilitated. The fact that the VOA director has to resort to “best practices bias training” tells you a whole lot about how bad things have gotten inside VOA.
As one of our acquaintances sarcastically remarked, “So, are they going to be given training on the best way to be more biased?”
You have to wonder.
Particularly when all around these people is a media environment that has opened Pandora’s Box to unbridled advocacy and opinion while trying to call it “news” or “journalism.”
As we have also observed regularly, the people inside the Cohen Building seem to have forgotten who they are working for.
They also need to disabuse themselves of the notion, implanted by former VOA director David Ensor, that this agency is “an independent news company,” an erroneous description of the first degree.
There is nothing “independent” about this agency. It is legislated, regulated and if necessary, it can be eliminated.
The damage has been done. It is irreparable.
Quite frankly, there does not appear to be the time, the money or (apparently) the talent to turn things around in this agency and in a timely manner.
John Lansing, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) chief executive officer and Ms. Bennett as VOA director like to believe that they can do something constructive with this agency.
We have a far more skeptical outlook.
In Lansing’s case, an agency which has assiduously constructed a reputation for being
- “Dysfunctional” (Heritage Foundation scholar Helle C. Dale)
- “Practically Defunct” (Hillary Clinton)
- “Broken” (US statesmen, diplomats, media experts and journalists interviewed by former BBG member S. Enders Wimbush and former Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty executive Elizabeth M. Portale)
- “Truly Rudderless” or Leaderless (Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ed Royce)
The House Committee on Foreign Affairs:
- “This Broken Agency is Losing the Info War to ISIS & Putin,” House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Chairman Ed Royce, February 23, 2016.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors reinforces these descriptions regularly, has too much wrong with it to have the slightest chance for recovery.
For Ms. Bennett’s part, it was a grave mistake as she came on board to make reference to the agency’s so-called “managers” as a “fantastic leadership team.” The vast majority of employees know that to be a crock: even if they are sanely afraid to voice it publicly.
That put Ms. Bennett in the position of starting from a deficit.
It hasn’t gotten any better since then.
And you can forget that nonsense about the agency being “a whirlwind of positive change,” as one of the current BBG members put it. That is just plainly delusional.
Further, we would like to know more about this “VOA Director Chat Facebook page.” What is that supposed to accomplish?
Frankly, Ms. Bennett – or people in her office – can spend every moment of every day getting bogged down in superfluous chit chat while bad things are happening around them – as in the case of the “Orlando” video and other (numerous) examples of the agency’s failings.
Maybe that is what the “fantastic leadership team” wants to see happen: the VOA director spinning her wheels in an exercise of “motion without movement.”
We don’t know if there is a video of it, but if there is, Ms. Bennett would be well served to watch the presentation made by the late Ms. Evelyn Lieberman when she became VOA director. Ms. Lieberman was a no nonsense kind of person. She knew better than most the kinds of characters she was dealing with. The same can also be said of former BBG member Blanquita Cullum.
SEE: Former BBG Governor calls Voice of America video on Islamist terrorism flawed and dangerous, BBG Watch, June 18, 2016.
Some – if not more – of that kind of persona is required in this agency before it totally flames out. Ms. Lieberman worked for President Clinton. Ms. Cullum was nominated to the BBG by President George W. Bush. Hillary Clinton, who in 2013 called the BBG “practically defunct,” worked for President Obama.
These Democratic and Republican women knew that the management and its structure at the BBG and the Voice of America were deeply flawed. They would never call it the “fantastic leadership team.” The communications agency that can’t even post online a good-quality video of the June 23, 2016 Broadcasting Board of Governors meeting is not in a “whirlwind of positive change.” This description comes from BBG Governor Michael Kemper. According to another BBG Governor, Matt Armstrong, “We have no peer. BBC is not our peer. Deutsche Welle is not our peer. We are unique.” According to BBG Chairman Jeff Shell, the agency is “on a roll.”
What is so unique about having VOA election campaign coverage described by both Bernie Sanders’s and Donald Trump’s supporters, as well as foreign visitors to VOA website, as biased, defamatory, full of “electioneering and hit pieces on US citizens”? These descriptions from the United States and abroad are far closer to reality for the agency that is killing itself while singing its own praises in which practically no one believes.
Perhaps the ultimate epitaph for this agency is:
It burned itself out.