By Ted Lipien
I don’t engage in U.S. partisan politics and do not support one U.S. presidential candidate over another. As of Friday morning, November 6, 2020, we still don’t know who will win this year’s U.S. presidential election although Biden is reported to have a slight lead in vote counting in Pennsylvania, where a win would give him enough votes to be elected.
But as a former VOA journalist and former VOA acting associate director, as well as a co-founder and supporter of BBG – USAGM Watch who strongly believes in the VOA Charter, I have a question for the Voice of America’s senior management since VOA operations are funded by all U.S. taxpayers, both Biden supporters and Trump supporters. I would like to ask this question because VOA is having an impact on the U.S. electorate even though by law it can’t target Americans. It does, however, reach Americans, including ethnic American voters, as well as non-immigrant English speakers, if only because its content is on the web and can be seen by anybody in the United States looking at the VOANews.com website or VOA social media pages.
My question is this: What are the chances VOA central English newsroom would report on the growth of non-white vote for Trump phenomenon and a relatively good performance of Republican Party candidates in various other electoral contests?
In my view, these chances are very slim because I think that without outside prompting or an intervention by the VOA acting director, Elez Biberaj, no VOA central newsroom editor or reporter will dare to propose coverage favorable to Trump and Republicans at this point. I think it would be out of fear of being ostracized by his or her colleagues. I think that the VOA newsroom leadership also will not demand coverage of the intriguing phenomenon of Trump increasing his support among non-white voters that other U.S. news media outlets, both conservative and liberal, have already reported on soon after the polls had closed on Tuesday. From a U.S. public diplomacy abroad perspective, it is a puzzling development, which also interests me as an immigrant in America, not because I have any special sympathy for Trump or for Biden. I’m interested primarily how America votes and how VOA presents Americans to audiences abroad. In my view, the VOA central English newsroom has been misleading its foreign and domestic audience about the real state of America, even about non-whites and immigrants.
For more than four years, the same Voice of America newsroom reported on many claims that Trump and his supporters are racists and fascists. Since such claims were amplified by VOA repeatedly and much of VOA audience abroad is non-white, should not VOA report on the 2020 non-white U.S. vote increasing for Trump, based on exit polls, and try to explain this?
I looked on Thursday for a VOA report on the non-white 2020 vote similar to what National Review (a mainstream conservative publication) and many liberal media outlets have already reported, but I could not find any such reporting and analysis on the VOA English website. I also checked the VOA News Facebook Page and could not find anything on this topic.
In my view, the English VOA newsroom is hopelessly partisan and biased. Its failures are not rare or minuscule, as one former VOA newsroom correspondent observed recently. They are constant and big.
But I’m also sure that some of the foreign language services are doing much better than the VOA central English newsroom when it comes to observing the VOA Charter. This was also the case in the 1980s when the VOA newsroom opposed Reagan in a big way and many VOA foreign language services applauded his tough stance against communism and the Soviet Union. I wrote an article on how “Refugee Voice of America Journalists Stood Up to the Anti-Reagan VOA Newsroom and Won the Cold War.”
However, some refugees journalists in the VOA Urdu Service were not observing the VOA Charter this year when they posted a pro-Biden campaign video which may have helped increase the Muslim vote for Biden and helped him win Michigan.
The Ukrainian Service also violated the VOA Charter in a major way in 2016.
But on a positive note, I have watched one VOA Ukrainian Service U.S. election campaign-related video report this year which was perfectly balanced and presented both: American Ukrainians for Biden and American Ukrainians for Trump.
This is how VOA ought to work: present everything fairly and explain everything fairly. But when I looked for the balanced VOA Ukrainian election campaign video report, I could no longer find it. Was it perhaps too balanced?
The screenshots of the VOA English news website search results are from Thursday morning.