BBG Watch Commentary
Voice of America English news website for international audiences ignored Malala Yousafzai’s appearance last Tuesday on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, just as it had ignored other major human rights news stories in recent weeks and months.
A short VOA news report this week on the Sakharov Prize for Malala had only 294 Facebook “Likes” compared to 10,568 Facebook “Likes” for a BBC news story, 5,593 Facebook “Likes” for an Al Jazeera news story, and over 2,500 Facebook “Likes” for a Russia Today news story. There were no readers’ comments on the VOA story.
Also READ: Where Voice of America failed on Malala news story, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty did not, BBG Watch.
Having established a pattern of ignoring human rights news stories, such as the Lech Walesa Human Rights Award for Russian political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the Catholic University of America academic fellowship for blind Chinese rights activist Chen Guangcheng, the Voice of America (VOA) English news website did have two stories on Thursday on the European Union awarding its top human rights prize, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, to Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai. Malala was shot last year and nearly killed by the Taliban in an attempt to stop her efforts to promote education for women.
Still, the Voice of America could not even come close to such international broadcasters as Al Jazeera, BBC, and Russia Today in terms of audience engagement through social media for this particular news story or practically any other news story. International audiences got used to VOA missing coverage of major news developments, being late in reporting on them, and offering short news items from Reuters instead of original news coverage.
A good example of such perfunctory coverage is the VOA news story posted late Friday night on U.S. President Barack Obama meeting at the White House with Pakistani teenage activist Malala, Obama Meets Malala Yousafzai. The VOA story is only 230 words long, has no details of the meeting itself, no video, and no photos. It appears to be a re-written wire service news item. VOA correspondents have complained that their news reports are often not used on the VOA English website or are posted late.
Of the two VOA news reports on the Sakharov Prize for Malala, the first one, Pakistan’s Malala Wins Sakharov Prize, had under 200 words. As of late Friday night it had 294 Facebook “Likes,” 35 Tweets, and no readers’ comments.
The second VOA news story, Malala Yousafzai Wins EU’s Top Human Rights Honor, was almost just as short, but it included video. As of late Friday night it had 85 Facebook “Likes,” 36 Tweets and one reader’s comment.
The BBC news story, Malala Yousafzai wins EU’s Sakharov human rights prize, had 10,568 Facebook “Likes,” 939 Tweets and 307 readers’ comments.
The Russia Today news story, Malala Yousafzai wins Sakharov prize ‘for freedom of thought’, had over 2,500 Facebook “Likes,” 140 Tweets and 13 readers’ comments.
The Al Jazeera news story, Pakistan’s Malala wins EU human rights prize, had 5,593 Facebook “Likes,” 387 Tweets and 267 readers’ comments.
While the Voice of America English website failed to report on the Lech Walesa Human Rights Award for Khodorkovsky and on Chen Guangcheng getting an academic fellowship at Catholic University, it did post during the U.S. government shutdown a Reuters report on actress Halle Berry giving birth to a baby boy and fashion designer Marc Jacobs leaving Louis Vuitton. These two stories on the VOA website got respectively 4 and 47 Facebook “Likes.”
The Voice of America can hardly expect good audience engagement through social media if it fails to report on major news stories, is late in posting reports, focuses on celebrity gossip, ignores human rights stories, offers news times from Reuters instead of original coverage and generally provides short and superficial reports.
Critics say that news management at the Voice of America is in complete disarray and blame top VOA and International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) executives for numerous news omissions, reporting failures and dismal social media performance.
The Voice of America English website also failed to report on Malala Yousafzai’s appearance last Tuesday Jon Stewart’s TV show. The Huffington Post video of that appearance had 72,315 Facebook “Likes” as of late Friday night. See: How Malala, Teen Activist Shot By Taliban, Made Jon Stewart’s Jaw Drop (VIDEO), The Huffington Post, October 9, 2013.
By ignoring Malala Yousafzai’s appearance on The Daily Show, the Voice of America yet again failed to cover a human rights story here in the United States. It’s good VOA at least did not ignore the Sakharov Prize for Malala, as it had ignored other human rights stories, but being an American media outlet funded by American taxpayers for international audiences, VOA and IBB executives should have paid attention to Malala’s amazing interview with Jon Stewart. Certainly this interview deserved coverage from VOA more than the birth of Halle Berry’s baby boy.