On January 15, BBG Watch reported that Voice of America (VOA) French-to-Africa Service broke the news of a terrorist attack on a tourist hotel, casino, and restaurant in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso in West Africa. We received the information from two reliable high-level VOA and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) sources, but it appears that they were mislead by mid-level VOA managers who themselves may have been confused. It was in fact the French news agency AFP which broke the story. We apologize for the error.

It is encouraging, however, to learn that according to our sources, VOA French Service “did a good job of covering after the story broke, benefiting from the absence of other media.” There are still some excellent VOA journalists who are generally speaking led by poor managers within a still highly dysfunctional organization.

For most of the target audience in Burkina Faso, VOA was the first, beating Burkinabe state radio, since we’re reaching them through our FM stream,” one of the few good VOA executives who are left told us.

The new BBG CEO John Lansing has been on the job only since September 2015. “The Third Floor BBG executive offices would have to be cleaned out. Otherwise, don’t expect things to be other than what they are,” a former BBG staffer had a word of advice for Mr. Lansing.

SEE: VOA French to Africa broke the news on terrorist attack in Burkina Faso, BBG Watch, January 15, 2016

We received the following comment:


“I would discourage … from believing VOA French breaks stories until the claim has been double-checked. The last story VOA French broke was the announcement by former president of Senegal Abdoulaye Wade that he would run for a third term, and that was several years ago. In that case, AFP did use an interview done by the service, and quoted VOA French every paragraph (which VOA French does not do for AFP stories). I still think that in the case of Burkina, VOA French saw the story on AFP and then moved to cover. They did a very decent job of covering too. But no, I don’t think they ‘broke it’.”

Our sources made the following observations on the management problems within the VOA French to Africa Service:

1. VOA French used to air original material. It airs mostly AFP stories.
2. VOA French used to post original material. It posts mostly AFP stories.
3. VOA French has started a weekly TV program, 30 min. aimed at youth. “Vous et Nous” has limited resources though. Also, how do you really impact youth through a once a week, 30 min. TV program? Pretty thin if you ask me.
4. VOA French has multiplied its tasks – increased five minute broadcasts in the morning, and in the middle of the night (dawn in Africa). The news aired is AFP news.
5. VOA French is now a surrogate radio, instead of VOA. Most of its news are African. U.S. news are an after-thought.
6. VOA French has the staff to do the work. But it has had bad leadership, which means that the staff, far from working as a team, was pitted against one another. Old and stale programs are still aired when contractors do not have time to produce new ones. It does not bother anyone that they are as much as 8 months old and totally stale.
7. To hide the fact that it’s doing too many things, with a divided team, VOA French Service leadership pretends all is well and refuses to acknowledge issues. That’s how Khalil Gueye, who used to present “Votre Sante, Votre Avenir,” is still featured on the web site even though he stopped working for the branch back in June 2015. Right now the web site features a program by him dating back to 2012. This does not seem to bother anyone…
8. An inordinate amount of duplication was going on the last time I checked. There could be two to three staffers assigned to the radio newscast every day. Then the web team would do its own news covering the same stories. Then the hosts of the main 30 min. news magazines aired three times in the afternoon would do their own news. Updates were an afterthought. It was ridiculously inefficient. The French to Africa Service leadership does not seem to care. That’s probably how they ended up doing AFP everywhere, instead of rationalizing the news writing, as had been done in the past.


ALSO SEE: VOICE OF AMERICA FRENCH or VOA Agence France Presse?, BBG Watch, December 7, 2015


ALSO SEE: Florida couple having sex while facing arrest number one U.S. news story on Voice of America French site for five days, BBG Watch, October 19, 2015