BBG Watch Commentary

Former Voice of America (VOA) journalists and others left numerous comments on Dan Robinson’s Facebook post on the resignation of VOA director David Ensor.

Former VOA staffers and other media experts commented on what may have caused David Ensor to resign. They also discussed causes of mismanagement within VOA and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), and possible ways of reforming the agency in charge of U.S. taxpayer-funded media outreach abroad.

Dan Robinson, who is a former VOA White House, foreign, and congressional correspondent and whose op-eds have been published by BBG Watch, offered these observations:

DAN ROBINSON: “Just take a look at the VOA front page — as of 8:30 this evening [ET, Tuesday, April 7, 2015] not a single appearance of the South Carolina police shooting story, which will be huge for days. BBC World and USA sections reported it 30 minutes ago….” 


DAN ROBINSON: “Look at South Carolina, and the police shooting incident there. Were it not for that video, it’s likely that incident would have gone unreported, at least in the magnitude it has been. Robert speaks of animus.
Bill’s response (both Bills) is right on the mark. VOA and all of U.S. international broadcasting has for the most part, operated below the radar for decades. Less true during the Cold War, of course, and there were controversies then about news coverage, political interference (especially under Reagan and Bush 43) spending and efficiency issues, etc.
But without the kind of intense focus we have seen since 2010 from BBG Watch, in the form of a range of revelations — news coverage lapses, violations of federal contracting law, the firing of employees at RFE/RL in Moscow….the list goes on and on…the place would have been able to skate by as usual, with a good-enough-for-government approach.
It’s quite easy for some to take the usual route when confronted with actual examples of mismanagement and incompetence, and put it down to ‘animus’. Here’s the thing — THAT is what the discredited leaders of the organization COUNT ON. They count on people sitting at ‘All Hands’ meetings and NOT asking the tougher questions.
I received a note from a source inside the building about this most recent meeting. It reads as follows: ‘Almost no substantive questions during the Q&A, because people fear retribution.’
That is the kind of atmosphere that exists in BBG/IBB/VOA, etc. Efforts that anyone makes to peel away the layers of the onion deserve some level of respect.”


Another former VOA senior correspondent, Gary Thomas, left this comment:

GARY THOMAS: “When policymakers try to expropriate journalism for a policy purposes, it de facto ceases being journalism and becomes something else: PR, public diplomacy, outreach, advocacy, whatever. That is why so many of us opposed the language in HR 4490. The constant tension between journalists and policy mavens creates institutional schizophrenia, which leads to a nervous breakdown – which is exactly what has happened at VOA, thus escalating the calls for reform. But Ensor and Redisch – especially Ensor – cannot be absolved. They must shoulder much of the responsibility for this sorry state of affairs for their slavish pandering to policy demands over journalistic imperatives, as Ensor’s pathetic performance at the most recent Board meeting demonstrated.” 


For more comments, see the Dan Robinson’s Facebook post and click on “Comments.” If you don’t see the embedded post below, follow this LINK.


(NOTE: Anyone covering this story and still wondering about the kind of criticisms leveled against VOA management only…

Posted by Dan Robinson on Tuesday, April 7, 2015