Some of the best in-depth reporting and analysis of U.S. — news custom-written for international audiences with the necessary historical, political, cultural and legal context — is found more consistently these days on the website of the German taxpayer-funded external media outlet Deutsche Welle (DW) than the U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA), which is also targeting overseas audiences.
DW executives apparently still believe in serious high quality journalism and in-depth analysis and make sure DW delivers it. The German international media outlet has a website worth checking, not just for German and European news, but also for solid and interesting reporting and analysis on U.S. and international news.
That kind of news reporting and analysis has been missing lately at the Voice of America — not only having been replaced with fluff journalism being pushed by top VOA executives and strategic planners in recent years, but also due to infrequent updating and posting of news stories by VOA caused by management imposed cuts in the VOA Central Newsroom which serves 45 VOA language services, including the English service and website.
While the emphasis at VOA seems to be on journalism-light, the management does not seem to have its priorities straight even in this category. Around the 2011 British royal wedding, VOA English website had 27 separate news reports on the British royalty, and five separate reports on the British royal baby christening in 2013, while many major U.S. and international political news stories went unreported or were under-reported by VOA. VOA executives have been in constant conflict with VOA journalists over their programming policy. The VOA English website also seems to have a word limit for its reports, making any kind of in-depth reporting and analysis a rare phenomenon.
While DW cannot compete with BBC in fast reporting and updating of news on its website, it is still far ahead of VOA in this regard. That U.S. news reporting and analysis on the BBC English website is far superior to VOA’s goes without saying. BBC gets thousands Facebook “Likes” for its U.S. news stories, while VOA usually gets a few dozen at best. DW does not show social media statistics on its site.
VOA still has more U.S.-focused news stories than BBC or DW, but BBC and DW seem to have better analysis of U.S. news stories, as strange as this may be. The number of U.S. news on the BBC English site may in fact exceed the number on the VOA English site. One does not find too many U.S. news on the DW site, but the quality of reporting is very high as in this in-depth report obviously written with an international audience in mind:
US gun owners shoot themselves in the foot, Conor Dillon, DW, Dec. 31, 2013.
DW’s international news analysis is also excellent and could offer VOA executives something to think about their preference for journalism-light:
Egypt – from protests to politics, Markus Symank, DW, Jan. 1, 2014.
This analysis also could offer VOA executives something to think about a strategy focused on targeting a young audience while ignoring older and more educated news consumers.
DW also posted a good journalism-oriented report focused on neo-Nazis in Germany, although the report did not explore freedom of the press issue in connection with the reported call for a reintroduction of a nationwide press badge, which was its only weakness.
Neo-Nazis get press cards to intimidate media, Jennifer Fraczek, DW, Jan. 1, 2014.
In addition to more frequent news updates, better reporting and more serious and sophisticated style of journalism, DW also has a more visually attractive website than VOA, although news organization on the DW site is not the best. Especially annoying is the home page presentation of top news in a poorly designed and poorly functioning slider. It is almost impossible to tell what the actual news lineup order is.
Overall, however, the Deutsche Welle website works well and DW news reporting and analysis are excellent. As Americans, we are jealous.