BBG Watch Commentary

As of 2PM Sunday (DC), a short VOA news item on the Zimmerman trial verdict has not been updated for hours.

As of 2PM Washington, DC time, the Voice of America (VOA) English news website offers no coverage or analysis of protests and other reactions to the “not-guilty” verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer charged in the murder of unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin.

The VOA English website had posted a short news item probably late Saturday. The VOA report has not been updated since then despite many new developments in the story, street protests against the verdict and other reactions which are being extensively covered by other international broadcasters such as Al Jazeera, BBC, Russia Today and China’s CCTV.

Russia Today offered extensive coverage of reactions to the Zimmerman trial verdict, including this poll. RT stories on the verdict received thousands of Facebook Likes.

BBC and Russia Today have received tens of thousands of Facebook “Likes” for their coverage of the Zimmerman case verdict. Al Jazeera received thousands of “Likes” for its stories and commentary on the verdict and subsequent protests. In well over 18 hours, the VOA news story had only 591 Facebook “Likes” and 66 Tweets.

One of Russia Today’s reports on the post-verdict protests had 7,200 Facebook “Likes” and 1,714 Tweets as of 2PM Sunday. The BBC’s initial report on the verdict had 14,413 Facebook “Likes” as of 2:15PM Sunday.

As of 2:30PM Sunday, the VOA English website still showed a single, short news story on the verdict, with minimal information on the post-verdict protests and and other reactions. The VOA story has not been updated for more than 18 hours and offered and no analysis. Its feature for readers’ comments has not been activated probably because it was not really an original VOA news story but a short compilation of news wire reports.

Voice of America English Website

Zimmerman Found Not Guilty in Trayvon Martin Shooting, VOA News, posted probably sometime Saturday, July 13. The VOA English website does not show the exact time a news story is posted or updated.

Russia Today English Website

US hit with civil disorder following Zimmerman ‘not guilty’ verdict, Russia Today, Published time: July 14, 2013 05:40; Edited time: July 14, 2013 17:30.

Zimmerman verdict protests: LIVE UPDATES, Russia Today, Published time: July 14, 2013 08:29; Edited time: July 14, 2013 18:25.

Zimmerman acquitted of Trayvon Martin murder, Russia Today, Published time: July 14, 2013 02:05; Edited time: July 14, 2013 14:51.

BBC English Website

BBC offered numerous reports on reactions to the Zimmerman trial verdict. Just one report collected more than 14,000 Facebook Likes.

George Zimmerman not guilty of Trayvon Martin murder, BBC, 14 July 2013, Last updated at 04:21 ET.

Zimmerman verdict: Civil rights groups express dismay, BBC, 14 July 2013, Last updated at 12:23 ET.

George Zimmerman verdict: US media react, BBC, 14 July 2013 Last updated at 05:11 ET.

Trayvon Martin family ‘hurt’ over Zimmerman acquittal, BBC, 14 July 2013, Last updated at 13:48 ET.

Zimmerman acquittal: Your views, BBC, 14 July 2013 Last updated at 12:50 ET.

Al Jazeera English Website

Timeline: The Zimmerman trial – Al Jazeera looks back at 15 key events of the Trayvon Martin saga, Al Jazeera, Last Modified: 14 Jul 2013 15:07.

Protests in US after Zimmerman acquittal, Al Jazeera, Last Modified: 14 Jul 2013 13:56.

Al Jazeera had a number of reports and opinion pieces on the Zimmerman trial verdict.

Zimmerman acquitted of Trayvon Martin murder, Al Jazeera, Last Modified: 14 Jul 2013 10:16.

Opinion: In the trial of Trayvon, the US is guilty, Sarah Kendzior, Al Jazeera, Last Modified: 14 Jul 2013 13:54.

China’s CCTV

Verdict of not guilty comes after deliberations, CCTV, 07-14-2013 11:41 BJT.

Attorney says US must learn from tragedy, CCTV, 07-14-2013 15:42 BJT.

Outrage erupts over Zimmerman verdict in the US, CCTV, 07-15-2013 01:05 BJT.

According to our sources, despite severe cutbacks to its news operation, Voice of America still has a few veteran correspondents and reporters who know their beats and are able to turn around original reports in a timely manner. Our sources say that the fault is not with VOA correspondents and reporters but with the top VOA leadership. One insider told us: “To put it simply, the VOA Newsroom staff is trying to make the best of a bad situation. The onus of failure does not rest with them. It rests with senior agency officials who have rendered the agency’s ability to engage in timely news reporting and to carry out the agency’s mission dysfunctional and defunct.”

China's CCTV had three video reports on the Zimmerman trial verdict.

VOA employees have been complaining for several years that original news reporting is being de-emphasized by the management and news gathering resources severely limited. They have also complained about mismanagement at the highest level and in running the central English Newsroom and the VOA English website. Their complains apparently have been ignored by the VOA management, the agency’s top managers in the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) and even the U.S. Government’s Office of the Inspector General in the State Department. No action has been taken by anyone within the management structure or by the OIG to address these problems, sources told us.

But top agency executives, especially those in the International Broadcasting Bureau, have been painting a rosy picture of the use of digital technology and social media engagement by VOA and other U.S.-funded broadcasters. Officials have been bragging to members of their oversight board, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), members of Congress, Congressional staffers and media about the agency’s investments in social media outreach. They have also tried to intimidate and discredit their critics.

Article by former Voice of America (VOA) journalist Gary Thomas in Columbia Journalism Review on journalistic practices at VOA and management of U.S. international broadcasting within the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).In attacking journalistic skills of a former Voice of America senior correspondent Gary Thomas who had published an article in Columbia Journalism Review outlining serious inadequacies in VOA news coverage, management and employee morale, Kyle King,  a spokesman for Voice of America director David Ensor responded that “A simple look at the Voice of America’s website demonstrates we are a hard-hitting and effective international multimedia news organization. ”

In a manner typical for VOA management, executives dismissed and refused to answer Gary Thomas’ questions for the article and later accused him through their spokesman of unspecified errors while bragging about their non-esistent online prowess.

The claim of successful online audience outreach and digital strength was repeated by International Broadcasting Bureau Director Richard Lobo who said at a recent Digital Innovation Expo hosted by IBB on Capitol Hill that “today we are reaching and engaging audiences like never before.”

Director Lobo has been responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars of investments in digital and social media technology, which critics charge was wasted on IBB bureaucracy and contractors as the money was being taken from news and programs. IBB and VOA executives eliminated many newsroom and reporters’ positions or left them vacant.

In a pattern that has been obvious for the last several years, original news coverage by VOA English correspondents has greatly diminished. In the last few days, VOA English website was late repeatedly, between three and 48 hours, in posting original reports on violence in Egypt, the plane crash in San Francisco and other important international and domestic developments. A few days ago, VOA was late by several hours in generating its own report on the White House press conference statements on the future of U.S. assistance to the Egyptian military.

VOA Director David Ensor is reported to be on an extended summer vacation.


This short Voice of America news report has not been updated for many hours. It was still not updated or expanded by 11AM Washington time, Sunday, July 14. Compared to its 450 Facebook “Likes,” a similar BBC news report received more than 10,000. Russia Today and Al Jazeera also collected thousands of Facebook “Likes” for their coverage of the story.

Zimmerman Found Not Guilty in Trayvon Martin Shooting

VOA News
July 14, 2013

A jury in the southeastern U.S. state of Florida has ruled shooting suspect George Zimmerman is not guilty of murder or manslaughter in the killing of a black teenager last year.

The 6-woman jury late Saturday acquitted Zimmerman of all charges in the racially-charged proceedings. Zimmerman’s father is white and mother Hispanic. Martin’s supporters had accused Zimmerman of racially profiling 17-year-old Trayvon Martin because he was black.

Immediately after the verdict, Martin’s supporters – including his family members – took to social media to express their displeasure with the decision. A crowd outside the courthouse peacefully protested the outcome. Police presence has been increased in the town of Sanford, where the trial was held.

Spontaneous protests sprang up in several cities across the U.S., including thousands of kilometers from Florida in San Francisco. The protests were largely peaceful, although some windows were broken and small fires were set.

Civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton used their Twitter accounts to call on people to remain calm and constructive.

Zimmerman was driving in his neighborhood February 26, 2012, when he saw Martin and called police. Zimmerman – a neighborhood watch volunteer – got out of his vehicle and followed Martin. A confrontation and struggle followed, ending with Zimmerman shooting Martin.

The case made national news after it was revealed that Zimmerman walked free for more than six weeks after the shooting, because police did not contest his claim that he shot Martin in self-defense.

Prosecution and defense concluded their arguments on Friday. The jury then deliberated for 16 and a half hours before delivering the decision late Saturday.

Zimmerman smiled briefly after hearing the not guilty decision, but did not otherwise react outwardly.

The prosecution said Zimmerman profiled the teen and followed him through a gated community because he assumed Martin was intent on making trouble. Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense once he and Martin entered into a struggle, with Martin banging Zimmerman’s head against the concrete pavement.

Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law authorizes people who fear for their lives to use deadly force without having to avoid a confrontation.