BBG Watch Guest Commentary

BBG Watch occasionally publishes guest commentaries. This one is from a current Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) staffer who prefers to remain anonymous.

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VOA Managers and Editors Refuse to Read Their Own Web Site

By Broadcasting Board of Governors Staffer


With all the months of ballyhoo over “Digital First” at Voice of America (VOA) and growing audiences on, it is remarkable that VOA director David Ensor and other editors and managers continue to find it below their pay grades to look at themselves.

There’s just no other explanation for why the homepage — the page they think the world should be glued to — still features a series of several “special reports” on “VOA & Google Glass.”

Google Glass was withdrawn in January 2015. Yet, as of May 8, 2015, the “VOA and Google Glass Special Reports” section contains nary a mention of the failure or withdrawal of the product.

Even before it became obsolete four months ago, the collection bore the earmarks of advertising/puff content, with a chipper, upbeat tone in place of reportorial skepticism — despite several interesting and balanced pieces.

Those pieces aren’t all competently-edited, either. One otherwise interesting report on drone use worldwide doesn’t explain in the headline or anywhere in the narration that the piece is only about commercial drone use — leading a viewer to wonder why the reporter does not mention the best-known use of drones, for war. (There is a reference to the piece being about commercial drones in the text lead-in inside, but it’s easy to overlook.) elsewhere did run at least one mention of the failure of Google Glass — although the news report is not linked to in the chirpy “VOA and Google Glass Special Reports” section. The report, by Reuters, is headlined: “Google Should Have Tempered Glass Hype, Official Admits

No suggestion that VOA News should have tempered its hype — the low-resolution photo that VOA chose to illustrate the piece shows its own “Google Glass correspondent” wearing the glasses.

As for the complete absence on the “VOA & Google Glass” special reports page of any mention of the withdrawal or post-mortem on the product that has been gone for four months — wow. Just wow.

It’s one more piece of evidence that the people in charge are just going through the motions. They don’t care. They’re not interested. They can’t be bothered. They’re asleep. Which leads again to the question: why do VOA managers think the world is going to flock to if even those paid over $100K a year to edit and manage it won’t?

End of Guest Commentary


BBG Watch Homepage Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 5.17 PM ET Homepage Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 5:17 PM ET

VOA & Google Glass Page Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 5.23 PM ET
“VOA & Google Glass” Page Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 5:23 PM ET

Reuters Report on Google Glass on VOA Site with VOA Photo Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 5.10 PM ET

Today’s guest commentary corresponds with other observations that senior Voice of America (VOA) executives, managers and editors do not look at VOA’s main English language news website,, or if they do, they can’t see anything wrong with it. We reported in the last few days on the VOA Ebola special page not being updated for well over a month and on a VOA news report speculating wrongly on the outcome of the general elections in Britain.

Today’s guest commentary reveals featuring on the Voice of America homepage of a series of “VOA & Google Glass” reports despite the discredited product being withdrawn several months ago from production and without this key development being reported on “VOA & Google Glass” special page.

The page has not been updated at least since before January 15, 2015 when Google announced that it would stop producing the Google Glass prototype amid criticism and privacy concerns. VOA posted a rather upbeat video report on these concerns. A more serious VOA News report on Google Glass and privacy concerns, “Privacy Concerns Raised About Google Glass” from July 2013 never made it onto the “VOA & Google Glass” special page, possibly because it might interfere with the page’s upbeat content. That particular report actually shows more decent social media stats: 22 Tweets, 113 Facebook “Shares” and 6 (six) comments — better than many other VOA News reports.

It’s also significant that audience engagement through social media for some of the VOA reports on Google Glass has been minimal. A VOA News report from April 2014 on Google Glass specifications shows 0 (zero) Tweets, 2 (two) Facebook “Shares” and 0 (zero) Google+1. The Reuters report posted on VOA site in March 2015 shows 21 Tweets, 2 (two) Facebook “Shares,” 1 (one) comment and 0 (zero) Google+1. Another Reuters report posted on the site at the end of January 2015, “Despite Glass Failings, Google Defends License to Spend,” is showing 8 (eight) Tweets, 3 (three) Facebook “Shares” and 0 (zero) comments.

One VOA report on Google Glass, “VOA Uses Google Glass at Concert,” from February 2014, has slightly better social media stats, but far from impressive: 24 Tweets, 31 Facebook “Shares” and 1 (one) comment.