BBG Watch Commentary

A BBC news report on Snowden accumulated 2,269 Facebook Likes and 1,440 Tweets as of Sunday PM. VOA report, a re-posted Reuters story, had 8 Likes and 13 Tweets

UPDATE: As of Saturday morning (Washington, DC), July 13, the Russia Today English news report on Snowden discussed below shows: 3,800 Facebook “Likes,” 1016 Tweets, 158 Google+, and 713 Comments on the RT website.

As of Saturday morning (Washington, DC), July 13, the Voice of America English news report on Snowden, which is a Reuters report posted on the VOA English main news website discussed below, shows: 8 Facebook “Likes,” 13 Tweets, 2 Google+ and 0 (zero) Comments —

not a great strategy by Director Ensor and Executive Editor Redisch to generate audience engagement through social media by relying on Reuters to cover major news events affecting the U.S.

Let’s see: Russia Today is beating Voice of America 475 to 1 in Facebook “Likes” on this news story.

Russia Today is beating Voice of America 78 to 1 on Tweets.

Russia Today is beating Voice of America 713 to 0 in Readers’ Comments (this being a Reuters news item, VOA English website apparently does not provide for comments, but, with a few exceptions, VOA English website rarely gets comments even for its own news items and reports.

OK. Russia Today has an unfair advantage. The event happened in Russia. They chase after this kind of sensational news. VOA is better than that. True on the first point. Russia Today does not shy away from controversy either and likes to stick it to the Americans.

But then, there is BBC. Their original report with an analysis from Olga Ivshina, BBC Russian Service, on the scene in Moscow, with two videos got: 2,269 Facebook “Likes” and 1,440 Tweets. Sorry for repeating ourselves VOA report from Reuters got 8 and 13. It is mostly about how one covers a news story.

4 Facebook Likes for VOA-Reuters story.
4 Facebook Likes for VOA-Reuters story.

Voice of America (VOA) English news website again failed Friday to provide original coverage of a major news story of the day, a meeting at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, on July 12, 2013, between U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) fugitive leaker Edward Snowden and rights activists, including Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks and Tanya Lokshina, deputy director of Russia’s Human Rights Watch. During the meeting, Snowden announced that he will seek temporary political asylum in Russia.

Voice of America English website did not offer an original VOA news or correspondent report but chose instead to post a report from Reuters with one photo, one small map and no video.

Russia Today posted its own original report with a third-party video from the press conference and its own video report. The Russia Today story had four photos.

As with most stories VOA posts on its English website, the Reuters report received only 4 (four) Facebook “Likes” on the site, 13 Tweets and 2 Google Plus shares as of early Friday evening Washington, D.C. time.

The Russia Today report on Snowden’s meeting with rights activists received 3,200 Facebook “Likes,” 826 Tweets and 117 Google Plus shares, also as of early Friday evening Washington, D.C. time.

RT’s special coverage of the event: Video Link.

In addition, the Russia Today report had 565 comments posted by readers.

Russia Today news story had over 3,200 Facebook Likes.
Russia Today news story had over 3,200 Facebook Likes.

The report on the Voice of America website had 0 (zero) comments from readers. The VOA website apparently does not activate the comment feature for third-party reports, such as those from Reuters, but even original VOA reports on the website often do not get any comments.

This kind of social media engagement failure is not unusual for the VOA English website and has been observed for months, even years but not publicly reported, although VOA employees have complained to VOA Director David Ensor, VOA Executive Editor Steve Redisch, other VOA and International Broadcasting Bureau managers and officials and to the Office of the Inspector General at the State Department.

Employees complained that original news reporting by VOA is being de-emphasized by the management and news gathering resources severely limited. They 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 management and the OIG and no action was taken to address these problems.

But top agency executives have been painting a rosy picture of social media engagement. They 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.