BBG Watch

U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) mobile website offers an intriguing choice of top news headlines for international audiences on Friday, the 13th of May, 2016.

Headlines for top three Voice of America news stories on the VOA mobile news site, Friday, May 13, 2016, 5:20 PM ET

1. In N. Carolina, Wife, Transgender Spouse Stay Course Amid Rights Battle | Voice of America | May 13, 2016


2. US Public Schools Must Allow Transgender Students’ Bathroom Choice | Voice of America | May 13, 2016


3. Kenya to Appeal Doping Decision That Could Keep it Out of Olympics | Voice of America | May 13, 2016


Presumably, in the view of VOA newsroom editors, nothing more important is happening in the world and in the United States.

Most other news organizations, including those in the U.S., did not have these three items as their top news stories at that time. The first item in the VOA news lineup is not even a news report. It is a feature report, interesting, but not what could pass for the top news story of the day.

Presumably, in the view of VOA news editors, millions of refugees in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa — hundreds of millions of people living under repressive regimes in Iran, Cuba, China, Russia or North Korea — human rights activists facing repression and arrest — they all would like nothing more than to see these three VOA reports first when they are seeking news and look at the VOA website because these three VOA reports deal with the most important and relevant news developments happening at that moment, on that day.

Frankly, as intriguing as some of these reports may be, this may not be the case, as much as VOA reporters and editors would wish it to be. Audience engagement on these three Voice of America reports is hardly overwhelming.

As of 12:30 AM ET, Saturday, May 14, the Voice of America North Carolina transgender report is showing only three (3) comments from readers, two of them from the United States.

As of 12:30 AM ET, Saturday, May 14, the Voice of America transgender bathroom report is showing only nine (9) comments, all of them apparently from the United States.

The Voice of America is getting very few comments on its English news website from readers living abroad, even though by congressional mandate VOA must seek its audiences overseas, not in the United States.

meanbill from: USA” left comments on both reports. We cannot determine whether this person is actually living in the United States. “meanbill from: USA” leaves multiple comments, many of them pro-Kremlin, on numerous VOA English news reports.

Comments from abroad on the VOA English news website are, as we pointed out, quite rare. The only foreign comment on the VOA North Carolina transgender report appears to be from someone who identified as “disturbed user from: Seoul, Korea.” The comment is: “Not everyone is supporting transgender issue. The pictures in the front page of VOA is truly disturbing and should be changed.”

As of As of 12:30 AM ET, Saturday, May 14, the Voice of America Kenya doping report is showing zero (0) comments from readers in the United States or abroad even though it has been on the VOA English news website for nearly 12 hours.

Whether these Voice of America top news choices on Friday, the 13th of May can be attributed to the presence or influence of new VOA director, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Amanda Bennett, and her deputy, former Washington Post reporter and editor Sandy Sugawara, could not be determined  at this time.