BBG Watch Commentary

VOA Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 5.36 PM ET

VOA Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 5:36 PM ET

As of 5:36 PM ET, Friday, February 27, 2015, the Voice of America (VOA) main English news website still had nothing on the assassination in Moscow of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, while RT, BBC, Al Jazeera and Deutsche Welle and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) have had the news of the assassination as their top story for 30 minutes, or in some cases nearly an hour. RT posted its report at 4:46 PM ET. VOA English newsroom is largely deserted after business hours and throughout weekends.

VOA director David Ensor says that in reporting on breaking news stories it is more important for VOA to be accurate than to be fast. But VOA has been consistently late even on news stories originating in Washington about official U.S. policies and statements about which there are usually no accuracy questions. RT, BBC, Al Jazeera and sometimes even DW beat VOA even on the Washington beat stories, as they did in this case on the Boris Nemtsov assassination. Critics say that VOA is badly managed and accuse senior leadership of of not providing the VOA English newsroom with resources and good managers needed to keep VOA competitive as a news source for international audiences.

BBC Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 5.36 PM ET

BBC Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 5:36 PM ET

UPDATE: By 5:43 PM ET a headline about the assassination of Boris Nemtsov appeared on the VOA English news website and linked to a Reuters news report on the VOA website with a time stamp of 5:21 PM ET. However, that the headline was not on the VOA homepage at least as of 5:36 PM ET. If the report was posted on the VOA website at 5:21 PM ET, it could not be seen until at least after 5:36 PM ET. The VOA English news website also did not immediately make it the top story.

The VOA Russian Service did better than VOA Central English News on the Boris Nemtsov assassination story. The Russian Service had posted a news report before anything appeared on the VOA main English news website for worldwide audiences. The Russian Service report also included an audio with a reaction from Moscow, an archive video, as well as several photos.

VOA language services often lag behind the VOA English news website in updating their news, but in this case the VOA Russian Service did much better.

VOA Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 5.43 PM ET

VOA Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 5:43 PM ET

By about 6:00 PM, the VOA English news website finally moved to the Boris Nemtsov assassination story to number one position on its homepage and replaced the Reuters report with a VOA News report. The VOA report, however, was quite short, only 194 words (VOA – 194 words). The BBC report about Nemtsov posted well before VOA posted its own had 478 words. (BBC – 478 words).

VOA Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 6.02PM ET

VOA Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 6:02 PM ET

RT’s report on Nemtsov’s murder, also posted much earlier than VOA posted its own, had 418 words, with an announcement: “DETAILS TO FOLLOW.” (RT- 418 words)

Al Jazeera posted its report on the assassination in Moscow at 5:04 PM ET. Al Jazeera’s report had 242 words. (Al Jazeera – 242 words)

Deutsche Welle also beat VOA in reporting early on the killing of Boris Nemtsov. DW report was short, 111 words (DW – 111 words), but it included a tweet from opposition activist and former chess world champion Garry Kasparov:

As of 6:42 PM ET Friday, Russia’s RT updated its news report with additional information, a video and more tweets. The RT report is now showing over 2,200 Facebook “Likes/Shares,” over 2,200 Tweets and 1,490 comments.

The VOA English news report still has not been updated, as of 6:42 PM ET Friday, the VOA report shows 5 (five) Facebook “Likes/Shares,” 17 Tweets, and 0 (zero) comments.

The VOA Russian Service report has been updated with more audio. It now shows (6:42 PM ET) 34 Facebook “Likes/Shares,” 25 Tweets and 6 (six) comments.