BBG Watch Commentary

As of 12:15 PM ET, Monday, March 9, 2015, the news on the U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America English mobile news website on Boris Nemtsov murder investigation was more than 24 hours old, and it was not even a VOA news report but a reposted news report from Reuters. The same news on the VOA Russian mobile news website was nearly 24 hours old. It is not clear whether the whole report was from Reuters or just parts of it were. The byline on the report on the VOA English news website says “By Reuters” at the top, but the report ends with a description: “Some information for this report came from Reuters.”

Due to mismanagement and severe journalistic staff shortages, as opposed to the bloated bureaucracy, the Voice of America is no longer capable of posting and updating news in a timely fashion, not only on weekends and at nights when the VOA newsroom is practically empty, but also even on weekdays during business hours.

Other than weekends and nights, VOA news reporting is especially thin on Mondays, Friday afternoons, snow days in Washington, and federal holidays.

VOA journalists blame senior and mid-level management, while VOA executives who only work 9 to 5 and don’t seem to be monitoring VOA websites claim insufficient resources and shift the blame to journalists. Employee morale at the Voice of America is at an all-time low, according to surveys and comments from VOA newsroom staffers.

VOA is overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). Its CEO, Andy Lack, departed recently only after six weeks on the job. VOA Director David Ensor and VOA Executive Editor have been in charge of VOA for several years. Andy Lack did not have sufficient time to carry out any substantive reforms. With the departure of Andy Lack, VOA news posting has become more sporadic after some recent improvements probably due to his arrival in January 2015.

VOA English News 12-15PM ET 3-9-15

VOA English News Screenshot 12:13PM ET, Monday, March 9, 2015. Note that the news is more than 24 hours old. On the mobile phone display there is not a single reference that this is VOA News or a Voice of America website.

As of 12:13 PM ET, Monday, March 9, 2015, on the VOA English news mobile website, the Reuters report on Boris Nemtsov murder investigation had a time stamp from Sunday, March 8, 2015, 8:38 AM ET.

VOA Russian 12-50PM ET 3-9-15

VOA Russian News Screenshot 12:50 PM ET Monday, March 9, 2015. The news is nearly 24 hours old.

As of 12:50 PM ET, Monday, March 9, 2015, on the VOA Russian news website, the report on Boris Nemtsov murder investigation had a time stamp from Sunday, March 8, 2015, 1:58 PM ET. It was the same Reuters report presented as Voice of America Russian Service News.

The Reuters report started with the official Russian version of the investigation and the official narrative of Chechens being charged with committing the murder. The rest of the Reuters report includes countervailing comments from Nemtsov’s friends.

The Voice of America has not updated this report for 24 hours.

BBC English and Russian websites had posted new and updated reports that focused specifically on Russian opposition leaders countering the narrative of the official Russian investigation.

BBC English 12-15PM ET 3-9-15

This BBC report was first posted about nine hours earlier.

As of 12:15 PM ET, Monday, March 9, 2015, the BBC English news report, Nemtsov murder: “Yashin sceptical of Russian arrests | BBC,” was last updated more than two hours ago and posted nine hours ago. It was based on an exclusive BBC interview with a Russian opposition figure.

BBC Russian 12-35PM ET 3-9-15

As of 12:34 PM ET, Monday, March 9, 2015, the BBC Russian news report was updated more than six hours ago and also posted much earlier.

BBC Homepage Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 1.52PM ET

BBC Homepage Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 1:52 PM ET

As of 1:30 PM ET, Monday, March 9, 2015, today’s top story on BBC, “Putin reveals secrets of Russia’s Crimea takeover plot,” cannot be seen among VOA English top news stories, but more than a 24 old Reuters story, “Russian Judge: Chechen Confesses to Nemtsov Killing” is still number four on the VOA English website top stories lineup at the top of the VOA homepage.

UPDATE: Later, VOA posted its minimal Putin-Crimea report as a “Feature Story” next to its top new lineup at the top of its homepage, but did not update its top headlines and kept the old Nemtsov story in the fourth place.

VOA Homepage Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 1.30PM ET

VOA Homepage Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 1:30 PM ET

The VOA News “Putin Recounts How He Gave Orders to ‘Save’ Yanukovych, ‘Return’ Crimea | VOA,” can be seen down on the VOA homepage under Europe News. The VOA report has only 254 words. VOA posted it a few hours after BBC posted its much longer report (660 words) with a video and several photos as BBC’s number one news story.

The BBC report opens with this sentence in a bold font: “Vladimir Putin has admitted for the first time that the plan to annex Crimea was ordered weeks before the referendum on self-determination.”

The VOA report opens with this sentence: “Russian President Vladimir Putin says he ordered security officials in February 2014 to make plans to ‘save the life’ of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s then-president, and to start planning for Russia’s annexation of Crimea.”