As reported by BBG Watch on September 6, the main English news website of U.S. international public broadcaster Voice of America (VOA) failed to report that Pope Francis urged the Group of 20 leaders on Thursday to abandon the “futile pursuit” of a military solution in Syria.
As of Saturday afternoon, there is still nothing on the VOA English website about the Pope’s appeal against a military strike on Syria.
Voice of America also failed to report on its English website on the papal peace vigil at the Vatican on Saturday.
BBC reported on the papal peace vigil as part of their news report, Kerry says support for action against Syria is growing. Voice of America’s report, Kerry: EU Chiefs Make ‘Powerful’ Syria Statement, did not mention Pope Francis or the peace vigil at the Vatican.
BBC had reported earlier, on September 5 and on September 7 , that Pope Francis’s intervention against a military strike on Syria came in a letter he emailed from Rome to appeal to G20 leaders meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia. Hundreds if not thousands of media outlets worldwide have been reporting for several days on this story.
The VOA English website was also not reporting Saturday afternoon that Tokyo has been chosen to host the 2020 Olympics, while the news was already prominently featured on BBC and Al Jazeera websites.
UPDATE: Many hours after other international media have already reported on the papal Syria peace vigil, VOA English website finally posted a short news story, Pope Leads Prayers for Syrian Peace, late Saturday afternoon Washington, DC time. It appears to be a compilation of wire service reports and has no original VOA reporting content as far as we can tell.
This was also the first time that VOA English website had anything on Pope Francis and Syria. Other international and U.S. media have been reporting on the story since last Thursday.
After hours of delay, VOA also finally posted an updated news report on 2020 Olympics.
Russia Today’s report on Pope Francis’s opposition to a military action in Syria went viral and received over 13,000 Facebook “Likes.” Top news stories on the Voice of America English website get at best a only a few dozen Facebook “Likes,” but usually no more than 10 (ten).
The Huffington Post, USA TODAY, The Los Angeles Times, CNN, Christian Science Monitor and others have all been reporting in recent days on the papal peace statement but not the Voice of America’s main English news website, which critics say has become largely irrelevant as an international news source due to mismanagement by top executives at the U.S. taxpayer-funded media institution.
Google Search for “Syria” and “Pope Francis” shows 55,200 results but none relating to Voice of America. A search of the VOA English website did not produce any results. The VOA Russian Service did report on the Pope’s appeal, but it used a short news item from Reuters rather than an original VOA news report.
On Saturday, National Public Radio (NPR) and numerous other media reported that Pope Francis was leading a mass prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square, praying to avoid violence in Syria. Estimated 70,000 people were in St. Peter’s Square when the pontiff declared a day of fasting and prayer in the name of peace. Hours after Pope Francis made his appeal for peace Saturday evening, the Voice of America English website had no reports on the prayer vigil.
Voice of America reporters have been complaining for years that top executives have ruined Voice of America’s ability to provide timely and comprehensive news to international audiences.
The two top executives at VOA are Director David Ensor and Executive Editor Steve Redisch, but overall management is also provided by the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) headed by Director Richard Lobo and Deputy Director Jeff Trimble. Journalists blame these executives and others for record low employee morale at the federal agency. Employee morale is measured by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS).
The agency’s top body, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), has been largely unsuccessful in its efforts to reform VOA and IBB due to bureaucratic resistance, but the board was joined recently by new BBG chairman Jeff Shell and two new members, Matt Armstrong and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Government sources told BBG Watch that the new governors with the remaining presidentially-appointed members, Susan McCue and Michael Meehan, may now try to force management reforms within VOA and IBB.
Read: Voice of America executives and correspondents at odds over news reporting and management issues, BBG Watch, September 7, 2013.