BBG Watch Commentary

VOA Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 11PM EDT
VOA Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 11PM EDT

Nothing illustrates better the decline of the U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) as a news organization charged by law (VOA Charter) to “present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively” than VOA’s use on Saturday, October 11, 2014 of a three-day-old Reuters news story with an old Reuters photo prominently showing the logo of Russia’s RT international media outlet. The Reuters story described a Cuban government’s press conference in Havana on U.S.-Cuba relations, which took place three days earlier, on Wednesday, October 8, 2014.

Reuters originally promptly posted its news report online, “Havana sees no sign Obama will change U.S. policy on Cuba” by Daniel Trotta, Rueters Havana, on Wednesday October 8, 2014 at 2:34 PM EDT. The same Reuters news report was posted by VOA under the same tile, “Havana Sees No Sign Obama Will Change US Policy on Cuba,” on Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 10:53 AM EDT. VOA even prominently featured this old news report by Reuters on the VOA’s main news homepage,

The Reuters story placed on the Voice of America website on Saturday quoted a Cuban Foreign Ministry official describing U.S. policy toward Cuba. The story did not quote any current U.S. officials and did not present any State Department or White House reaction to comments of a Cuban official on U.S. policy toward Cuba. VOA evidently did not attempt to contact any State Department officials, including officials at the U.S. Interests Section (USINT) in Havana, or White House officials for comments to present an authoritative response or at least an authoritative description of current U.S. policy toward Cuba. It took VOA three days to even post the Reuters story.

Presenting the policies of the United States is the job of the Voice of America, which gets about $200 million from U.S. taxpayers per year. Reuters is an international news agency headquartered in London, England, United Kingdom. Bureaucratized and mismanaged VOA increasingly uses Reuters news reports even on U.S. news stories generating in Washington.

Posting the Reuters story from Havana with a three day delay, VOA was asking international audiences to assume that Reuters’ description of U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba was completely accurate, balanced and comprehensive. The Reuters story, however, lacked any official U.S. Obama administration response. In fact, the Reuters story described President Obama as uninterested in a review of U.S. policy toward Cuba and mentioned criticism of President Obama on Cuba policy by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The story called for an official U.S. response, which the Voice of America should have provided, but failed to do so.

To top it all, the three-day-old Reuters story on the VOA website had a Reuters’ photo prominently showing Russia’s RT mike at a news conference of a Cuban Foreign Ministry official in Havana. The photo, however, was from a news conference in December 2012, not from last week’s news conference by the same official. The original Reuters report from Havana found online did not come this old archive photo. Reuters used a recent photo (October 7, 2014) of President Obama going to a Democratic Party fund raiser. Is it possible that a VOA web editor found an old Reuters photo with an RT logo prominently showing and added it to a three-day-old Reuters news report from Havana? This would be the ultimate irony in this sad example of management and news reporting meltdown at the Voice of America.

Russia’s RT English news website, which is now focused on Ukraine, had no report on last week’s news conference in Havana on U.S.-Cuban relations, but RT’s op-ed on Che Guevara, “Hasta siempre, Comandante! Che Guevara’s ideas flourish decades on,” posted on Thursday, October 09, 2014, shows 28,400 Facebook “Shares” as of 11:00 PM Sunday, October 12, 2014. By contrast, the Reuters report on the VOA website from Saturday shows 5 Facebook “Shares.” website even presented the old Reuters report from the Voice of America website as a “VoA News” report without any reference to Reuters. Anti-U.S. tone of other international news reports on the Wednesday press conference in Havana, including one-sided reports by Venezuela’s teleSUR, “Cuba Condemns US ‘Punitive Mentality’” and Cuba’s Prensa Latina’s, “Experts Denounce Damage from US Blockade Against Cuba,” called for a prompt and balanced report by the Voice of America in English and in Spanish. There are numerous Spanish-language reports on the web about last week’s news conference in Havana on U.S.-Cuba relations, but we could not find one on the VOA Spanish Service website.

The Reuters story placed on the VOA English news website on Saturday quoted Josefina Vidal, chief of the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s U.S. division as saying last Wednesday that “there was a growing number of public opinion polls supporting a policy change in the United States.”

REUTERS REPORT ON VOA WEBSITE, SAT. OCT. 11, 2014: “Since leaving office in 2013, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed she recommended that President Barack Obama change U.S. policy toward Cuba, saying it was ineffective and holding back the U.S. agenda in the rest of Latin America.

Obama, immersed in a number of foreign policy crises elsewhere in the world and with midterm elections coming in November, has given little public indication he plans to review Cuba policy.

The Obama administration maintains that same stance in private, Vidal said.”

To recapitulate: U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America placed on its news homepage a three-day old Reuters news report about an event describing the Cuban government’s view of U.S. policy toward Cuba with a Reuters photo showing Russia’s RT mike but without any official U.S. reaction. Voice of America has no leadership on news reporting and its executives obviously do not even bother to read the VOA news website.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees the Voice of America, had chosen distinguished media executive and journalist Andy Lack to be BBG’s new CEO with broad powers to reform VOA and other BBG media elements. Andy Lack reportedly said that in addition to his executive BBG office, he wants to have an office in the largely decimated VOA Central English Newsroom, but he is not expected to start his new job at BBG for a few more weeks.

READ REUTERS REPORT ON VOA WEBSITE: Havana Sees No Sign Obama Will Change US Policy on Cuba, Reuters Report on Voice of America Website, Posted October 11, 2014 10:53 AM EDT

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