BBG Watch Commentary
In yet another journalistic, digital and managerial embarrassment for U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) media outlet, the main link to the California shooting report on the VOA English news main homepage did not work for VOA’s overseas audiences during the critical time as the story was developing Wednesday.
At 4:11 PM EST we were able to view the BBC World and VOA front pages and the sub-stories. Needless to say, BBC had its usual superior coverage and breakdowns of the story (see attached).
And here’s the cherry on top — the main shooting story on the VOA front page was a dead / inactive link.
The story link did work on the inside USA News page. On the FRONT page of VOA English News, the link to the California shooting story did not work in various browsers. “Dead link on the front page to THE story of the moment,” was how one former VOA journalist described it. VOA dead link was finally fixed at about 5:16 PM EST.
Voice of America was also late in reporting on President Obama’s statement on the shooting. VOA’s coverage was generally late and paltry compared to reporting by BBC, Russia’s RT and U.S. domestic media. BBC live update page not only had details from police news conference within minutes of the information coming out, but also reflected a comment by President Obama, which VOA did not have for quite some time.
Technical glitches and missing, late or inadequate news coverage has become in recent years a regular occurrence at the Voice of America, which has been mismanaged and starved for resources by its bloated federal bureaucracy, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). BBG has new CEO since September 2015. The new CEO, John Lansing, is a successful former private sector cable and entertainment TV executive, but he has no substantive experience in international news media, public diplomacy, foreign affairs or government operations and has to rely on entrenched BBG government executives. Many of them, as well as mid-level BBG and VOA managers, are engaged in constant international travel, while greatly diminished over the last few years ranks of VOA journalists and a few web specialists who actually work with news content are unable to report and post news promptly and comprehensively.
During the weekend of the Paris terror attacks, VOA English and Russian services managed to post less than 10 Facebook posts each and got 1% of “Likes” and readers’ comments when compared against BBC, Russia’s RT and Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) in the same category during the same period. The main VOA English News Twitter account has four times fewer followers than the new Twitter account of Edward Snowden who has 1.3 million.
Despite their more than $150,000 salaries in addition to other generous government employment benefits, apparently none of BBG’s or VOA’s senior managers had bothered to look at the VOA English news homepage during the critical early hours of the California shooting. If they had and tried to get the problem corrected, they did not immediately succeed. VOA’s coverage of the story lagged well behind other media.
None of the longtime BBG or VOA executives and managers has been removed or transferred since BBG CEO John Lansing came on board last September, but in a U.S. government setting such quick personnel moves are not considered possible. He was seen last month traveling abroad with one of BBG’s veteran executives. In 2013, the then Secretary of State and BBG member Hillary Clinton described the Broadcasting Board of Governors as “practically defunct.”