BBG Watch Commentary

In an Associated Press (AP) report posted on the Voice of America (VOA) news website, the U.S. government-run and taxpayer-funded multimedia outlet targeting foreign audiences but available on the internet in the United States linked to President Trump the killing of five journalists by an individual who appears to have had a personal grudge against a newspaper in Maryland.

The AP report posted on the VOA website included the following statement in the second paragraph:

“The shooting came amid months of verbal and online attacks on the “fake news media” from politicians and others from President Donald Trump on down. It prompted New York City police to immediately tighten security at news organizations in the nation’s media capital.”

The AP report on the VOA website did not offer any evidence that the suspect’s attack against the newspaper was politically motivated or in any way linked with President Trump and his criticism of the media. While some media personalities and politicians on the left alleged that President Trump was indirectly responsible for the attack on the newspaper, the Voice of America did not report these accusations according to the balance requirements of the VOA Charter.

The AP report posted on the VOA website did not mention criticism of linking the killings with the President without offering any supporting evidence. While such speculations and attacks on President Trump by some liberal media personalities and politicians in connection with the killings in Maryland could have been reported with counterveiling evidence, counter-criticism, and with information about the broader context of any such political or partisan accusations, this is yet another example of careless reporting combined with lack of leadership, oversight and editorial standards at the taxpayer-supported Voice of America.

Some VOA reporters have publicly called President Trump offensive names, some of which cannot be printed. One VOA report compared his criticism of the media to attacks on free press by Lenin, Stalin and Mao. As early as June 2016, Voice of America director Amanda Bennett and her boss, Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) CEO John Lansing had been warned about social media posts by VOA reporters calling Donald Trump obscene names as serious violations of journalistic ethics, but many of these anti-Trump memes and slogans remained on personal but public Facebook pages of VOA reporters even as late as mid-December 2017. John Lansing, an Obama administration holdover official, said earlier that the organization has the highest respect for the President.

VOA should not be using AP reports when they do not meet the standards of the VOA Charter. Everything worth reporting can be reported under the VOA Charter, but such reporting must follow strict rules of accuracy and balance. In this case, VOA has failed again. Since this is not the first time, the blame goes to the senior leadership of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the Voice of America.

  1. VOA is just another “blame Trump for everything” zombie news outlet.

    But American taxpayers pay for it. They should be outraged their money is being used in such a reprehensible way.

    1. The way VOA should have reported is that certain politicians and journalists on the left blamed Trump for the shootings and name them. It should have also reported that certain individuals and politicians, also named, on the right disagreed and pointed out there is as yet no evidence of any direct or indirect link. The partisan context and mutual recriminations between left-leaning media and Trump should have been mentioned. Such reporting would have met the requirements of the VOA Charter and justified spending taxpayers’ money. Posting a biased AP report did not.

      1. I completely agree, but you’re asking too much. What you suggest would require objectivity, and there’s very little of that at VOA and in the greater media. Journalists have become activists, not truth seekers. They’ve become suck ups to a radical left wing agenda. VOA has not been immune, and Bennett’s radical activism regarding immigration is not helping.

        “Blame Trump for everything” stories are fine for kids sites like VOX and Daily Beast since they’re spending their own money, but American taxpayers should not be subsidizing left wing activism at a federal agency. They shouldn’t subsidize right wing activism either.

        1. You are absolutely correct. There should be neither left-wing nor right-wing journalistic activism at the Voice of America. Such activism should be reserved for outlets that pay their own way if that is the kind of journalism they want to practice. But one-sided journalistic activism has no place at a 100% taxpayer-funded outlet that must follow its congressional charter.

  2. It would be a huge challenge for the VOA news operation, destroyed as it has been over the years by ignorant VOA directors as well as incompetence from within, to comb through every single story they post and catch things like this. HOWEVER, that’s what was required in this case, and given the record we have seen involving a tendency by VOA to post anti-Trump material, this example was certain to emerge. Also, what happens frequently is that VOA throws up AP, Reuters and other material because it wants to be seen to be reporting on things in a timely way (it’s ability to do so from decades past having been destroyed by incompetence and short-sighted high-level decisions), doesn’t have the staff available at a certain moment, etc. Sum it all up, and you have territory ripe for management changes — particularly moving Bennett out of her position — that are long overdue.

    1. Actually, catching such journalistic and editorial mistakes and abuses against objectivity does not take much resources and can easily be done by one person. We do it at BBG Watch in our spare time and catch these problems all the time. We report on only some of them. It takes only a few minutes to check on all ponentially controversial stories. Considering the number of senior managers, they could easily do it if they knew how. It’s not a big deal.

  3. The alleged managers of the so-called newsroom have editors throw Reuters and AP up there because they don’t know how to assign duties and staff properly to have anyone write an objective and properly vetted piece.

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