BBG Watch commentary: “Voice of America homepage link to California shooting did not work as story developed,” BBG Watch, December 3, 2015, has generated Point/Counterpoint comments, which we think deserve wider exposure.
Someone who self-identified as “melville” who appears to be in some way connected with or familiar with the English language news operation of the Voice of America (VOA) had posted on BBG Watch this comment in defense of the VOA Newsroom.
melville: “The newsroom was on top of this story from the moment it happened and updated it 9 times throughout the evening with all the latest information, including Obama’s comments minutes after CBS News released them. We were relying primarily on what police, the sheriff’s department and the FBI were saying because media reports, including local LA news stations, were all over the place. I can’t comment on the technical problems that held up the updates on the VOA website, but nobody writing and editing this story in the newsroom Wednesday was sitting around and relying on outdated information.”
Someone who self-identified as “Close Newsroom Observer” posted this comment in response:
Close Newsroom Observer: Responses from within VOA’s news operation are always interesting, but reflect a common theme, which is to defend the egregious foul-ups that have been so often seen on the main VOA website, and so frequently on major breaking stories.
In this case, if one were to compare the number of updates that the BBC performed across-the-board on its main page, USA/Canada page, and its live event page, it would far exceed 9 updates over the course of this latest huge story for Americans, and for the world.
The writer states that he, or she, cannot comment on ‘technical problems’. Whoever this person is, he/she declines to identify their position in the news structure. Were or are they with the web operation itself, or news writing? Are they a news manager?
Certainly no one is ‘sitting around’ in any newsroom, nor would anyone worth their weight in GS salary be relying on outdated information.
The point of the BBG Watch story was to underscore the weaknesses that are so apparent to users who compare the scope and efficiency of VOA online coverage to the five star treatment that everyone knows the BBC provides time after time.
What is so striking about these pathetic defenses that emerge is that there apparently is no one who takes the time to perform comparisons of VOA to the output of other media, either as they occur or as AARs (After Action Reviews).
The pattern, and it’s one that needs to be examined, seems to be that when a shift is done, people file out of the VOA building feeling quite self-satisfied with the great job they think they have done. When the reality is actually quite different, when VOA online output is viewed from the outside.
In the case of what now appears to be at minimum an ISIS-inspired terrorist attack in San Bernardino, all one had to do was compare side-by-side the BBC’s superb up-to-the-minute (sometimes up-to-the-second) reporting with VOA online efforts.
The fact that VOA has improved somewhat over the past two years, no doubt due to pressure exerted by very to-the-point criticisms from BBG Watch, it was still unfortunately, no contest.
Whether a major global story, but certainly on a huge domestic breaking story, that just should not be the case, and the fact that it is speaks to a need for even deeper dives into how VOA’s newsroom, and its web operations, are managed.
There was a further response from “melville.”
“I don’t disagree that VOA’s coverage is paltry when put up against BBC and other media giants. But I do resent it when someone calls the defense of the newsroom performance “pathetic.” We do the best we can with a tiny staff that seemingly gets smaller by the week and resources that are no more extensive than what the average Joe has in his own home. Don’t point at those working in the central newsroom with almost no tools with which to do a very difficult job.
You want to call someone or something pathetic?
Try a management that seems to be able to find nearly a million dollars to hand out for “performance awards” and gold medals, but says the cupboard is bare when it comes to finding cash to bring in more writers and producers.”
After BBG Watch published this exchange of comments, one of our writers posted this item.
On Saturday, President Obama made a radio address on domestic terrorism. The Voice of America had a report.
But also earlier today, the White House made this announcement:
“On Sunday, December 6, at 8:00 pm ET, President Obama will address the nation from the Oval Office about the steps our government is taking to fulfill his highest priority: Keeping the American people safe.”
The White House announcement has not yet been noted on the Voice of America (VOA) News Homepage or in any of its news reports.
On the Voice of America Homepage, VOA English News Tweet Feed “From Our Correspondents” is showing as of 7:30 PM EST, Saturday, December 5, 2015, a 21 hour old Tweet from the UN VOA correspondent, and a day old Tweet from VOA “National Security” correspondent.
One veteran VOA journalist observed:
“If I had received a White House email stating Obama was going to give a rare Oval Office speech (I think only his fourth) on terrorism, I would have made damn well sure it appeared immediately in the Tweet window, or SOMEWHERE on the front page.”
No mention as yet by the Voice of America, as of 7:30 PM Saturday, of Obama’s speech on Sunday.
UPDATE: A Tweet mentioning the speech appeared shortly before 7:40 PM. A VOA report, “Obama to Address Nation on Keeping Americans Safe After California Massacre” was posted at 7:51 PM.
Also worth noting: this intriguing headline on VOA’s Homepage — “State of Fear.”
As much as we tried to find evidence for it, we have not found Americans to be in a “State of Fear” or the United States being a “State of Fear.”