BBG Watch Commentary

Reporters working for the U.S. taxpayer-funded ($224M FY2017) Voice of America (VOA), some of whom had used before an F-word to describe Donald Trump on social media, called him “fool” and told a sex joke about his wife in a public forum at VOA headquarters, could not resist taking a barb at the new U.S. president on the inauguration day with a completely inappropriate and humiliating VOA Trump Inauguration Bingo.

As Donald Trump was being sworn as the 45th U.S. president, the VOA homepage prominently displayed a link:

For fun: inauguration bingo.”

Voice of America Homepage Screen Shot With Link To Trump Inauguration Bingo 2017-01-20 at 12.04 PM ET

Under the lost and inexperienced leadership of Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG – VOA’s parent agency with overall $777M budget) CEO John Lansing, VOA director Amanda Bennett and VOA deputy director Sandy Sugawara, a few Voice of America reporters had used an F-word to describe Donald Trump in a public social media post, posted a meme of his face with a Nazi swastika and a meme showing him as a sexual organ, called Trump repeatedly a “joke” in an employee-organized VOA newsroom satirical event held on government time, and to told a sex joke about Trump’s wife.

Many other VOA journalists strongly object in private to such antics by a few of their colleagues, but they are still afraid to speak out publicly. Such egregious behavior by some VOA journalists has never been seen before at the Voice of America and the Broadcasting Board of Governors under any previous VOA or agency leadership team. Even though Amanda Bennett belatedly warned Voice of America employees about inappropriate use of social media by journalists, A social media post by a VOA reporter on Thursday was still making fun of Trump supporters coming to Washington D.C. for the inauguration. These Americans are taxpayers who pay this reporter’s salary.

ALSO SEE: ‘Beyond pathetic’ unique views for Voice of America, inside sources say, BBG Watch, January 20, 2016.

At the same time, VOA did a poor job reporting on Donald Trump’s inauguration. A former VOA senior correspondent sent us the following observation:

“What amazes…is that after all these years in which specific problems with VOA’s online performance have been pointed out over and over again, here on the inauguration of a new president, VOA still lagged behind on this story. When BBC can have a “Trump Becomes President” headline on its main pages within seconds of it happening, but VOA takes 10 minutes to do the same, you know something is still wrong at the Voice of America.”

VOA finally updated its main story, but though headline was updated first, old story remained for several minutes. Finally, VOA full update arrived with a 12:09 PM time mark. So, all in all, VOA lagged behind BBC in confirming Trump’s swearing in, well into his speech.

Also during Donald Trump’s inauguration, VOA’s “LIVE BLOG: Trump to be Sworn as 45th US President” was showing a blank page in VOA’s mobile site version (VOA’s desktop site was showing blog entries).

Voice of America Mobile Site Blank Trump Inauguration LIVE BLOG Screenshot 12.03 PM ET Jan. 20 2016
A former Voice of America foreign and domestic correspondent was sending us these updates during the inauguration ceremony:

“VOA lagging visibly behind BBC, which had a Trump Becomes President headline. VOA home page shows only the clickable video button, no photo of the inaugural scene. VOA still showing older stories…”

A former BBG communications specialist send us this observation:

“At the end of the day, the coverage is a testament to the agency’s inability to cover breaking news. This event was no surprise. The question how well prepared the agency was to deliver particularly when compared to other international broadcasters. That’s the thing: you can make a clear comparison between VOA and the BBC, VOA and RT, VOA and others. Clearly, the agency doesn’t have it like it used to. There should be no amazement. It’s everything that has been written about before. What it demonstrates is the lack of leadership and ability…”

Voice of America Screen Shot of Trump Inauguration Bingo 2017-01-20 at 12.04 PM ET