BBG Watch Commentary

U.S. taxpayer-funded ($224 million in FY 2017) Voice of America (VOA) was late in reporting on its main English-language website on the New York City terror attack Tuesday, while at the same time VOA White House correspondent Steve Herman was providing VOA English-speaking audience with early tweets suggesting that it was an apparent road rage incident. He cited a local news outlet, CBS New York, as a source of his information on apparent road rage .

VOA White House bureau chief Steve Herman @W7VOA appears to have had his first tweet about the NYT incident at 3:30 PM ET, earlier than the AP report for which VOA put a headline on its homepage about an hour later, at about 4:30 PM ET. The timestamp on the Herman tweet, as observed, said: “12:30 PM – Oct 31, 2017.” It also shows “19:30 UTC” or 3:30 PM EDT. The truck drove onto the West Side Highway bike path at “around 3:05 PM” EDT, according to CNN and others. It appears, therefore, that the timestamp on all of the @W7VOA tweets must be advanced by three hours to get the actual time they were posted from Washington, D.C.

VOA’s Steve Herman’s tweet carrying a timestamp of “1:08 PM – Oct 31, 2017 · Washington, DC,” which is believed to be indicating 4:08 PM ET, said: “An ‘apparent road rage incident that may have ended in a shooting,’ reports @CBSNewYork.”

Steven L. Herman is VOA’s White House Bureau Chief. The veteran journalist spent 26 years in Asia, including reporting from Tokyo and subsequently as a VOA correspondent and bureau chief in India, Korea and Thailand. He also served as VOA’s Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, based out of the State Department.

The VOA correspondent had another tweet suggesting a road rage incident. It carried a timestamp of “1:11 PM – Oct 31, 2017 · Washington, DC,” which is believed to be indicating 4:11 PM ET. The tweet said: “Preliminary reports from NYC officials say they believe this started as a dispute between two drivers with shots fired, reports @ABC7NY.” He appeared to have been citing a local New York ABC television station.

Finally, Voice of America’s chief White House correspondent posted a tweet with a timestamp of “1:35 PM – Oct 31, 2017 · Washington, DC,” which is believed to be indicating 4:35 PM ET, acknowledging that the incident was a suspected terror attack. “A suspected act of terror,” according to a @nbcnewyork reporting quoting official sources,” Steve Herman’s @W7VOA tweet said.

While tweets from VOA correspondent were still suggesting road rage, Britain’s BBC was up on its homepage with full story on the New York City terror incident, with Twitter posts from NYPD before 4:18 PM ET. The Voice of America still had no news report at that time on its homepage.

2017-10-31 BBC NYC Shooting Screenshot 4:15 PM ET

Shortly after breaking news bulletins about the incident started to flood the media, VOA’s main English front page was observed to have no mention whatsoever of the event.

2017-10-31 VOA Homepage Screenshot at 4:15 PM

Later, VOA did post a Twitter item linked to a brief five paragraph AP story. It was not expanded with any additional material, such as Twitter posts by the NYPD or the New York City mayor’s office, which appeared in BBC reports.

As of 4:35 PM VOA still had no story on its main English global web page, or on the U.S. section of that page. VOA did have a live video report from new York on Facebook but not until 4:58 PM ET.

In contrast, the BBC had extensive updates of the story, complete with Twitter posts from NYPD, and photographs, with contact links and requests for contributions from readers via Twitter and SMS.

VOA finally posted a small item on the incident on its front page, observed at about 4:38 PM ET, linking to an expanded AP story with a 4:30 PM ET time mark.

To top everything off, BBC was up with the latest death figure, VOA still had a 30 minute old AP story up, without the fatality figure. At 5:34 PM ET, VOA still had the story buried on its homepage under a Syria story. BBC had the New York story No. 1 on Home, World, and U.S. pages, and BBC had a “Live” page up with numerous photos and Twitter feeds.

2017-10-31, BBC with Death Toll at 5 PM

The Voice of America management sometimes defends late posting of VOA news reports on major U.S. stories by claiming the need for getting all the details right. Such excuses are usually false because VOA has been frequently late even in reporting on official U.S. government statements that do not require a confirmation. BBC and Russia’s RT are frequently well ahead of VOA on reporting news from the White House on their news websites.

In the case of the New York City terror attack, the Voice of America was both late on its official website and appeared confused. VOA was confusing for its audience.

One attachment as of 4:58 PM ET showed the NYC terror attack story buried under “More Headlines” on the VOA front page.

2017-10-31 VOA-NYC Shotting Screenshot st 4:58 PM
1 comment
  1. I’m very confused, BBG spends a lot of money to have a fully functioning newsroom in New York but only the White House correspondent in DC reports on this?

    More taxpayers money well spent!

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