BBG Watch Just Asking
What do you think U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America news organization considers to be more important as international news: Americans facing years in Russian prison being transferred from one jail to another or Miss Universe beauty pageant in Moscow?
We know what the answer is. VOA English News chose to report three days earlier on the Miss Universe beauty pageant in Moscow (and not doing a very good job of it), but not on the Greenpeace prison transfer today or the two Americans in a Russian jail.
Our question to VOA Director David Ensor and VOA Executive Editor is ‘Why?’
VOA English News failed to post on its website any news about the transfer of 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists from a jail in Murmansk to a jail in St. Petersburg. There are two American citizens in that group: the Greenpeace ship’s captain Peter Willcox and Dimitri Litvinov, son of well-known Soviet-era political prisoner Pavel Litvinov. Pavel Litvinov and his family were exiled by the Soviet regime to the United States. Dimitri Litvinov went to American schools and has American citizenship.
Greenpeace put out a press release about the prison transfer and published several photos. BBC posted a news report, as did Russia Today. The Voice of America English news website had nothing.
But three days earlier, VOA English News did write and post a very short news item, “Venezuelan Crowned Miss Universe,” based on AP, AFP, and Reuters, with an AP photo showing Miss Universe 2013 Gabriela Isler, from Venezuela, with and pageant owner Donald Trump, in Moscow on November 9, 2013. The Greenpeace prison transfer took place early morning on November 11.
VOA News missed, however, perhaps the most important part of the Miss Universe in Russia story, which Russia Today picked on and reported: “US Billionaire Donald Trump has revealed plans to construct a skyscraper in Russia, similar to New York’s famous Trump Tower. The plans were confirmed during his visit to Moscow for the Miss Universe 2013 pageant taking place at Crocus City Hall.”
The incomplete VOA Miss Universe report managed to get 12 Facebook “Likes” by Monday night (a usual low number for VOA) and one comment (few VOA news stories get any comments). The Voice of Russia report had 38 Facebook “Likes” (an unusually low number for Russia Today, which may indicate that international audience interest in this story was quite small) and 31 comments.
But while VOA English website had nothing on the Greenpeace prison transfer, Russia Today did post a report which had 43 Facebook “Likes” by Monday night, also not a very large number of “Likes” by Russia Today standards. Read: “Detained Arctic Sunrise 30 being moved to St. Petersburg,” Russia Today, November 11, 2013.
BBC news report, on the Greenpeace prison transfer in Russia had 103 Facebook “Likes” by Monday night.
VOA English News also failed to report on the visit of a Greenpeace ship to San Francisco and a protest in front of the Russian Consulate General in the city over the weekend.
Had VOA News reported on the prison transfer and the protest in San Francisco, and perhaps also interviewed family members and supporters of the two Americans, international audiences would have learned that Americans care about their citizens, that they care about environmental issues, and that they engage in peaceful protests for such causes. Instead, they had learned from VOA that Americans organize and promote the most simple type of mass entertainment that many find exploitative of women.
Perhaps that is the kind of news reporting to the world American taxpayers want to pay for and want the Voice of America to focus on, but we doubt that’s the case and believe that VOA, which reports to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), needs major management reforms.
Also read: “World gets news about murder of Iranian rock musicians in the U.S. from BBC, not Voice of America,” BBG Watch, November 12, 2013.
Read our earlier commentary for more details: “VOA English News fails to report on transfer of Greenpeace prisoners to St. Petersburg,” BBG Watch, November 13, 2013.