Tuesday, March 7th 2017
Since last year there has been an effort at the Voice of America to expand into “investigative reporting”. The best response by VOA’s stakeholders to this effort should be a firm and unequivocal No.
Why? Just look at VOA’s website.
Every day this government agency distributes stories to audiences around the world that are not even written by VOA’s employees. Instead, they’re written by reporters at The Associated Press, or Reuters. And that’s a problem.
The reason is because VOA’s reporters are required by law to follow strict guidelines regulating what kind of stories they should cover and, even more importantly, how to cover them. But outside organizations such as AP don’t have to follow those rules, and when they don’t, that’s a violation of the Charter under which VOA operates.Read More
Tuesday, December 15th 2015
“. . . the Voice of America (VOA) is a national security asset, and not only because it is a news organization of extraordinary breadth, depth and reach,” wrote former VOA Director David Ensor, now Joan Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard University. His December 14, 2015, report, “Exporting the First Amendment: Strengthening U.S. Soft Power through Journalism,” is a valuable, detailed, and convictional explanation of the role of U.S. international broadcasters. “VOA is an effort to harness and direct the nation’s soft power by exporting truthful, balanced journalism,” he added, and he posed this question: “What is the proper role of the Voice of America in a world where Vladimir Putin ‘weaponizes information’ and terrorists recruit globally on the Internet?”
Specialists in Public Diplomacy, public affairs, broadcasting, strategic communication, media and social media, information operations, and foreign policy must read the entire report, which begins with a dramatic case study of the Yazidis who fled to Mount Shinjar in August, 2014. The report concludes with Ensor’s recommendations and his views of “what works” (“journalism with values”) and what doesn’t (“policy driven ‘messaging’”).
This gist provides main points, but it necessarily omits the most valuable supporting details, contrasts with other national broadcasting efforts, case studies, and analytics that are included in Ensor’s paper. Again, read the full report!Read More
Thursday, November 26th 2015
In a November 23, 2015, op-ed in Politico, David Ensor, the former Director of the Voice of America now at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard, said “No, Governor Kasich, Voice of America’s Not About ‘Judeo-Christian’ Values.” (Kasich’s original comments on Public Diplomacy and broadcasting are summarized here.)
VOA is “hardly ‘dormant,’ as Kasich suggests,” he wrote. Ensor pointed to “a new model of partnerships with television and radio stations showing great promise” (citing Ukraine and Kurdish Iraq as examples); audience growth in Nigeria, Mexico, China, Russia, and Africa; and other initiatives. Listening to VOA in Iran is illegal, but a “quarter of Iranians watch VOA satellite TV at least once a week.” “VOA is in fact one of the world’s largest, most influential media organizations.”
Some bullet points of this important piece are below, reordered for a few themes. Those in search of initiatives in the “war of ideas” may be most interested in Ensor’s four proposals.Read More
Friday, October 30th 2015
The Voice of America's Charter lies at the heart of VOA’s mission. Using language that’s as simple as it is ambitious, the Charter was designed to govern everything done by VOA, America’s oldest and largest government broadcaster. Its guidelines, signed into law by President Gerald Ford in 1976, are succinct:
“The long-range interests of the United States are served by communicating directly with the peoples of the world by radio. To be effective, the Voice of America must win the attention and respect of listeners. These principles will therefore govern Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts:
“1. VOA will serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news. VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive.
“2. VOA will represent America, not any single segment of American society, and will therefore present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions.
“3. VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies. (Public Law 94-350)”
Sounds pretty clear. And except for the reference to radio, it’s as relevant today as it was nearly four decades ago. It’s not surprising that the Charter has also provided journalistic guidance for VOA’s sister organizations under the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which include Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio & TV Marti, Radio Free Asia, and Radio Sawa and Alhurra TV.
Yet a key element of the Charter has been so frequently ignored over the years that some members of Congress want to drastically reduce VOA’s mission, if not pull the plug entirely on it.
How did VOA get into this mess?Read More
Saturday, October 10th 2015
On October 4, 1999, a few days after the U.S. Information Agency became part of the Department of State, Representative Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey entered remarks on Public Diplomacy in the Congressional Record. So quickly had USIA’s front office and its Congressional relations shop closed that his tribute to USIA, “Milestone of U.S. Foreign Relations and Diplomacy,” was never communicated to embassies and consulates. His remarks concluded with a discussion of guiding principles for U.S. Public Diplomacy.
, , , we should mark well some principles that should endure as these programs and people move into the Department of State.
The first is to affirm that American foreign policy needs public diplomacy more than ever. The world has been forever changed by the communications revolution and by the democratic revolution. The first of those revolutions now allows broad access to information about foreign policy and how it affects people and societies. The second revolution engages citizens in the decisions made by their governments.Read More