Voice of America Director Ensor’s ‘Getting It Right in Russia’ explanation misses the main point

BBG Watch Commentary Commenting on the Voice of America director David Ensor’s response to the posting of a fake interview on the VOA Russian website, one veteran VOA journalist observed that for a good reporter like Ensor, it is very short on specifics. It would force CNN viewers to switch channels. It misses the main point of what led to the posting of a fake interview on the VOA Russian Service website. This devastating mistake is part of a big systemic problem at the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the Voice of America. David Ensor’s response is very inadequate in both explanations and solutions. It implies that it is merely a problem of editorial procedures when in fact it is a management and leadership crisis. The people who should go are senior BBG, IBB and VOA executives and advisors. They are the ones responsible for the problem of outsourcing, POV staffing, exploiting of contractors, not paying them on time but at the same time expecting that they will be totally loyal. The VOA Russian Service needs to be rebuilt from scratch, otherwise it will never have any credibility with the pro-democracy opposition in Russia. Director Ensor needs to make drastic changes and announce them. He should go to Russia and meet with Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader embarrassed and harmed by VOA. We do respect Director Ensor’s considerable achievements as a foreign correspondent, but we hope now that he will also do the right thing as VOA director. As today’s Washington Times op-ed suggested, what needs to be done is an emergency surgery. BBG Watch is posting a few questions which will hopefully help Director Ensor and BBG members get ready to perform it as soon as possible, the sonner the better. 1. At what level do you plan to stop outsourcing critical editorial and journalistic functions to poorly paid, poorly trained, poorly vetted and poorly supervised contractors from Russia? 2. Why were experienced VOA Russian Service editors forced to retire, were pushed out, or quit being disgusted with the “pro-Putin” bias imposed by BBG program advisors? 3. Why was a study done by a highly respected journalist fighting Putin’s censorship in Russia, who concluded that the VOA Russian website had a “pro-Putin bias” and downplayed human rights reporting, ignored by VOA and BBG management? 4. Why did you not call Alexei Navalny immediately and apologize personally. He is, after all, not just a pro-democracy blogger but a leading opponent of Prime Minister Putin, anti-corruption lawyer, and opposition leader. 5. Why did it take you so long to respond in any way to the incident? 6. Are you concerned that some members of your VOA Russian team were privately accusing a courageous Russian human rights campaigner of giving the interview and then lying about it and that higher level managers who are supposed to supervise these contractors and to advise you were also telling many people within VOA and IBB/BBG that Navalny may be a liar? 7. What does that…

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Voice of America Director Ensor’s ‘Getting It Right in Russia’ explanation misses the main point

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