HOWL – VOA journalist’s view of management – Part Two: Reality Check

A Voice of America journalist who uses a pen name Mary Jane has posed this problem:

As we stand on the precipice of collapse, crumbling and leaderless, fearing for our jobs while simultaneously wishing to be released from this torturous slow decay, a keen look at our so-called management is due.

Mary Jane promised to provide that look in several installments.

The series is titled “HOWL.”

Part Two – Reality Check

Yes, our content is bad.  It is bad because our stunningly incompetent management believes in the self-delusional mantra of “original content” as a product reality.

Reality check, gentlemen, VOA does not have a single cameraman on staff outside of Washington, DC. We do not have original news (English language video) content.

It is bad because international bureau assignments are not made according to skill or understanding of a rapidly changing media environment, but rely on internal politics.

It is bad because no one watches our programming with the critical eye of an experienced broadcaster, in fact, no one on the third floor watches our programming at all. It is bad because the rank and file is led by those who have never practiced journalism; those who set no standard except for political survival in a bureaucratic environment.

Here’s an idea – let’s show to David Ensor the best original content (television news in English) of the previous day, every morning, at the 9:30 meeting. Let him see how many minutes (?) of quality television content VOA produces on a daily basis. Perhaps then he will question the cool-aid drinkers who shamelessly promote our so-called high-quality original content. You will see the 3rd floor yes-men scurry like rats, desperately trying to find some product, anything, to show him.

One Comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    Agreed that Ensor should see the best (and worst) of the day’s work, or better, seek it out himself by watching pieces on the web site, where his choices won’t be limited by managers’ tastes and favoritism. And also agreed that we are hampered by the limited vision of some of those in charge, who don’t read widely or watch much smart TV or have any notion of TV news beyond the way it was in the 1980s.

    But the rest of this essay is ill-informed nonsense. VOA has produced much excellent original TV content in the last decade, most of it shot and edited by video journalists, both those on staff and POVs. Some of it has won top awards at the NY Television and Film Festivals and other competitions, going head to head with network and cable television. (We won a lot more of those awards before managers with fundamentally local-news sensibilities decided that every story had to be under three minutes.)

    The writer here sounds a decade or so behind the curve. You don’t need a dedicated camera person to shoot excellent footage anymore; in fact, if you (and your audiences) want something that doesn’t look like generic, formula TV news, then most old-school TV news shooters, who do everything by the book, aren’t going to cut it. (Some will, of course.)

    Increasingly, the networks and other media organizations have also realized that even if they wanted to, a) they can’t afford the old-style formula of a whole TV crew, but must buy or commission stories produced by one-man-band freelancers and b) that one-man bands often produce the most original, unexpected programming of all — because they’re not an unwieldy caravan, but one person with a tape-recorder size camera, who can go anywhere.

    Look at our most successful language service TV programs and pieces: they are fast, colorful, informal, innovative, not slaves to old-fashioned rules. This is how the newspapers and networks are going, too.

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