Voice of America resists CNN-ization with humor – The Literary Adventures of the Steves

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Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, How Many Political Directors (Steves) Do You See at BBG?


We have reported earlier on the placement into high-paying government jobs at the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) of former CNN employees, many of whom don’t have any real duties. The BBG Chairman Walter Isaacson is a former CNN executive. These former CNN employees, some of whom — we are told — didn’t even earn a college degree, make about $150,000 a year plus all the generous fringe benefits which come with federal government employment. A great deal, if you can get it.
Shortly after posting our report, and perhaps in response to it, VOA’s Executive Editor, Steve Redisch (formerly of CNN) created a special position of “Political Director” for one of his former CNN colleagues whom he had hired. (We like the title of “Political Commissar” better, it’s more in line with the CNN style of reporting than VOA’s, but we’re sure that Political Director will change that given enough time and de-federalization.)
Redish’s memo (BBG Watch saw a copy but we misplaced it; can anyone send it to us?) seems to suggest that VOA never had anyone in charge of organizing coverage of political events in the U.S. In fact, there are several people who already do this job; this is yet another make-belief position created for former CNN types, BBG Watch sources report.
Let’s be honest, other than Isaacson and perhaps David Ensor (also formerly from CNN), these individuals are not exactly the best and the brightest — far from it. Perhaps this is what the new de-federalized, privatized, merged entity being envisioned by BBG bureaucrats needs to lead it in the 21st Century.
One of Isaacson’s former CNN colleagues, a lawyer by training, wrote an email in which he bragged about promoting his favorites and referring dismissively to “old white guys.” Think of all the lawsuits that will cost the BBG and American taxpayers plenty of money as a result of this email. The majority of BBG members refused to fire him for this comment. And yet, by law, they are required to act in the best interests of U.S. international broadcasting and the BBG.
But one does not need to look so high to see examples of great foolishness. Talk about treating VOA journalists as if they were just hired from the National Park Service of the Social Security Administration and have never before written a news story or conducted an interview.
In the Soviet samizdat tradition, VOA journalists are fighting back with humor. Here is a radio (sorry, new media because of SMS texting) play sent to us by a VOA broadcaster who wants to remain anonymous.

The Literary Adventures of the Steves
Based on the True SMS Messages of the Steves

Act One
A barren hallway in Cohen. A door. Morning.
Steve, leaning against a door, is thumbing his Iphone. He attacks it with both hands, panting. He stops, exhausted, rests and starts again. As before. Enter Steve.

Steve: Nothing to be done.
Steve: I’m beginning to come round to that opinion. Its hopeless. They just don’t get it.
Steve: (resumes texting) Not listening, not listening, that is their problem. We keep telling them what they are doing wrong. (he broods)
Steve: I’m glad to see you back. I thought you wouldn’t come back.
Steve: No one else will hire me.
Steve: So you came back.
Steve: Yes I came back.
Steve: We have a meeting.
Steve: Huh? (still texting)
Steve: We have a meeting.
Steve: Another?
Steve: Yes.
Steve: Let’s text each other.
Steve: Yes. Let’s text each other. (They enter the room and sit.) .
(Transcript of text messages.)
Steve: This meeting is boring.
Steve: Yes you are right. It is boring.
Steve: (touching iPad) Why won’t they stop talking?
Steve: Perhaps they think they have something to say?
Steve: Tee hee.
Steve: Let’s leave.
Steve: Yes. Let’s leave. (They do not move.)
Steve: Do you have a bit of rope? (He glances at the ceiling.)
Steve: No just my belt.
Steve: If she doesn’t stop talking I will take your belt.
Steve: But my pants will fall down.
Steve: Yes. Your pants will fall down.
Steve: Let’s leave.
Steve: Why are we here?
Steve: One hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
Steve: Yes.
Steve: No college diploma.
Steve: I do.
Steve: Yes.
Steve: She is still talking.
Steve: Why are we listening?
Steve: Someday they will get it.
Steve: They will never get it.
Steve: Yes.
Steve: They have never worked for a Real News Organization.
Steve: Yes. They are not like us. We aired the wall coming down.
Steve: What wall?
Steve: The Berlin Wall.
Steve: I was off that day.
Steve: So was I.
Steve: Let’s leave.
Steve: Yes. (They do not move.)
Steve: What are we waiting for?
Steve: We are waiting for them to get it.
Steve: They will never get it.
Steve; Yes. They will never get it.
Act Two
Same Day. Same Meeting. Still texting.
Steve: What are they saying?
Steve: I don’t know. It is boring.
Steve: I feel like singing.
Steve: Sing!
Steve: Why do you always agree?
Steve: Yes. I always agree.
Steve: Why?
Steve: One is not master of one’s opinions.
Steve: Huh?
Steve: I fell better when I’m with you. You feel better alone.
Steve: Huh?
Steve: They just don’t get it.
Steve: Yes. They just don’t get it.
Steve; The news business is hard.
Steve: Only if you think hard.
Steve: I don’t think hard. But given the existence of the need for information as a tool of liberation, quaquaquaqua, we waste and pine, waste and pine.
Steve: Huh?
Steve: Brain burp. Sorry.
Steve: This meeting is boring.
Steve: Yes. It is boring.
Steve: Well, shall we go?
Steve: Yes. Let’s go.
(They do not leave.)
We hope you enjoyed this post. We promise to have more posts like this one in our Hot Tub Blog in 2012. Your suggestions for improving our site are greatly appreciated. We want to take this opportunity to thank those who have already sent theirs.
Please consider making a New Year resolution of contributing your own news tips and hilarious comments to BBG Watch. Send your submissions by email to contact@usgbroadcasts.com. You don’t have to use your real name or even a real email address. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. And Please, DO NOT USE your work computer or any government-issued device to communicate with us. We don’t want to get you in trouble.
Happy New Year to all VOA colleagues from BBGWatcher. It’s not as bleak as it seems. In the first four months since its launch, the BBGWatch.com site has had more than 100,000 hits and was quoted in a national magazine and a newspaper article. That’s something to celebrate, but we are most proud of our readers and contributors. Thank you all!
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3 comments

  1. Avatar
    Anonymous 29 December, 2011 at 16:24 Reply

    A chronic problem of USIB is that the newly appointed “leaders” don’t trust the rank and file professionals, believing that outsiders know better. Ignoring the accumulated experience and wisdom of the permanent staff is why surveys repeatedly show USIB workers have no confidence in the leadership. It is about time that a professional USIB veteran be appointed to the BBG to start a new era in which the views of staffers are taken seriously.

    • Avatar
      Anonymous 29 December, 2011 at 16:51 Reply

      And someone should tell the senior managers earning over 150 thousand dollars a year that they are not entitled to bonuses just because they don’t get raises or step increases. In fact, they should be ashamed of taking extra money when the agency has the lowest rankings on leadership. Give the money to employees or plow it into funding more journalism, something that is rarely discussed these days.

  2. Avatar
    Anonymous 8 January, 2012 at 09:10 Reply

    “These former CNN employees, some of whom — we are told — didn’t even earn a college degree…”
    Wow, that’s a pretty elitist attitude. If they had degrees would it somehow justify them getting a huge salary for doing nothing? If you want support from the American public and your colleagues you shouldn’t be so exclusionary and downright snobby.
    It’s okay to hire from an exclusive club of college graduates, but it’s not okay to hire from any other exclusive clubs, (like former CNN employees)? What exactly are you trying to say?

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