Good Enough for Government Work at Voice of America Newsroom

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USAGM Watch Commentary

In previous years, BBG Watch – the predecessor of USAGM Watch – made part of its mission noting when various elements of USAGM, but notably the Voice of America, lagged behind other media in reporting all relevant facts in breaking news stories.

VOA in particular became known for this, often leaving out key aspects of a breaking news story indeed, often failing to post in a timely manner numerous important stories.

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READ: “Voice of America Delayed For Five Days Posting Story on Senator Menendez Criticism of USAGM CEO OCB Appointment,” USAGM Watch, April 12, 2021.

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After years of being pounded by criticisms over this dysfunction, including comparisons between VOA and those of other media, VOA’s central newsroom finally improved, to a degree.  But it seems VOA’s newsroom may be backsliding.

In reporting on the start of jury deliberations in the trial of Derick Chauvin, initial VOA reports failed to mention one of the major aspects of the story – the fact that the defense sought a mis-trial based on comments by Maxine Waters (D-CA) at a rally in Minnesota.

How any news writer or editor, having just viewed the remarks of the defense, and of the judge, or following other U.S. and international media reports, could have left out this crucial element is pretty astounding and reminds one of the days when VOA’s newsroom seemed to have a “good enough for government work” approach to breaking news.

A VOA story as viewed just after 6:30 PM on April 19th said absolutely nothing about the attempt by the defense to have the judge declare a mis-trial.  It wasn’t until a later version that this aspect was inserted in a brief mention without any critical details.

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McCarthy and Pelosi Ignored in Voice of America Report

By then, it was also being reported that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced his intention to introduce a resolution to censure Waters for saying “we’ve got to get more confrontational” and “we’ve got to stay on the street” to protest police brutality against Black Americans.

But that aspect of the story — again, significant and reported by numerous media outlets — was absent from VOA’s version as seen online in late afternoon on April 19th, and still absent from an updated story on VOA’s English website as of the next morning April 20th. As reported by The Hill and many other U.S. media outlets, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said on Monday that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) has nothing to apologize for in response to criticism from Republicans over remarks she made in Minnesota over the weekend. VOA did not report it.

Perhaps Voice of America considers a censure action by the Republican minority leader of the House of Representatives and comments by Democratic House Speaker to be unimportant and not worth providing to VOA’s online viewers and other consumers of its content.

It’s not known how the initial version of the VOA story made it through what passes as the editing process in VOA’s central newsroom – clearly the first version  somehow passed under the radar until someone noticed the absence of the important additional detail.

The U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) recently announced that it has obtained authority to pay SES employees even more money in salary than before, a certification that had lapsed since 2012.

That higher pay for SES officials, the agency asserted, means means that the “highest levels of talent” can be attracted including “capable individuals to support, manage, and highlight the tremendous work of USAGM journalists in the field and around the world.”

Based on USAGM Watch highlighting numerous news coverage and breaking news failures over the past decade, clearly one area in need of more competent talent is Voice of America’s central newsroom, and also in senior VOA and USAGM positions now occupied by a familiar set of officials who have been in charge of VOA news, programs and operations for many years.

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