UPDATE: After BBG Watch posts were published and after the sex-before-jail report stayed on the Voice of America French to Africa Service website for five days as its number one “USA News” story, the VOA report, which was a word-for-word reposting of an AFP report with a misleading photo provided by VOA, was finally removed from the VOA website altogether and the service started to update its U.S. news more frequently.
The Voice of America (VOA) French to Africa Service posted on Friday as its top USA News story a four-days-old AFP report about an American couple in Florida which kept the police waiting to arrest them at their mobile home because “they wanted to make love one more time.” As of 1:00 PM Monday, this days old AFP report is still Voice of America’s top USA News story in French.
The Voice of America, U.S. taxpayer-funded ($200 million annually) multi-language and multi-media news outlet for audiences abroad, has discovered that sex sells.
Because it has been mismanaged for many years–with public resources diverted to its bureaucratic federal agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) rather than used on solid journalism–the Voice of America in many cases is no longer capable of timely coverage of significant news. VOA English News and many of VOA’s foreign language services have minuscule following on social media when compared to such giants as BBC and even Russia’s RT.
Some of BBG’s non-federal entities, such as Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), are slightly better managed, but they are also experiencing management problems as well as interference from the BBG bureaucracy. When not hampered by BBG bureaucrats and starved for resources, at least some of these so-called “surrogate” entities, which also include Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN), deliver highly-sought uncensored news and commentaries to countries without free media. According to the 1976 VOA Charter, the Voice of America should be doing the same, but with a focus on international and U.S. news, U.S. foreign policy, and American society and culture. The Voice of America is a federal entity of the U.S. government funded by the U.S. Congress, but many say it is confused about its mission, largely because of poor leadership. VOA news in English and in other languages are often late, not updated and increasingly trashy.
During the debate of Democratic presidential hopefuls in Las Vegas, NV last week, VOA English News correspondents got one or two re-tweets (six was the highest number; most of their tweets had none); a BBC reporter got dozens of re-tweets; one of his tweets during the debate was re-tweeted more than a hundred times. As it is often the case, VOA was late in posting on its websites and social media even on the debate’s U.S. foreign policy issues.
But while unable to engage audiences on social media with serious international news reporting and U.S. news coverage, VOA English and foreign language services increasingly turn to sensational stories.
On Sunday, VOA English posted on Facebook a four-days-old video of the Russian bear trapped in a shopping mall in Khabarovsk. The VOA video was poorly produced and failed to note where and when the incident occurred (it happened four days earlier). Worst of all, VOA mindlessly repeated the official Russian version, promoted by RT four days earlier, that the Russian police had no choice in killing the bear. BBC, also earlier, had questioned that claim.
But in terms of shamelessly trying to increase social media stats while actually distorting U.S. news and America’s image abroad, nothing recently beats Voice of America French to Africa Service posting on its website as its top U.S. news item this report about an American couple in Florida which kept the police waiting to arrest them at their mobile home because “they wanted to make love one more time.” The Voice of America French to Africa Service posting was in fact a re-posting of an Agence France Press (AFP) news report from the United States which is by now four-days-old but is still number one U.S. news item on the VOA site.
A Princeton PhD, was a US diplomat for over 20 years, mostly in Eastern Europe, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. For the Open World Leadership Center, he speaks with
its delegates from Europe/Eurasia on the topic, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United." Affiliated with Georgetown University for over ten years, he shares ideas with students about public diplomacy.
The papers of his deceased father -- poet and diplomat John L. Brown -- are stored at Georgetown University Special Collections at the Lauinger Library. They are manuscript materials valuable to scholars interested in post-WWII U.S.-European cultural relations.
This blog is dedicated to him, Dr. John L. Brown, a remarkable linguist/humanist who wrote in the Foreign Service Journal (1964) -- years before "soft power" was ever coined -- that "The CAO [Cultural Affairs Officer] soon comes to realize that his job is really a form of love-making and that making love is never really successful unless both partners are participating."