19 March 2008

Your Comments

While we recently noted that your comments are always welcome here at the News Blog, our colleagues at VOANews.com continue to receive messages and we’ve asked them to pass many of them along to us. We want to make a regular feature of “Your Comments.”

Let’s begin.

First up, this angry message from Kenneth:

“Every time I read the news coming out of the VOA on the internet, I know immediately that it is going to be the same type of propaganda as Radio Moscow or Radio Peking put out. Don't you people ever get tired of the drivel that you air? It's sickening to have to hear your daily garbage news thrown at the world, knowing that everything in it is a fabrication, without an iota of truth to be found in it.

“Your recent news on the Colombian incursion into Ecuador is totally backwards. It is not Chavez to blame for defending his country from an aggressor, but Colombia which is a U.S. ally. But I guess you have to take the same viewpoint as that moron in the White House George W. Bush your boss, or face the consequences. Never you mind, next January you will be rid of the idiot once and for all time. Perhaps then you can thank God for it. It must be very trying to know that you work for an idiot and be forced to comply with his inane policy.

"So carry on chaps!”

We dispute any suggestion that our news items are fabricated or that they are propaganda. As for the allegation that our news is somehow required to fit the political views of the White House or the current administration, we can vehemently deny that and note that our Charter requires VOA, by law, to “serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news” and that the news must be “accurate, objective and comprehensive.”
Now, a comment on the ever-controversial situation in the Mideast --- this one from Professor Lubinsky. He refers to items like this one which reported on violence in which “at least 120 Palestinians were killed. Israel launched the offensive in response to Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel that killed one civilian.”

He says: “This type of selectivity greatly distorts the events. Israel did not launch the operation into Gaza solely as a response from the death of one civilian. Hundreds of rockets have been fired into the southern Israeli towns of Sderot and Ashkelon in recent weeks and several thousand since Hamas took over the Gaza strip. They have made life impossible, injured many children and damaged schools and houses.” He also says the reference to 120 Palestinians killed, in his words, “hides the fact that well over half of the Palestinians killed were militants. In reporting on Iraq, you talk of militants killed, not Iraqis. Why do you use terminology to suggest that the Palestinians killed were civilians?”

He concludes by appealing to VOA to stop what he charges is the bias of other international news organizations.

I referred this comment to Central News Division Managing Editor Jack Payton, who replied:

“The Israeli/Palestinian confrontation is one of the most dynamic stories VOA, or any other news organization, covers on a day-to-day basis. On the day in question, there were three updating Central News file stories that followed the one he cited, which moved in the early morning hours here. One later CN story that moved in mid-afternoon, described Israel's decision to carry out the raids on Gaza this way: ‘A recent Israeli offensive against Gaza militants killed more than 120 Palestinians. The fighting also killed five Israelis, four of them soldiers. Israel carried out the offensive in response to Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel.’

"It's also worth noting the Robert Berger Correspondent Report on the VOA website that day. It included extensive remarks by Israeli officials and their reasoning for going after the rocket attackers inside Gaza as well as a remark by an Islamic Jihad official. Like any other news organization that reports on the issue, VOA gets criticism from both pro-Arab and pro-Israeli listeners about its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Each day, we work to put the facts and reporting in a fair and objective context as the story changes hour by hour. Assessing VOA's success in this effort is best done by looking at the body of work on a given day or week rather than picking out one story in a dynamically changing situation.”
Then, a complaint from Ken about a report on VOANews.com which began by saying:

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a Democrat-crafted foreign intelligence surveillance law that contains provisions strongly opposed by President Bush.

Ken writes he is unhappy with the use of the phrase, “Democrat-crafted.” He says, “intentionally or not, this is consistent with the Republican party pejorative, Democrat party. It shows bias not consistent with the mission of VOA.”

We passed this complaint to Central News Division senior editor Michael Collins who says the usage is “correct, Democrat-crafted as in crafted by Democrats (noun) not crafted by Democratics. It’s a language thing, not a political thing.”

Michael notes the VOA stylebook says “’The principal American political parties are Democratic (not Democrat) and Republican...’ Our style calls for Democratic as an adjective and Democrat as a noun. In other words, the senator is a Democrat, the bill was sponsored by Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, or the senator is a member of the Democratic Party. Any other usage is inadvertant and in error.”

And Central News Managing Editor Jack Payton says, “Would have been better to say ‘crafted by House Democrats...’”
Our colleagues at VOANews.com receive comments on the current Presidential election campaign in the US. These are passed on to the VOAElectionBlog and our colleague Neal Lavon has started addressing them there.
Finally, we had a nice compliment from Mehrshad about the news headlines VOANews.com sends out by email everyday to subscribers:

“Thanks a million for everyday news update. To me this is the most priceless blessing in the world since we are filtered here in Iran. I do make use of your pieces of news to improve both my English and knowledge of the world.”

And there you have it until our next collection of your comments.

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