17 February 2009

The Amazing, Growing Foreign Media Corps in Washington

The Project for Excellence in Journalism has just released a study on “The New Washington Press Corps.”

One of its major findings is that there has been amazing growth in the number of foreign media outlets now covering the U.S. capital.

“When the U.S. State Department first opened a Foreign Press Center for representatives of non-U.S. media in 1968, there were about 160 foreign correspondents reporting from Washington. In October, 2008, there were nearly ten times as many.”

According to the report, 1,490 foreign correspondents were accredited to the Foreign Press Center in Washington as of last October. They represent nearly 800 media outlets from 113 countries and territories. Much of the growth in recent years has come from media from China, the Middle East and Africa. All are regions where U.S. policies and actions have taken on increased importance over the past decade.

The study finds the foreign presence in such large numbers “has changed the way the world gets its news from Washington, and the implications of their presence for America’s image in the world are considerable.”

As a long-time communicator to the rest of the world from Washington, VOA welcomes the presence of so many reporters from so many countries. We hope they share our commitment to delivering news that is consistently reliable and authoritative as well as accurate, objective, and comprehensive. We know their audiences will appreciate it.

05 February 2009

What VOA Covers

In today’s post, we’d like to take up what we consider the tired old shibboleth of what VOA is supposed to be about. You may have heard it in one form or another. It goes something like this: one international broadcaster claims to focus on local news inside a particular country or group of countries. Another international broadcaster, it is argued, reports on the whole world. VOA, meanwhile, is alleged to report mainly on America and U.S. policy and not much else.

What bothers us about this portrait is that it is utterly false and misleading. VOA broadcasts on local news in countries around the world --- and it reports on global developments. Yes, it reports on America and U.S. policy (like other international news organizations) but that represents just a portion of what VOA offers to its audiences.

Take a look at VOANews.com. As this is written there are five main stories headlined on the portal page of the website: two involve the U.S., one deals with Iraq, another with Sri Lanka and the last one with Israel.

Go to the main English news page and in addition to these a reader will find stories involving Britain, Iran, China, North Korea, South Africa and Libya.

Go to some of the other websites hosted by VOA and a reader will find an assortment of detailed items dealing with local news from a particular country. Consider VOA’s Persian News Network. There is a whole page on PNN’s site for Iran news (and a separate page for articles from the Iranian press).

Or look at Studio Seven, VOA’s service to Zimbabwe in English, Shona and Ndebele. Every single item on the Studio Seven site involves local news for Zimbabweans, just as if it were a local broadcaster or daily news publication.

So the next time someone says VOA is just about the United States, don’t believe it. Listen, watch or go to our websites and check it out yourself --- and tell others to do the same. We cover the world --- and we cover your country. And we cover the United States. We’re a full service news organization.