Election Day. A “live standup” from the White House, a cut-in from our congressional reporter on the VOA rooftop, a live-shot from VOA’s bureau in LA, another from the State Department, then to Islamabad, and back to the studio where analysts discussed the midterm elections in a special two-hour broadcast. The program was simulcast on radio and television, webcast, and put on satellite for affiliates. With its five remotes, the show demonstrated the range and capabilities of VOA. It focused on results of key races and issues like immigration, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
November 5th at the Newseum. VOA journalists were showcased at a live post-election event that included reporters from the Pashto Service, Indonesian, Turkish, and the Russian Service. A sizable studio audience watched as English-speaking hosts Kokab Farshori from VOA’s Urdu Service and Navbahor Imamova from the Uzbek Service interviewed an impressive panel that included Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Ken Adelman, Robert Reich, Stu Rothenberg, Jennifer Palmieri, Bill Schneider, Wendy Chamberlin, and others. The show was webcast and distributed on satellite. Pakistan’s Express-24 carried it live and Pakistan State Television (PTV) unexpectedly decided to air it. It was also adapted for broadcast in Farsi, Russian and Mandarin. Services used social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to post highlights of the program.
Prior to the election. VOA hosted a pre-election panel discussion featuring independent political analysts who took questions from an audience of Washington-based reporters and in-house journalists. That event was webcast and used by language services for pre-election coverage.
Many of VOA’s 44 language services worked extensively with affiliates to provide individualized coverage of the election. Myroslava Gongadze of the Ukrainian Service went to a local polling station and produced a TV package that showed how she herself voted, how the electronic machines worked, how results are collected and why Americans don’t fear that their vote won’t count. The Indonesian Service fed a wealth of election coverage to its audience and affiliates. Nearly a dozen pre-election stories from the service were supplied to affiliates. Election night the service did live Q&A’s with top Indonesian TV networks, including TVOne, ANTV, SCTV, and Trans 7.
The South Asia Services, Bangla, Dari, Pashto, Urdu, and Deewa Radio, posted reporters at polling stations so they could speak to people coming out of voting booths. Deewa Radio produced a special call-in show and the service found Pashtun-Americans to comment on the election. Deewa interviewed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell after the election.
The Albanian Service interviewed U.S. Senate candidate Joe DioGuardi (R-NY), who is of Albanian descent, and Ilir Zherka, a former Democratic campaign aide and Executive Director of DC Vote. VOA Russian interviewed New York State Assembly member Alek Brook-Krasny, a Russian-speaking immigrant who spoke about the political views of his Russian community. The Croatian, Serbian, and Greek Services, answered questions about the election during a series of live Q&A’s with their affiliates. Ivica Puljic of the Croatian Service went live from the VOA rooftop with TVNova, one of Croatia’s three nationwide networks. The Service also interviewed the Co-Chair of the Croatian Congressional Caucus, Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-IN) and Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), a freshman Senator of Croatian descent. The Greek Service broadcast a 45-minute TV special on the election results.
Many African services made increasing use of mobile phones to distribute their election reports. The Horn of Africa Service broadcast analysis of the defeat of Wisconsin’s Senator Russ Feingold and the re-election of two members of Congress, Donald Payne of New Jersey and Mike Honda of California, on the impact of the Ethiopia caucus on the Hill and the future of a Senate Resolution on Ethiopia.
Editors from VOA’s English website created special pages for election coverage and to promote VOA’s election events. Dozens of Central News reporters, editors, camera operators and writers contributed to election coverage. There were multi-media pieces on the economy, on unemployment, and the barrage of television advertising. There were explanatory pieces on how these ads were financed and how it was all made possible by a Supreme Court ruling earlier in the year. There were pieces on Tea Party candidates, Hispanic candidates, Hispanic voters, Muslim voters, African-American, women and youth voters. Services also broadcast reports on how a change of party leadership in the House or Senate could affect national, state and local politics and budgets. There were separate pieces on California, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, and Ohio, a piece on billionaire candidates who financed their own campaigns, as well as radio and TV items on how television comedians were affecting the election process.
VOA Covers Burmese Election
On November 7, the day of Burma’s first election in 20 years, VOA Burmese broadcast a live, 30-minute TV election show, providing audiences with up-to-the-minute developments in real time from outside Burma. Hosted by Service Chief Than Lwin Htun, the special program included reports from inside Burma and from the Thai/Burma border town of Mae Sot, where guests joined via Skype. The show also featured reports and commentaries on the campaign strategies of the different political parties, on the question of how free and fair the election was, and on the world reaction to the election, which had been dismissed by critics as a sham. The show will be rebroadcast several times during the week following the elections. The Service continues to cover and report on the post-election conflict that has broken out and the thousands of refugees who have fled into neighboring countries to escape post-election fighting between an ethnic militia and the Burmese military.
The service trained stringers and set up a special newsroom in Thailand to produce five-minute radio bulletins. The service has also helped train VJ’s who at great risk have been recording video and sending it in for use in the special 30-minute weekly election TV programs that began October 16. VOA’s Central News correspondents in Mae Sot provided comprehensive reporting for all VOA services on the election and its aftermath.(Return to Table of Contents)
VOA Covers Kyrgyzstan’s Parliamentary Elections
Russian Service correspondent Erica Marat traveled to Kyrgyzstan to report on the country’s landmark parliamentary elections as well as the aftermath of ethnic clashes in Osh. During her trip, Marat interviewed leaders of three major political parties, U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Tatiana Gfoeller, and numerous local and international election observers. At a press conference, our correspondent asked President Roza Otunbayeva whether ethnic minorities would be represented in the new parliament. In southern the southern city of Osh, which has recently seen ethnic violence, VOA Russian talked to Kyrgyz and Uzbek residents, asking them about their views on what caused the bloodshed and how they see the city’s future. The reporter witnessed a brutal fight between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in front of a courtroom and followed the victims into the hospital. The report on what she saw included interviews with Kyrgyz perpetrators, local policemen, an Uzbek victim’s lawyer, and international human rights activists. During her trip, Marat was approached for comment by other media, including Russian online news agency Rosbalt, Australian ABC radio, French RFI, and the BBC Uzbek Service. VOA’s Central News Moscow correspondent provided additional coverage from Bishkek.(Return to Table of Contents)
VOA Swahili Covers Tanzania Elections
Swahili broadcast a one-hour special live coverage of Tanzanian elections on October 31, with Swahili reporter Khadija Riyami and stringer Hamisi Dambaya reporting live from Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. An in-studio guest in Washington provided instant analysis soon after polling stations closed and early parliamentary results began coming in. Swahili coverage was also available on SMS and mobile devices. Within an hour of the broadcast, the Swahili Service received 238 SMS messages from listeners commenting on the program.(Return to Table of Contents)
VOA’s Somali Service Hosts Town Hall Meetings
VOA’s Somali Service held one town hall meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, and another in Hargeisa, Somalia in October. The Nairobi town hall meeting focused on the impact of Somalia’s radicalism on the East Africa region, while the Hargeisa meeting centered on the role of Somali women in society.(Return to Table of Contents)
VOA Spanish Covers Rescue of Chilean Miners
VOA’s Spanish Service stayed on top of every aspect of the rescue operation of 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for more than two months. Radio broadcasts and the daily El Mundo al Dia television program featured original reporting, interviews with family members of the miners, and American experts. Among the many interviews was one with Doctor Michael Duncan, who led the NASA team that traveled to Chile, and another with Arturo Fernandois, Chile’s ambassador to the United States.(Return to Table of Contents)
Secretary Clinton’s Visit to Balkans
VOA’s Balkan services covered every aspect of Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s October visit to Bosnia, Serbia, and Kosovo, as well as EU Headquarters in Brussels. In an interview previewing her trip, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg told VOA he was excited about the prospect of Kosovo and Serbia finally sitting down at the same table. VOA’s coverage, which included live reports via Streambox from Prishtina, expanded video journalist reports and interviews with experts from the target area and the United States, was picked up by dozens of TV, newspapers, and web organizations throughout the region, with full credit to VOA.(Return to Table of Contents)
VOA Reporters Follow the Trail of China’s Epic “Long March”
After a voyage of 21 days and more than 7,500 kilometers through a transformed Chinese landscape, VOA Beijing correspondents Stephanie Ho and Nan Zhang have retraced the route of Mao Zedong’s epic “Long March,” one of modern China’s founding legends. Their journey, documented with maps, words, pictures, and video, took the VOA journalists through some of China’s poorest and most remote areas, giving them a rare opportunity to see how the country’s 800 million rural residents cope with life in the 21st century. Stephanie Ho’s web presentation, which includes an interview with a “Long March” survivor, begins in Ruijin, the so-called “Red Capital,” where Mao’s outnumbered Communist forces were based in 1934 before they began their 10,000-kilometer flight from the Nationalist Army they would eventually defeat. The voyage was, according to Stephanie Ho, “like being in a different country.” She said, “People say Beijing and Washington have more in common than Beijing and a rural village in Guizhou province. Now I believe it.”(Return to Table of Contents)
Cyber Security Panel at VOA Discusses Online Freedom
On October 13, U.S. national security officials and cyber security experts tackled the thorny issue of surveillance laws and online freedom. Richard McNally, an FBI counter-terrorism official, and Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, were among the panelists at an interactive forum hosted by Voice of America. Also taking part: Martin Libicki, a senior management scientist at RAND, Ambassador Philip Verveer, the U.S. Coordinator for Inernational Communications and Information Policy at the State Department, and Nancy Scola, Associate Editor at techPresident.com. McNally told the panel, “The Internet has become the most prevalent way by which people around the world interact with each other. At the same time, the Internet has become a tool for people who want to do harm to others.” Panelists noted that surveillance is proving more difficult because of encrypted communication. To remedy the situation, the FBI and other security agencies want high-tech firms to include hidden “back doors” in their products that would allow for surveillance of user activities. But many experts are concerned about the implications of too much government involvement. The participants took questions from online participants from China, Vietnam, Nigeria, and elsewhere.(Return to Table of Contents)
Special Health Series for African Audiences
In October, VOA’s English to Africa Service premiered a special 15-part series on maternal and child health in Africa. This multi-media series is called A Healthy Start: On the Frontlines of Maternal and Infant Care in Africa, features doctors, nurses, international experts, and ordinary African women who discuss issues that affect mothers and their children. The stories are reported from east, west, and southern Africa by VOA reporters in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, and South Africa. A web special was created with a promo box and links at www.voaafrica.com, which includes stories, photos, video clips, and data.(Return to Table of Contents)
VOA Urdu & PTV Join Hands for Peace
For the second consecutive year, VOA’s Urdu Service contributed to the “Media for Peace” Telethon organized by the Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV), which aims to make viewers aware of the consequences of terrorism and the importance of shared values. VOA was one of six international broadcasters invited to participate in the show, which included live segments with VOA’s hosts and guests in Washington and New York. The VOA portion of the show also featured a taped message from USAID director Rajiv Shah. This year’s telethon emphasized peace through recovery not only from terrorism but also from devastating floods. It included an exclusive interview with U.S. Special Representative to Muslim Communities Farah Pandith. Following the broadcast, PTV called the VOA hour the “high point” of the special program and rebroadcast that segment.(Return to Table of Contents)
New Format for Popular VOA Radio Program to Afghanistan
VOA’s popular Ashna Radio hit the airwaves in Afghanistan on October 18 with a new format that includes more news, sports, music, call-in shows and features. The debut program featured an interview with former First Lady Laura Bush. The new format for Ashna Radio, which is on the air two hours each morning and six hours each night, also offers more live coverage of breaking news and call-in programs. In addition, it has a satirical segment that features a well known Afghan comedian. New stories in production look at the shortage of playgrounds for children, a new ski resort in Bamiyan, and life in a drug clinic. Other stories describe Afghanistan’s struggles and the way people are coping after decades of war and strife. An in-depth education series is planned that will look at the challenges and success stories that often go untold. (Return to Table of Contents)
VOA’s Straight Talk Africa TV Program Turns Ten
VOA’s popular Straight Talk Africa TV program marked its ten-year anniversary with a lively panel discussion featuring George Ayittey, founder and president of the Free Africa Foundation, Emira Woods, Co-Director of Foreign Policy in Focus, at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, and Sulayman Nyang, professor of African Studies at Howard University. The panelists underscored the need for stronger opposition parties, independent electoral commissions, an independent judiciary, and the need for a free press if Africa is going to make progress toward democracy and good governance. (Return to Table of Contents)
VOA Hosts Karaoke Contest in Russia to Promote New Product
One of the highlights of VOA’s participation at Russia Internet Week (RIW) in Moscow was the successful implementation of a karaoke contest to promote the launch of the Russian version of GoEnglish.me, VOA’s English-learning site. For two days, 26 trade fair participants agreed to sing and have their performances videotaped and posted on VOA Russian’s website. Reaching out to their friends on social network sites that included VKontakte and Facebook, participants generated more than 4,000 votes in 36 hours, and there were more than 10,000 visits to the VOA karaoke contest page. The contest finale was held on the main conference stage, where the two leading contestants competed to win an iPad. In addition to the karioke performances of American pop, the standing room only crowd got to hear about GoEnglish.me and other new VOA Russian features. The aim of the contest was to have participants spread the word about GoEnglish.me in the same way as they publicized karaoke.(Return to Table of Contents)
VOA Indonesian Hosts Affiliates Conference in Two Large Indonesian Cities
“Digital Convergence 101: The Challenge of New Media” was this year’s theme for VOA Indonesian’s affiliate conference held in two Indonesian cities in late October. The conferences, organized by the VOA Indonesian Service, brought together 85 radio and TV station representatives from throughout Indonesia in Bandung and another 69 participants in Surabaya. The conferences included a packed two-day agenda that included expert speakers, a website building workshop, and a business meeting that showcased VOA innovations and invited feedback from the affiliate stations. Speakers included Budiono Darsono, the founder and editor in chief of detik.com, Indonesia’s most popular news portal; Amin Azman, the managing director of GroupM Interaction and Mindshare, Indonesia’s largest radio advertising broker; Nezar Patria, chairman of the Association of Independent Journalists; Edi Taslim, business general manager for Kompas.com; and Enda Nasution, known as the “father of Indonesian blogging.” During the workshop portion of the event, affiliates were tutored in building their own websites from a Google Sites template created by the Indonesian Service. At the business meeting, the Service introduced VOA Direct, the storefront website created by the Office of New Media for distribution of VOA audio, video, photos and text. In addition, VOA Indonesian introduced its pilot version of GoEnglish.me and a new made-for-Web video headline news report, Kilas VOA. (Return to Table of Contents)
VOA Khmer Expands TV Affiliate Offerings
VOA Khmer’s TV unit began sending a fifth U.S.-related video news story, Washington Today, to TV-affiliate CTN (Cambodian Television Network) in October. VOA Khmer now sends a 3-4-minute U.S. news video story to CTN Monday through Friday. CTN airs the segments in its high-profile 6:30-7:15 p.m. daily news program.(Return to Table of Contents)
VOA Offers Journalism Training in Cambodia
The VOA Khmer Service and VOA TV producer Bart Childs trained more than 40 video reporters and editors at VOA Khmer’s Cambodian national television affiliate station, Television Kampuchea. While in Cambodia, Childs also worked with VOA Khmer stringer reporters on video editing and shooting and general video story production. (Return to Table of Contents)
VOA Armenian TV Praised
A group of U.S. election observers from the member countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe visited VOA on November 2nd. Two Armenian members of the delegation, Garegin Azaryan, Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, and Tatev Ohanyan, spokesperson of the Central Electoral Commission, told VOA’s Armenian Service chief that they watch VOA Armenian TV segments with great interest and that the VOA material stands out for its high quality news programs.(Return to Table of Contents)