I walk past these words twice when I enter the Voice of America building. Once upon passing through security and again just before entering the Public Affairs office. Before working here, they didn’t mean much to me; I’ve never lived anywhere without freedom or democracy. But to millions of people around the world, those words represent a better life, unattainable under their country’s tyranny.
I work for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federally funded independent agency that oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Radio Free Asia, among other broadcasters. In the Public Affairs office, we compile media highlights that quote or mention any of the broadcasters, write blog posts about our colleagues and internal agency events, and use social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to target our intended audiences (mostly academics and other media organizations) about what we’re doing.
But their message- “to inform, engage, and connect” their audience- resonates in parts of the world that don’t receive the broadcasting signal. Throughout the United States, many question media’s accuracy and whether many outlets are trustworthy anymore. Especially in light of the fanaticism that followed the public awareness of the government-funded surveillance software PRISM, Americans are looking for a clear, unaltered voice to tell this and other important stories accurately and without flare. Although freedom and democracy are two of our core values, do they mean more than words displayed on the wall on the way to the office?
Do Americans need a Voice of America?
Throughout the summer, this blog will be updated (hopefully with answers to those questions and raising more) as I learn from the BBG, its broadcasters and journalists, and Washington, D.C. in general.