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Columbia Journalism Review: Dial Back the Outrage


I frequently teach a large introductory class titled “Foundations of Journalism and Mass Communication.” One section of the course addresses international news in the United States as well as global media trends and public diplomacy issues. At one point, I usually ask the class of 160 undergraduates how many of them have heard of Voice of America. The answer is always the same: very few.

VOA is one of the United States’s international broadcasters. It’s fully funded by our federal government, with an annual operating budget of more $200 million. VOA works with 1,200 affiliates worldwide and produces content in 43 languages. And yet, the broadcaster that has been telling America’s story to the world for 70 years is largely unknown to American audiences. There’s a reason for that. It’s called the Smith-Mundt Act.

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