VOA’s Euna Lee of the Korean Service and Aliyu Mustapha of the Hausa Service headlined a discussion on April 2, 2018 at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. The reporters spoke about their experiences in journalism and at VOA with students and former VOA director David Ensor, who moderated the discussion.
While both Lee and Mustapha began their careers in radio and television, they explained in order to communicate with audiences, news needs to be available via social media and digital platforms. While television, radio, and web are still important, younger audiences have moved increasingly towards social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to receive their news.
When Mustapha was asked about this he talked about the VOA app for Nigerians to listen to Hausa programs. “It is especially exciting for the youth,” he said. “The youth are thirsty for information and you have to give it to them or they’ll find it somewhere else.” The app is available for smart phones and has become a tool for young Nigerians to receive their news as quickly as possible.
Facebook, TV, and other broadcasting sources are updated every Friday in Nigeria. In order to compete with other news sources Mustapha said it is important that this happens.
The Korean service also developed more creative ways to distribute their news by producing seven new programs, one of which discusses hot topics like North Korean politics. Their main platforms are Facebook and their website.
Koreans love VOA because of the U.S perspective they give on news and information. They are craving news outside of their country,” Lee said about North Korea. “What they like about us is that we share the facts, we don’t bring our opinion,” she said in response to how Koreans might compare VOA to stations like CNN or Fox News.
Lee believes they do reach North Koreans. She told the audience a story about what she saw when she was detained in North Korea years ago: everyone looked the same, wore the same clothes and had the same hairstyles. Now, when she sees North Koreans in the media she can see that they all have different styles, which she interpreted as them getting information about trends from outside the confines of North Korea. “There is hope for us to get news through,” she said.
In addition to service developments, Ensor mentioned the power of VOA and the emotion it inspires in other countries. When the Bambara language service was created for Mali it was in response to Islamist attacks in the country that the U.S wanted to create awareness about. Since then it expanded to more news via radio which the people of Mali were excited to hear. When Ensor asked one man why he teared up over the Bambara station the man replied it’s “because I am hearing my mother tongue from Washington D.C.”
GWU arranged this panel to raise awareness about Voice of America and to publicize the VOA display on the first floor of the Media and Public Affairs building.