Kenneth Tomlinson, VOA’s 18th director, started his career as a journalist at the Virginia-based paper the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and in 1968 began working at the Washington Bureau of Reader’s Digest, then one of the largest-circulation publications in the country. Starting in the Washington, D.C. bureau, Tomlinson then moved to foreign correspondent, including the Paris bureau and a stint in Vietnam. When nominated by President Reagan to direct the Voice of America in 1982, Tomlinson took a break from Reader’s Digest to do so.
He is credited with modernizing and raising the profile of VOA by replacing antiquated equipment and mandating daily use of the U.S. government editorials. He also fought for proper recognition of VOA journalists, and succeeded in getting VOA reporters properly credentialed into the Capitol press galleries. In September 1983, President Reagan said, “The Voice of America has been able to extend its message of truth around the world…. And that’s why our administration has made the same kind of commitment to modernizing the Voice of America that President Kennedy brought to the space program.”
Tomlinson was later appointed to other positions, including Chairman of the Board for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and in 2002 Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, parent organization of Voice of America.
In 1976, along with Andrew Jones and John G. Hubbell, Tomlinson co-authored the favorably-reviewed book P.O.W.: a Definitive History of the American Prisoner-of-War Experience in Vietnam, 1964-1973, which depicts the harrowing conditions that members of the U.S. military underwent as prisoners during the Vietnam War.