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Voice of America Welcomes Visitors Back for Studio Tours

VOA Public Affairs Specialist Nigel Gibbs guides visitors during one of the agency's regular studio tours.
VOA Public Affairs Specialist Nigel Gibbs guides visitors during one of the agency's regular studio tours.

Earlier this month, Voice of America opened its doors for another season of public studio tours that will last until November 30.

Every year, VOA hosts thousands of visitors from the U.S. and around the world for a behind-the-scenes look at the network’s live TV, radio and web programming that is available worldwide in more than 40 languages.

Public Affairs Specialist Nigel Gibbs – the VOA studio tour program manager since 2018 – hopes that visitors understand VOA’s more than 80-year legacy and why more than 354 million people worldwide depend on VOA’s journalists for accurate, objective and comprehensive news and information.

“I love helping people learn about VOA who know little or nothing about the agency and I love connecting our experts with folks who are interested or curious about our work,” added Gibbs.

While VOA started offering informal studio tours as long ago as the early 1970s, VOA Program Manager Andrea Tadic served as one of the tour guides during her time in the VOA Public Relations Office in the 90s, helping to build the program from the ground up. Tadic fondly remembers how much she enjoyed meeting long-time VOA listeners and viewers from overseas who expressed gratitude for VOA’s mission.

“Many [visitors] would ask to meet with their favorite radio and TV hosts, and some would be close to tears,” added Tadic, who now works for VOA’s Africa Division.

Gary Butterworth, VOA’s manager for refugee programming, has listened to VOA ever since he was a teenager. As a studio tour guide, Butterworth finds it extremely powerful when overseas visitors share their stories of living under hostile regimes, yet risk persecution to tune in to Voice of America programs.

“Working here has been a dream come true, and I’m deeply passionate about this agency and the work that we do,” Butterworth said. “Being a tour guide has been a great way to share that enthusiasm with others.”

Similarly, VOA Television Director Scott Rubens cherishes the time he spends with visitors from all walks of life as a tour guide. Rubens, now in his second year volunteering with VOA’s tour program, recalled an emotional tour with one visitor whose grandmother escaped a looming Nazi invasion thanks to VOA’s radio broadcast in the early 1940s.

“We should all remember the information we broadcast throughout the world can significantly change lives – and even save lives,” said Rubens. “It puts things into perspective for me every day [that] I step into the [Cohen] building.”

While the VOA studio tour program thrives on the support of its volunteers, very few have served as long as former VOA tour guide Margaret Jaffie, who hosted tours from 1975 until 1992. Jaffie, who passed in 2009, committed herself to giving the best 45-minute tour across the nation’s capital. For five days a week and five times a day, Jaffie would walk miles leading visitors around the VOA studios. USAGM Public Affairs Specialist Lesley Jackson remembers how VOA gifted Jaffie with a bronze sneaker as a sign of appreciation upon her retirement.

Cementing its place in history, VOA hosts tours at its headquarters located at the Wilbur J. Cohen building in Washington, D.C. Originally built in 1940 to house the Social Security Administration, but later vacated under the threat of war, the building eventually became VOA’s headquarters in 1954 when it moved from its original location in New York City where the network was established in 1942.

To this day, the Cohen building features a series of historic murals commissioned by the U.S. government in the 1940s to depict American life during and after the Great Depression. According to Nick Hartigan, Fine Arts Specialist at the U.S. General Services Administration, these murals – created by 20th century artists Philip Guston, Ben Shahn and Seymour Fogel – vividly illustrate the government’s role in caring for its citizens through a variety of mediums.

Public tours are offered at noon on a first come, first serve basis on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from April 1 until November 30. To book a private tour, visit to reserve a spot for groups of six or more.