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Message from VOA Director Robert Reilly to Staff

Dear Colleagues,

It is a great privilege for me to return as Director of the Voice of America. I am very grateful to CEO Michael Pack for giving me the opportunity to serve again. I look forward to working with you in fulfilling our unique mission of explaining America to the world. The Declaration of Independence was the first public diplomacy document of the United States. It was addressed out of “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” to the entire world. That decent respect is what VOA continues to show. What a privileged mission we perform.

Having lived and worked overseas, I am familiar with the distorted views of the United States that many people have formed, not only from foreign propaganda and disinformation, but from some American popular entertainment and the almost constant self-criticism in which the American people are engaged. The latter is a sign of a healthy democracy and a source of our strength, but our audiences need to understand the broader framework within which this takes place. That is why the VOA Charter requires us to represent America in a balanced and comprehensive way. It is vitally important that VOA fosters an understanding of American institutions and the principles behind them. No less important is our obligation to “present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively.”

Over the years, I have written hundreds of articles and a number of books and monographs on a wide array of subjects. They are irrelevant to my duties as VOA Director, with the possible exception of those about VOA and the broader subject of public diplomacy. A VOA Director, like any journalist, should leave his or her personal opinions at the door. On the wall, we have the VOA Charter that spells out our obligations: objectivity, comprehensiveness and accuracy. I pledge to follow it and will resist any political pressure from above that would compromise our mission and the integrity of our news operations. But I will also not allow personal or political biases to appear from below in our news reports or other programming.

I firmly believe that VOA should not be an echo chamber for American domestic media, which is already largely available overseas on the internet. We have a different job. We need to offer our audiences what is otherwise not available to them. As I review what VOA is currently doing, the question foremost in my mind will be: what is the VOA value-added that will attract and serve our foreign audiences. What are we giving them that they cannot get elsewhere? Otherwise, why should they watch or listen?

I am pleased that some people whom I knew from my earlier tenure as VOA Director or during my 10 years in the Office of Policy remain here. I look forward to working with them again, as well as with those of you I hope to meet soon. Since many of you do not know me, I thought I would send along a link to a TV interview made one week into my earlier term. ( I include it because what I said then largely applies now, but for the change in the challenges that the United States currently faces.

I look forward to meeting those challenges with you.

Robert Reilly