Amanda Bennett is director of Voice of America.
“Something has to be done,” President Trump tweetedMonday.
Frustrated by CNN, with which he has an ongoing beef, Trump suggested that the United States create its own “worldwide network to show the World the way we really are — GREAT!”
Despite the proposal’s origin in conflict with the press, it’s a really good idea. So good, in fact, that under another president’s watch — Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942 — it happened.
Seventy-six years ago, the world was a dark place. The radio broadcast that eventually became Voice of America was created to give people trapped behind Nazi lines accurate, truthful news about the war, in contrast with Nazi propaganda.
Those broadcasts were lifelines to millions. Even more important, however, was the promise made right from the start: “The news may be good for us. The news may be bad,” said announcer William Harlan Hale. “But we shall tell you the truth.”
And therein lies the power of Voice of America.
Though we are 100 percent funded through Congress, we are legally protected from government interference in our newsgathering. The separation we call “the firewall” is enforced by decades of laws and regulations, buttressed by a deep respect for the protections of our Constitution, and has been cherished for decades both inside our newsrooms and out, both inside government and out.
So what is Voice of America?
From that single World War II radio broadcast we grew into a multimedia global television, radio and digital network. We broadcast in 46 languages to more than 60 countries. Our mission is to tell America’s story and to bring truthful, accurate news and information to those without access to it otherwise.
Our audience is growing rapidly. Just-released figures show it grew 16 percent last year to 275.2 million weekly viewers, listeners and users. We tailor our work for countries such as China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Serbia, Cambodia and Venezuela, where the press is not free or is at best partially free.
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