Update: America.gov restored my comment.
TedLipien.com, Truckee, California, December 22, 2010 — I found a factually correct but at the same time completely one-sided report for foreign audiences on America.gov – a State Department website – which claims to have some journalistic objectivity. I posted my comment to the story, which was promptly removed. I recreate it here from memory:
“You could have at least mentioned that some key Republican senators raised serious objections to the START treaty. While this is the State Department, you use the name America.gov, which implies you write on behalf of the United States government with its three branches including the U.S. Congress, and on behalf of the American people. You are funded by the U.S. Congress using American taxpayers’ money. Foreign audiences are entitled to know as to why so many Republican senators voted against the treaty and that not all Americans support it. Your article has only one sentence from which one could learn what the vote was but no word of explanation as to why. [The Senate gave its approval by a vote of 71 to 26 December 22.] Foreign audiences could also benefit from learning that the Obama administration pushed to have the vote on the START treaty before the end of the year because the larger number of Republicans in the new Senate would not approve it in 2011.”
The sad thing about such one-sided USG material for foreign audiences is that it apparently targets journalists abroad in the hope they would use it in writing their stories on START. The same America.gov website has a special section on objective journalism and freedom of the press.
I also commented earlier on the unbalanced, one-sided coverage of START treaty debate by the Voice of America English Service, which by law is required to provide unbiased and comprehensive reporting. See Voice of America English programs go the way of Voice of Russia, says former VOA journalist and the especially revealing comment by the VOA spokesperson. I’m re-posting here these comments:
Kyle B. King, VOA Public Relations says:
December 20, 2010 at 2:53 pm: Mr. Lipien’s comments about VOA coverage of the START treaty are not accurate. On the first full day of Senate debate on the treaty (Dec 16), a VOA news report led with quotes from Senator Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), a strong opponent of the proposed pact, who called it “misguided.” The report, like many others on this subject, provided a balanced look at the Obama Administration’s ratification efforts and Republican opposition. Just yesterday (Dec 19), VOA issued a report titled, “Leading Republican Senators Voice Opposition to START Treaty.” It focused on the “rising doubts” that the treaty will be approved by the current congress. The report quotes Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), and Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Kentucky). Accuracy and balance are the highest priority for VOA journalists, managers of our language services, and senior management. We will continue to provide our audience with views from both sides of this critical issue.
Free Media Online says:
December 20, 2010 at 9:08 pm If an organization can’t admit it has a problem, it can’t solve it. That’s the unfortunate part of the Voice of America spokesperson’s response. Having spent decades successfully using balanced news and information to counter one-sided state propaganda in communist-ruled Poland, and later in state media dominated Russia and Ukraine, I think I can recognize one-sided state propaganda and unbalanced reporting when I see it. But rather than taking my word for it, I invite readers of the Free Media Online article to read the titles of VOA reports, visit the links, and count the number of pro-START and anti-START VOA English stories. We did note that a single report on television interviews by Republican lawmakers posted Sunday hours after they spoke. The VOA spokesperson implies that reports of similar nature were as common as pro-START VOA English reports, which were numerous. That is simply not true. We stand by our research. VOA should examine its definition of balanced reporting. Ted Lipien
The State Department is expected to practice public diplomacy, but for it to be effective it must be credible. One-sided reports for foreign media are not only not credible; they are boring and no real journalist will use them. The Voice of America, by law, is in the business of accurate and objective news reporting for foreign audience. Its coverage of the START treaty debate was not much different from the State Department’s media PR. The VOA English Service coverage was both boring and lacking credibility. There seems to be no one at State and at VOA to remind those who write such news reports that good journalism is about giving both sides of the story. The State Department should not use “America.gov” domain name, which implies representing all of America, for posting material pretending to aspire to journalistic balance and objectivity but lacking both. Such executive branch State Department press releases, if they must be written, should be posted on the “State.gov” website.
Both America.gov and the Voice of America English Service — although the latter was slightly better because its pro-START coverage was only 90%, as opposed to America.gov’s 99% — have shown that they are not much different from the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Voice of Russia.
Bad journalism, bad public diplomacy, misrepresenting the American government and the American public, misleading foreign audiences, wasting U.S. taxpayers’ money, making a mockery of the State Department’s promotion of media freedom, and violating the VOA Charter — is my comment on the State Department’s America.gov website’s and the Voice of America English Service’s coverage of the START treaty debate in the U.S. Senate.
U.S. Senate Ratifies New START Treaty
By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Washington — The U.S. Senate ratified the New START arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia that will reduce each nation’s nuclear arsenals to their lowest levels in more than a half century.
The Senate gave its approval by a vote of 71 to 26 December 22. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty was signed by President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on April 8 in Prague. For President Obama the treaty is a critical centerpiece to his foreign policy program and reflects his broader world view. He was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to foster arms control and nuclear nonproliferation efforts worldwide.
“This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades,” Obama said after the Senate vote. “It will make us safer.”
Obama said the treaty will help to reset relations with Russia, and it will once again place inspectors in each country to verify that the terms of the agreement will be met during the treaty’s 10-year timeline.
“This treaty will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of the world without them,” Obama said.
The treaty, which replaces the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, required the approval of a two-thirds majority of the Senate, or 67 senators. The treaty now must also win approval in the Russian Duma.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the Senate’s action was a significant step forward in enhancing U.S. national security.
“A responsible partnership between the world’s two largest nuclear powers that limits our nuclear arsenals while maintaining strategic stability is imperative to promoting global security,” Clinton said shortly after the Senate voted. “With New START, the United States and Russia will have another important element supporting our ‘reset’ relationship and expanding our bilateral cooperation on a wide range of issues.”
Russian officials said they are ready to ratify the nuclear arms pact this year, but waited to take their vote at the same time the U.S. Senate votes.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry said the treaty is essential for U.S. national security. “The stakes are enormous,” he said. Kerry told the Senate that by ratifying this treaty the United States will redouble international support for nonproliferation efforts.
The treaty limits the United States and Russia to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads for each country, down from the current limit of 2,000 warheads, and 700 launchers. The treaty also requires on-site verification inspections, which had lapsed in December 2009 when the old START Treaty expired. Russia and the United States possess 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.
New START is designed to succeed the 1991 treaty and the 2002 Moscow Treaty. The treaty does not block efforts to create missile defense systems.
U.S. nuclear forces will continue to be based on the triad of delivery systems: land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and strategic bombers. The treaty provides an upper boundary of 1,550 deployed warheads for each nation and up to 700 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers. Additionally, the treaty would permit up to 800 deployed and nondeployed missile and submarine launchers or heavy bombers.
The treaty gives the United States and Russia seven years to reduce forces and remains in force for 10 years from ratification. It contains detailed definitions and counting rules that will help the parties calculate the number of warheads that count under the treaty limits. Additionally, the treaty provides for detailed, regular, on-site inspections of each country’s nuclear arsenals to assure compliance and implementation of the immense technical aspects of nuclear arms reduction programs.
The first START Treaty in 1991 took the number of deployed nuclear weapons down from about 12,000 warheads on each side to about 6,000, then the Moscow Treaty in 2002 reduced that number to a range of 1,700 to 2,000.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)
The U.S. Senate ratifies the New START arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia, which would effectively reduce each nation’s nuclear arsenals to their lowest levels in more than a half century.