During the thought-provoking event co-organized by Professor Shawn Powers at the New America Foundation, "International Broadcasting, Public Media, and the News Deficit," many noteworthy comments were made by its distinguished panelists.
But the observations that struck me most were those made by Loren Jenkins, senior editor of NPR's (National Public Radio) foreign desk, and Steve Redisch, VOA (Voice of America) Executive Editor, in answer to a question about the possibility of the Voice of America -- funded by the U.S. government -- and National Public Radio -- which calls itself "an independent, self-supporting media organization" -- joining forces. Jenkins replied that NPR provided accurate information/news (including from overseas) to Americans; Redisch said VOA provided same to foreign audiences.
Most significant, though, was how Jenkins and Redisch defined why their organizations provided information/news. Jenkins said NPR's purpose was to "educate"; Redisch, a former CNN producer, said that VOA must (among other goals, education not cited among them) provide "entertainment."
Educate and entertain. Pick your choice. Personally, I would simply say, "Tell it straight."
A footnote: Jenkins said VOA was propagandistic; former Bush White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, appearing on another panel, asked the question, "Isn't NPR itself propagandistic"?
Comment by Shawn Powers, who was kind enough to read this entry in draft form: "Despite similarities in profession and mission, it seems clear that the divide between publicly funded international and domestic media is not only legal (i.e. the Smith-Mundt Act), but also cultural. The conversation at the New America Foundation was helpful in highlighting both the potential for and opposition to productive collaboration between organizations like NPR and the VOA."