Getting to Know the Voice of America

By Caitlin Daw

Admiring the reach of the Voice of America. Photo: Caitlin Daw

This summer, I was awarded the extraordinary opportunity to intern at The Voice of America (VOA) in Washington, D.C. As an Intern in the Public Relations Office, some of my responsibilities included contacting various media outlets interested in creating feature stories about VOA, drafting press releases, giving studio tours, and promoting VOA’s events and broadcasts on social media and networking sites.

The Voice of America is one of five entities in the International Broadcasting Bureau, which is funded by the United States government. VOA’s programming is broadcast in 45 languages across the world via radio, television, and the internet, particularly in countries where there is a clear and apparent absence of free press and media.

The Voice of America’s mission since the organization began in 1942 has been to broadcast reliable, objective, and comprehensive stories to audiences which now total over 134 million people across the globe.

During my internship, stories that VOA covered included President Barack Obama’s trips to Russia, Ghana, and Italy for the G8 Summit, the political coup in Honduras, and the elections in Iran. VOA’s broadcasts received increased attention with the events after Iran’s presidential elections; nearly 25% of Iranian adults watch VOA programming each week. Iranians on the scene sent their own personal videos and photos to VOA, increasing the role of citizen journalists and enhancing the credibility of the broadcasts.

The Voice of America, while not known by many Americans, is easily recognized by other nations around the world. Broadcasters at VOA are often considered celebrities by their audiences, just as we would recognize our local broadcasters on Channels 4, 7, and 9 here in Washington.

Voice of America is not only the largest U.S. international broadcasting organization, but also serves as a pulpit for describing U.S. policy to countries around the world. Stories describe the lifestyle and culture of Americans; these “Americana” stories give insight to global audiences about the United States and its people.

Feedback from the audience. Photo: Caitlin Daw

Interning in the Public Relations Office provided a unique opportunity to watch various radio and television broadcasts from the many language services at VOA. As a student with an interest in journalism, witnessing live broadcasts and news firsthand was an unforgettable experience.

I was able to draft press releases and write my own stories about Voice of America that were posted on the organization’s website. The topics of my two stories included the use of Social Media when covering the reactions to President Obama’s address in Cairo and the Spanish Service’s exclusive story about the winner of an award from the Cartoonists’ Rights Network International.

Voice of America’s internship program extends throughout the organization, with over eighty interns working in the language services, the Newsroom, engineering, and public relations. The interns at VOA came from various colleges and universities across the United States and were able to meet with the managing editor of Voice of America and a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

I would encourage all students to obtain an internship during their college years. Internships allow students to recognize their own interests and to gain real-world work experience while continuing their studies.

Not only was I able to work along side the full time staff in the office, but also I was given my own tasks and projects. Interning at the Voice of America increased my interest in journalism and the study of international affairs. I have an even greater awareness and appreciation of the role of media in diplomacy and the shaping of international policy. The Voice of America continues to fulfill its mission in airing impartial and credible stories to its global audiences while providing them a vital outlet to voice their thoughts and firsthand accounts of the events in their countries.

Caitlin is an International Affairs major at the Elliott School of International Affairs. Originally from Philadelphia, she is a member of the Class of 2012. She plans to concentrate in International Economics and European/Eurasian Studies. At GW she works in the Marvin Center, writes for The Hatchet, and gives tours to prospective students and their families through the STAR program. She worked with the Student Activities Center this past summer volunteering as a guide for the freshmen pre-semester co-curricular program Experience D.C.

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