VOA Swears in Pulitzer Winner as New Director After Yearlong Vacancy
Veteran journalist Amanda Bennett also has overseas experience.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors on Monday swore in veteran journalist and author Amanda Bennett as the 29th director of the Voice of America.
A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Bennett has been executive editor of Bloomberg News; editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer; editor of the Lexington, Ky., Herald-Leader; and managing editor for projects at The Oregonian in Portland. She spent more than 20 years as a reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal, including a stint as its Beijing correspondent.
"We are thrilled to have such a talented, experienced and award-winning journalist as Amanda take the helm at VOA," said BBG Chairman Jeff Shell in a statement. "Her unique skills and deep understanding of the rapidly evolving digital news marketplace will serve VOA well."
Bennett “embodies everything we've been looking for in a VOA Director," said BBG CEO and Director John Lansing. "In today's complex geopolitical environment, VOA's work is more important than ever, and we are confident that Amanda will lead VOA to great success around the world on all media platforms."
Bennett characterized the VOA as “the only source of reliable, objective, credible news and information for a large part of the world. What's more, our mission of covering the fascinating complexity of our country and its people is a beat like no other,” she said. “I look forward to working with the skilled and passionate journalists at VOA to bring those stories alive for the world."
The top spot at the international broadcaster has been vacant since David Ensor stepped down a year ago, shortly after BBG chief Andrew Lack also left for a top NBC post after only six weeks on the job. VOA's Associate Director of Language Programming Kelu Chao has served as acting VOA director since June.
The new VOA director will face morale problems and possible legislation to reorganize the parent agency to better align it with U.S. policy.
Bennett’s coming appointment was floated back in February in the blog BBGWatch.com, which noted that the agency has been criticized as “broken” by members of Congress and was called “practically defunct” by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2013. “Amanda Bennett has more Twitter followers (9,844 as of Feb. 17, 2016) than most longtime VOA English Newsroom correspondents who serve a worldwide audience,” wrote blogger Ted Lipien.
Bennett until recently was freelancing and writing a column for The Washington Post (she is married to former Post owner Donald Graham). At her past job, she co-founded the Bloomberg News Women’s Project. In 1997 she shared a Pulitzer with her Wall Street Journal colleagues, and in 2001 led a team of Oregonian reporters to a Pulitzer for public service. She has written six books.