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Betty Thompson: In Charge of Responding to VOA's Audience Mail - 2002-04-17


Now a VOA Snapshot, remembering our past as we look to the future in this, our 60th Anniversary Year.

In a packed file cabinet in a fourth floor storage room at the Voice of America are folders stuffed with letters from VOA listeners. They come from capital cities, from refugee camps and from remote mountain villages.

"When I went there, there were approximately 10,000 pieces of mail that were sitting around and hadn't been processed," says Betty Thompson.

Thanks to her, today the system is more organized. For 10 years after she arrived in 1992, Betty read your letters every day, and made sure every one was answered.

"Certainly it is inspiriting," she says. "It sets a tone for your day. It makes you feel good. That's all I can say."

Betty Thompson remembers an Indian listener who wrote, "I don't sleep in the evening unless my radio is set to VOA." A listener in Pakistan told us, "Every evening all the village elders gather around my radio set." And, a Tibetan listener wrote, "In spite of Chinese oppression on the Tibetan people for listening to VOA, the number of listeners has increased tremendously."

VOA receives 200,000 letters a year addressed to its 53 language services. Listeners send photographs, picture postcards and poems. They tell us their opinion on world events. They let us know when they are angry about a program change or when the short wave signal falters.

The staff shares the contents of the letters with VOA managers. "I know that the program managers did take our reports seriously," she said.

Betty Thompson, who left VOA last year, says she was humbled by the outpouring of appreciation from listeners. One testimony came across her desk in 1998 from a 23-year old beekeeper in Turkey. It reads, "I spend most of my time out in the hills and woods. Out there you are my only friend and a window to the world."

To write to us about our anniversary, send an email to anniversary@voanews.com. Or, send regular mail to Anniversary, VOA News Now, Washington, D.C. 20237, USA.

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