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The Creation of VOA's Correspondent Corps - 2002-06-03

The VOA News Division relies today on its global network of more than 40 staff correspondents and many other reporters. But in the beginning, VOA's primary news sources were agencies like Reuters and Associated Press. Gradually, individual VOA language services started sending reporters overseas, but it wasn't until 1968 that the far-flung correspondents began reporting directly to the News Division.

"I don't know whose idea that was, but it was a tremendous one!", says former VOA correspondent Sean Kelly, who remembers the change as an important milestone.

But it took some time for the new team to click. Newsroom staff had little experience dealing directly with reporters covering breaking news. Sean Kelly recalls one of his first overseas assignments for VOA in 1969 covering the Biafran civil war in Nigeria.

"And when I got the newsroom on the line and gave them my eyewitness report, I was told they hadn't seen the report on either Associated Press or Reuters, and would therefore need to wait until they did."

Newsroom policy soon changed, however. VOA correspondent reports quickly became a trusted primary source for VOA news. And creation of the news correspondent corps enhanced VOA's credibility as an international broadcaster, says former News Director Bernie Kamenske.

"We were providing an immediacy to what we were reporting, which we presumed resulted in greater respect and attention from our audience," he said.

Today VOA correspondents continue to provide that immediacy, in daily reports from news bureaus on five continents.