Voice of America

A History

Alan L. Heil Jr.

Columbia University Press

Voice of America

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Pub Date: June 2006

ISBN: 9780231126755

544 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $40.00£34.00

Pub Date: July 2003

ISBN: 9780231126748

544 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $95.00£79.00

Pub Date: June 2006

ISBN: 9780231534147

544 Pages

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List Price: $39.99£34.00

Voice of America

A History

Alan L. Heil Jr.

Columbia University Press

The Voice of America is the nation's largest publicly funded broadcasting network, reaching more than 90 million people worldwide in over forty languages. Since it first went on the air as a regional wartime enterprise in February 1942, VOA has undergone a spectacular transformation, and it now employs scores of reporters worldwide and broadcasts around the clock every day of every year, reaching listeners in the four-fifths of the world still denied a completely free press. Alan L. Heil, Jr., former deputy director of VOA, chronicles this remarkable transformation from a fledgling short wave propaganda organ during World War II to a global multimedia giant encompassing radio, the Internet, and 1,500 affiliated radio and television stations across the globe.

Using transcripts of radio broadcasts and numerous personal anecdotes, Heil gives the reader a front-row seat to the greatest events of the past sixty years, from the Cold War and the Vietnam conflict to the Watergate and Lewinsky scandals, from Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon in 1969 to ethnic strife in the Balkans and Rwanda in the mid-1990s, and from the outbreak of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Yet Heil also relates the story of a perennially underfunded organization struggling against the political pressures, congressional investigations, massive reorganizations, and leadership purges that have attempted to shape-and, in some instances, control-VOA programming. Reporting first hand, high-quality news is a monumental task for any network, but the Voice faces obstacles unique to an organization that stands, as former director John Chancellor once observed, at "the crossroads of journalism and diplomacy." It is for this reason that many people still perceive VOA as an instrument of American propaganda. However, as a thirty-six-year veteran of VOA and its numerous policy wars, Heil believes that the Voice has always sought to deliver accurate, objective, and comprehensive news of the highest journalistic standard, news that reflects America's diversity and dynamism, and that presents not only U.S. policies but also critical debate about those policies.

This in-depth history of VOA from its founding until its sixtieth anniversary is a vivid portrait of the people who made it great, depicting a news network that has overcome enormous challenges to steadfastly and faithfully report the most important news stories of our time.

Here is the inside story of one of our most important government services, a history of an organization known to millions of people around the globe but to only a handful of Americans. Heil's book celebrates this nation's dedication to the practical application of its democratic foundations—our freedom of speech and press.

Walter Cronkite

Voice of America: A History, the first comprehensive history of hte VOA since the mid-1980s,... is a valuable account that deserve a wide readership, both within the Foreign Service and among the general public.

Steven Alan Honley, Foreign Service Journal

For those wondering why, in the presence of global commercial news networks, there is still a need for the Voice of America.... Heil's comprehensive history of America's largest publicly funded overseas broadcasting network surely provides a most comprehensive answer.

The Economist

[Heil's] familiarity with both the nitty-gritty and the larger issues surrounding "the Voice," as the VOA is commonly known, does much to make the story come alive, as do the anecdotes and transcripts of radio broadcasts he intersperses throughout the narrative... this is a valuable account that deserves a wide readership.

Foreign Service Journal

Voice of America: A History effectively chronicles an important corner of American cultural history.

Seattle Times/Post Intelligencer

Heil's book is a must read for anyone who is interested in enhancing America's standing in the world.

Walter R. Roberts, Mediterranean Quarterly

Heil, who spent 36 years at the Voice, was uniquely placed to writeVoice of America: A History, a comprehensive and captivating insight... stretching from the launch of the service in February 1942 to its 60th anniversary.

Morand Fachot, DIFFUSION online

Anyone looking for a richer understanding of recent international information activities will find this work worthwhile.

Laura A. Belmont, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

This is a story just waiting to be told-and it is masterfully told by Heil. As someone who was there, he makes it clear that the Voice is one of America's great successes in international enlightenment.

Paul Duke, PBS senior commentator

Alan Heil provides a thoughtful and vivid insider's account of the Voice of America that demonstrates the network's vital position in American public diplomacy....Scholars, students, policy makers, and anyone interested in America's role in the world will have the opportunity to benefit from this engaging history of the VOA.

Geoffrey Cowan, Dean, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, and former director of Voice of America

At a time when the nation's image has been in doubt as never before, Alan Heil has written a riveting account of the VOA that should make every American feel proud. From the wake of Pearl Harbor to the intense drama of Tiananmen Square, Alan Heil, who was in the trenches for many years as a foreign correspondent, reminds us of how glorious and exciting radio news was for so long.

Murray Fromson, Annenberg School of Journalism, University of Southern California

For over 60 years, the U.S. government's Voice of America has delivered the news to listeners worldwide and has done so with accuracy and fairness. Alan Heil has brought the VOA to life in this very readable and comprehensive account that ranges from World War II to September 11, 2001, while surveying all the accompanying challenges of being both America's diplomatic voice and a credible, balanced source of information and analysis.

Raymond C. Ewing, former U.S. ambassador and managing editor of Mediterranean Affairs

This remarkable book details what the Voice of America is all about—getting the message out straight—and the Voice's lasting gift to the nation and its tens of millions of listeners around the world. No one could tell this fascinating story better than Alan Heil.

Richard Cole, Dean, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The breadth and scope of this book mean it is essential reading for all those involved--or with an interest--in public diplomacy, international affairs and the media.

Morand Fachot, International Affairs

Well worth a place in the library of every instructor of the history of America media.

American Journalism

Voice of America is an important contribution to the history of international broadcasting and a well-written potpourri of interesting information.

John Jenks, Jhistory, H-Net
Tiananmen: The Burden of Truth
The Struggle to Get It Straight: The Early Years
The 50s and 60s: Forging a More Credible Voice
The VOA Correspondent: To the Ends of the Earth
From Here to Everywhere: Building a Global Network
Into the Citadel of "Ramshackle Excellence"
The Struggle to Get It Straight: The Charter as Law
The Independence Debate: Up to the Brink and Back
The Tumultuous 80s: A Lost Horizon Regained
The Epochal Years: 1969 and 1989
Out of Africa: The Triumph of Straight Talk
On Language: Words and Their Stories
Music: The Universal Language
To the Roof of the World: The Tibetan Service Miracle
Middle East Flashbacks: VOA and the Wars of '67 and '91
Into the 90s: The Brave New World of Multimedia
The Struggle to Get It Straight: Independence at the New Millennium
America's Voice: A Voice for the Voiceless
Yearning to Breathe Free: Tales of Great VOA Escapes
The Struggle Goes On: VOA at the Dawn of the 21st Century
Web Features

About the Author

Alan L. Heil Jr. worked for the Voice of America from 1962 until he retired in 1998. He held various positions at VOA, including foreign correspondent, chief of news and current affairs, and deputy director.