Link copied to clipboard!

Is VOA Reliable?

By · Jan 9, 2024 · 7 min read

Is VOA Reliable?

The U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) reports that “Voice of America provides trusted and objective news and information in 48 languages to a measured weekly audience of more than 326 million people around the world. For more than 80 years, VOA journalists have told American stories and supplied content that many people cannot get locally” (USAGM).

Beyond this, the USAGM establishes “With the largest audience of all U.S. international media, VOA continues to be a beacon of hope for underserved audiences who yearn for information about freedom of expression and change.” Considering its stellar reputation, Biasly will evaluate the accuracy and dependability of VOA, just as we do with all media outlets. Let us investigate the reliability and accuracy of VOA.

Does Reliability Matter?

Reliability, in general, refers to how trustworthy or accurate information, or in this case, a news source is. If we consider this definition, it quickly becomes clear why reliability is important in media sources. If we can’t trust the things we read then there isn’t much of a point in continuing to consume content from that source, after all. So how exactly can we gauge the reliability of a news source anyways?

There are several potential measures of reliability to look out for when trying to determine whether a media source is reliable or not. Red flags for an unreliable article can include the presence of wild unsubstantiated claims, facts dependent on other unreliable sources, heavy use of opinionated language, and more. Some indicators of a reliable news source, on the other hand, include things like:

  • Absence of subjective/opinionated language in articles
  • Credible sources cited (e.g., neutral sources, .gov, .edu websites)
  • Facts and statistics backed by multiple relevant outside sources
  • Use of primary sources when possible (e.g., interviews, quotes)
  • Information that remains consistent across news sources

So How Does VOA Fare in its Reliability?

Biasly has developed a political bias index to objectively assess the dependability of news organizations. Biasly’s rating for VOA has an Analyst rating of Excellent reliability on our meter, indicating that readers can trust nearly all of VOA’s content. Biasly’s Computer reliability rating is Fair, which is indicative of its sources and quotes quality. However, since this is an average, certain articles are inherently more or less trustworthy than others. Additionally, our findings are aligned with those of other third-party raters showing limited bias based on story selection and lack of emotionally loaded language. Beyond this, the source’s articles are rated highly for factual reporting due to their sourcing and clean fact-check record.

The remainder of the article will analyze some supporting data for these rankings while discussing what to watch out for while searching for trustworthy news sources.

VOA Accuracy and Reliability

The credibility of news organizations is impacted primarily by a source’s bias and political orientation. By evaluating the integrity of VOA’s stories and deducing how well the publication supports assertions with evidence, we will see whether or not they are as reliable as Biasly’s analysts have stated. It is also important to note that VOA is a government-funded source, therefore they should most definitely be reliable for American citizens.

To assess its correctness and factuality, we will check for selection and omission bias, explained below:

Selection bias is when stories and facts are selected or deselected, often on ideological grounds, to create a narrative in support of the new sources’ ideology. Omission bias, on the other hand, is when different opinions and political views regarding a situation are left out so that the reader is only exposed to the ideological perspective supported by the author. It’s important to keep in mind these two types of biases when trying to assess an article’s level of accuracy.

Biasly assigns a percentage score towards accuracy, with one being the least accurate and 100 being the most– ratings are calculated by weighing assertions with supporting evidence, the number of reliable internal sources, and the number of reliable external sources used. A full page of dependability and accuracy ratings for newly assessed VOA articles can be found here.

As previously stated, scores vary from article to article, however, we have already established that Biasly’s analysts have rated it 96% reliable. Consider also CBS News, which is Moderately Liberal (but is argued as a central/neutral news source) and is 83% reliable according to Biasly’s analysts. They had one article that was 52% reliable titled “Biden officials defend border response as number of migrant children in U.S. custody tops 20,000” as well as another article that is rated 98% reliable titled “New study finds one-third of COVID survivors suffer mental health and neurological disorders.” As a result, this shows that stories displaying political leanings, which can easily be judged from their titles, are less reliable than neutral ones.

Returning to VOA, their article titled “Homeland Security Chief Cites Progres at US-Mexico Border” is rated at 75% reliable, which is the lowest reliability rating that could be found for a VOA article. The article is rated towards the left. Concerning Selection and Omission bias, author Aline Barros does inquire about both sides of the aisle including the Biden administration, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Republican Senators Rob Portman and Ron Johnson. As such, Barros does a good job incorporating opinions and statements from both conservatives and liberals, thus making sure to get a holistic view of the issue.

So, this article, among practically all of VOA’s articles, finds itself in the center-left regarding their American political perspective. In this case, Barros has two conservative and republican sources, therefore you can argue that this is a fairly objective article. The author is able to balance their sources while reporting on this challenging subject matter– this article is considered reliable even though it does not have as high of a reliability score as most of VOA’s pieces.

More examples like this will be examined below, with a goal to provide a further investigation into the reliability of VOA’s articles– including selection bias, omission bias, and the quality of its sources and facts used.

Analysis of Reliability in VOA Opinion Pieces

Opinion-style journalism is a suitable option for reports to express their personal opinions and beliefs through writing– even though excessive opinion might be something to avoid while creating a general news article. Although opinion pieces are less trustworthy because they are subjective and inherently biased, they can still be worth your time to widen your political viewpoints.

VOA, as we’ve established has a rare reputation for accurate and unbiased news information, largely in part because they are funded by the U.S. Government through the U.S. Agency for Global Media. They don’t have a history of putting out articles with emotionally loaded titles, something that CNN and Fox News fall victim to. Rather, by exploring the quality of sources and facts used as well as selection and omission bias, we will determine that VOA is reliable.

Quality of Sources and Facts Used

Let’s take a look at this VOA editorial article titled “NATO Stands Firm on Aiding Ukraine” to see whether or not VOA can select reliable sources from both sides of the ideological divide. In this article, the author uses 9 quotes. Among these 9 quotes, it can be argued that they are all medium length.

In addition to that, the author’s source for the article is the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Additionally, it can also be argued that one more primary source, although a Democrat, the U.S. Secretary of State, is better than several unnamed and questionable sources.  That would question their weight and credibility towards the article, and their quotes would be diminished because of that. Rather, the author continuously cites the same source, directly from a NATO conference, such as the following:

“If there is one clear takeaway from the recent NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting in Brussels, Belgium, it is that the alliance’s support and commitment to Ukraine is enduring, said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.”

“I think that every Ally recognizes that this is a matter not only of doing the right thing, he added. “It’s a matter of self-interest, including for the United States.”

“More than 50 countries, including most NATO members, have committed to ensuring that Ukraine ‘has what it needs not only to defend itself against ongoing Russian aggression but to help enable it to retake territory that Russia seized from it,’ stressed Secretary Blinken.”

So, the article above, although it has one source only, can still be viewed as reliable as a result of its direct primary source coming from a NATO conference.

Selection and Omission Bias

Another example from VOA that can be analyzed in terms of its selection and omission bias is titled “The Future of Feeding Africa’s Hungry.” The article focuses on a five-alarm food security crisis in Africa, highlighted by the Red Cross’ horrifying statistics:

“Communities across Africa are facing the worst food crisis in 40 years. Conflict, economic shocks, climate extremes, and rising prices of fertilizer and food stuff are combined to create a crisis of unprecedented proportions. According to the Red Cross, some 160 million Africans go to bed hungry nearly every night.”

Rather than placing blame across a certain country or group, the article focuses on how to help Africa as a whole, instead of having a bias and planting it throughout the article. A call to action is found in the article:

“Food aid and other humanitarian assistance are well and good, but they’re not enough. ‘We need to invest in renewable energy; to sow the seeds of peace in areas of intense conflict; and to partner across governments, between people, and with the private sector,’ said Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield.”

“Millions of lives are at stake. And global security is at stake, too. Because we know that while conflict is the number one driver of hunger, hunger is also a core indicator of conflict. And so, this crisis has to be at the top of all our agenda.”

There is no extreme language, no political divide (other than a worldwide divide in the call to action) and rather this article prompts unity and solving conflict regardless of any political ideology or belief.

While typical opinion pieces from CNN or Fox News do just the opposite of VOA’s editorials, we can firmly say, as a result, that VOA is reliable. Again, while opinion pieces have issues with factuality, sources, selection and omission bias are frequently present. The articles we’ve covered so far still have limited to no bias– VOA has a sort of incentive to continue to appeal to the central political ideology.

So Is VOA Reliable?

In conclusion, it can be argued that VOA is a reliable news source with a strong reputation for integrity and factuality. Having said that, it is still important to continue to research media reliability and accuracy to help determine whether you have a reliable article or not. Biasly’s News Bias Checker is a critical tool in uncovering these reliability problems and assisting you to find the most accurate and dependable news.


Most Popular

Looking to save time on finding the best news stories?
Get increased access to the site, as well as the best stories delivered to your inbox.

    I agree to the privacy policy and would like to receive email updates and promotions.

    Fighting fear with facts.
    Top stories and custom news delivered to your inbox, at a frequency that works for you.

      I agree to the privacy policy and would like to receive email updates and promotions.

      Copy link