Posted: 03 Jun 2012 Print Send a link
The Athens (Ohio) News, 28 May 2012: "Meet Jessica Beinecke, the 25-year-old host of the popular Chinese web show, 'OMG! Meiyu' (translation: "OMG! American English"), produced by the U.S. government's international broadcast institution Voice of America (VOA). Five days a week, the upbeat Beinecke sits in front of a six-year-old MacBook's webcam (According to Beinecke, her new laptop's HD webcam is 'so good it makes me look 50 years old') and teaches her Chinese audience American phrases and slang, such as 'comparing apples and oranges' or 'booger.'"
Business Insider, 15 May 2012, Ana Douglas: "And she does it all in (flawless!) Mandarin. Can you say 'internet sensation'? ... Every weekend her viewers pick the topics for the following week, and her first video ‘Yucky Gunk’ immediately went viral with over 1.5 million hits. During the next six months of production, the show received over 7.8 million hits. Now she is the biggest English language internet celebrity in China and is breaking down cultural barriers with her fresh approach to journalism."
PBS Newshour, 10 Feb 2012: "David Ensor is Voice of America's director. He says, while 'OMG' may not fall within the traditional idea of what VOA does, the show helps the Chinese further understand American culture. DAVID ENSOR: We are a communications company, multimedia, on many platforms. We're reaching out to various peoples around the world, and our mission is to report the news, yes, but also to explain America and American values to people around the world. What Jessica is doing is going to be something that I think you'll see more people doing here, which is reaching out to the younger generation in different countries and communicating with them."
Notice that it was about halfway down in the PBS story before VOA was even mentioned.
This coincides with the fact that VOA is not mentioned on the OMG! Meiyu YouTube videos, and presumably not on other social media, as well. This distance from the VOA brand and URL is necessary to ensure that the distribution of OMG! Meiyu remains unimpeded in China.
But how does this help VOA? VOA succeeds buy distributing credible news and by establishing its reputation -- and its brand -- as a conveyor of credible news.
Explaining "American values" to the world may be more of a US public diplomacy function. Whether VOA or State, when talent like Jessica Beinecke steps forward, it should be considered a blessing, and given the support of at least one US bureaucracy.