Henry Loomis - Voice of America

Voice of America

Loomis was appointed by President Eisenhower in May 1958 to head the Voice of America, succeeding Robert E. Button.

As Director, Loomis had transmitters erected in Liberia and the Philippines, and in four other countries that had not been previously reached by their signals. These new broadcasting stations were announced in 1959 as additions to the eight stations that existed at the time, as part of a 5-year, $40 million expansion of services. The broadcasting power of the Voice of America was also increased.

Under Loomis' guidance, the first Charter of the Voice of America was established, as part of an effort to ensure that the Voice of America would win the attention and respect of listeners. The initial version of the Charter was approved by President Eisenhower shortly before he left office. The current version of the Charter, signed into law in 1976 by President Gerald Ford, protects the independence and integrity of Voice of America programming, specifying that it will be "a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news", that it will represent the entire United States and will "present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions" and that it "will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies." Loomis expressed his belief that the Charter was "so fundamental and so represents the realities of the world and the moral principles that undergird this nation, that the Charter will endure for the life of the Voice." President John F. Kennedy in a 1962 visit to the headquarters of the Voice of America, emphasized the importance of journalistic integrity, stating that "You are obliged to tell our story in a truthful way, to tell it, as Oliver Cromwell said about his portrait, to paint us 'with all our blemishes and warts,' all those things about us that may not be immediately attractive."

As part of an effort to help make English a World language, Loomis oversaw the introduction on October 19, 1959 of the use of Special English, in which news is read slowly using a limited vocabulary of about 1,500 words with a simplified grammar and short pauses between adjacent words to make word boundaries more easily discernible. The target audience for Special English is people who have learned English in school, but are less than fluent and do not speak it in daily usage.

In February 1962, Loomis announced the addition of three new short-wave radio transmitters that would allow it to better compete with Radio Moscow and Peiping Radio, and to help reach through the jamming of its signal.

Under Loomis, the Voice of America reported on the pressing stories of the day, including round-the-clock coverage in Spanish and expanded English language reporting during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The VOA broadcast Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech live around the world in August 1963 during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Loomis resigned from his post in 1965, citing increasing pressure from the Johnson Administration to refrain from reporting news that would reflect negatively on the White House, particularly on the nation's increasing military involvement in Southeast Asia. The Johnson White House wanted the Voice of America to refrain from reporting on United States Air Force missions over Laos. Loomis noted in his farewell speech that "The Voice of America is not the voice of the administration."

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