- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2002

Doubts from above about his managerial skills and suspicions from below about his conservative political leanings torpedoed Voice of America Director Robert Reilly, who resigned abruptly last week after 11 months on the job, insiders at the U.S. broadcasting service said yesterday.
Mr. Reilly, hailed by VOA critics as a "principled conservative" who would provide a more muscular pro-American tone to the 60-year-old broadcasting service, would be succeeded by veteran Time magazine correspondent David Jackson, VOA's Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) revealed late last week.
"He never had much backing on the newsroom floor. When his own bosses turned on him, he had no support to fall back on," said one VOA employee, who declined to be named for this article.
BBG Chairman Ken Tomlinson, at one time a strong backer of Mr. Reilly, said in an interview yesterday that ideology had not been a factor in Mr. Reilly's departure.
He declined to discuss the factors behind Mr. Reilly's resignation, but noted that Mr. Jackson was a "proven manager at a time when we are facing some big-time management challenges."
"Bob," said Mr. Tomlinson, "is a great guy who will be better off doing creative work."
Mr. Reilly's decision to resign also came quickly. He was called out of a staff gathering to honor a retiring VOA veteran to meet with board members Thursday and emerged later that day to inform division directors at a previously scheduled staff meeting that he was leaving.
A former Reagan administration official, Mr. Reilly wrote editorials and hosted a foreign-policy talk show at VOA for more than a decade before assuming the director's post in October. In a statement released by the BBG, he said he was leaving "to seek opportunities in which I can more directly employ my talents in helping [President Bush] and the administration in the war against international terrorism."
Mr. Reilly's short tenure was marked by major organizational changes and simmering internal disputes over the mission of VOA.
The service broadcasts news, educational and cultural programming, as well as statements of official U.S. government policy, to radio and television audiences in 53 languages.
Mr. Reilly took the top VOA slot on the heels of an interview with former Afghanistan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. VOA aired excerpts of the interview just weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks despite State Department complaints.
Mr. Reilly said he would not have aired Mullah Omar's comments and later called the fighting in Afghanistan a "war of ideas," with the VOA "on one side in that war."
VOA reporters and editors said Mr. Reilly and the tight-knit group of deputies he recruited had not tried to put an ideological slant on day-to-day reporting, but that the wariness on the newsroom floor never eased.
Mr. Reilly's fatal mistake might have been to upset the oversight board last month with a proposal to close five overseas bureaus, including a major news center in Hong Kong, to help finance a planned new Farsi radio service targeting Iran.
Mr. Tomlinson said yesterday that "no final decisions" had been made on any closings, but added, "To me, it's unthinkable that the Hong Kong office would close."
Mr. Tomlinson and BBG member Norman Pattiz, an executive of the giant Westwood One Inc. radio network, have pushed a new, music-heavy service known as the Middle East Radio Network to replace VOA's more sober shortwave broadcasting in the region.
VOA employees said Mr. Reilly also had caused friction with the board by his management style, which included a heavy reliance on consultants and staffing a high number of positions with loyalists.
Kevin McNamara, a former newsman and adjunct scholar at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, called the resignation a "shame," saying Mr. Reilly had been administering a badly needed shake-up to VOA.
"He was that rarest of commodities a principled conservative in government and the great hope was [that] he would know how to maneuver in that environment to change things," Mr. McNamara said.
"He understood the VOA was about getting America's message across in the world, not augmenting journalism jobs in Washington."

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