Senior officials of the Voice of America said yesterday it is time to set aside fears that Reagan administration appointees will jeopardize the "integrity . . . and accuracy" of the overseas information agency's output.
Those assurances were expressed as the Voice's chief news editor announced he was leaving, voluntarily. Typically, Bernard H. Kamenske, who joined the agency in the Eisenhower administration and has been the equivalent of its managing editor, was more cautious about whether fears of "politicizing" the agency can now be forgotten. "The proof is in the copy," he said after surprising his superiors with his departure notice; "the proof is in the broadcast."
The Voice, and its parent, the International Communication Agency headed by Charles Z. Wick, have been in ferment for months about the sharper "cutting edge" that Wick and his associates say they want to counter "Soviet propaganda" with "American truth." In November, some employes charged in a petition that one new appointee wanted "to turn VOA into a blatant propaganda tool . . . " Voice Director James B. Conkling strongly denied those assertions.
Kamenske, who is 54, was one of those rumored to be on the incoming administration's "hit list" at the Voice. Conkling said there was no such list. Kamenske, a man of great heft ("bordering 300" he concedes) physically and otherwise, is noted for cantankerous, impassioned defense of the journalistic purity of the Voice; critics describe him as an irascible nitpicker, or employ less-printable terms.
A veteran Senate staff member said yesterday, "He more than anyone else has kept the sanctity of VOA news--He sleeps with the First Amendment every night."
The reasons for his departure, Kamenske said yesterday, was an offer from Cable News Network to be a Washington-based senior news editor, "an offer I could not refuse."
To reassure Voice correspondents overseas, Alan Heil, chief of news and current affairs, informed them that "Bernie leaves convinced . . . that VOA has weathered the worst of its crisis of recent months" to "preserve and defend the standards for which he fought." Frank Scott, who became VOA director of programs four days ago, said he was "frankly devastated" by Kamenske's departure and will replace him "with the best news professional we can find."