Friday, September 20, 2013

An All-Too-Brief Glimpse at Al Jazeera

Late Tuesday afternoon, I was taking a break from writing magazine stories and turned on the TV to go with my healthy snack (mmmmmm, ChexMix and homemade sassafrass tea). There, smack dab in front of me sat Al Jazeera America, the new news channel from the Middle East that just took over Al Gore's ("Al." Funny how that works) faltering network, Current.

I watched it for a bit, liked it and marked the channel--358--in the back of my mind so I could return when the opportunity arose. Next day, I watched briefly again. Good channel, I thought. A lot like CNN used to be--before Fox polluted everything. News, features, talking people who weren't ... well ... stupid.

I knew there had been a xenophobic backlash against Al Jazeera, but I had little idea the network was getting ready to debut an American edition here. Al Jazeera was the channel news junkies watched on the Internet, a lot like those who used to seek out the BBC before it established a network here (both TV and radio). Both outlets are superior to just about anything I can find that is American made (save for Public TV news--which is boring as hell--and Public Radio News, which doesn't have pictures, but is great).

Anyhow, I went back again Thursday and Al Jazeera's gone. I resorted to Facebook to find out what the deal is and after a while, get this link to a NYTimes story telling me AT&T's masters of culture  ditched the cable feed for the Arab network, using some contractual pretext (which works out, in general, to bullshit).

Here's what the NYT said: "As for the channel itself, when it started Tuesday afternoon, it seemed to deliver on what it promised — serious, straightforward news. The first hour had a lengthy promotional video that said, among other things, 'We will connect the world to America, and Americans to the world.' Then, at 4 p.m., the news began, led by the former CNN anchor Tony Harris, who updated viewers on the unrest in Egypt and a shooting at a school in Georgia." I later saw a solid report on bullying in American schools, one that offered problem/solution. Good stuff. In depth and unafraid.

I hope America's ready for this. I sure am. TV news, in general, sucks. Al Jazeera doesn't.

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