And all the fuss over Al Jazeera America is what, exactly?
So anyway, this past week my local gym has had several of its bevy of televisions tuned to Al Jazeera America. This has been a little surprising to me on a number of levels.
First off, whatever special cable package my gym subscribes to only has a few generic channels to choose from: ESPN, Fox News, CNN, ABC, CNBC and TNT are the only ones I’ve ever seen available. I often hear people complaining that a game on Fox Sports One isn’t on, or that they can’t watch some soap opera on NBC or CBS while doing the stair-master at lunch. I can’t say as I’ve ever hear anyone say, “Why can’t we get Al Jazeera America in this place?” Which makes it surprising as well that my fellow gym rats have tuned into the network now that it is available.
What is more surprising, however, is just how dull and bland and exactly like all of its competitors it is.
For the past few months, I’ve heard so many things about Al Jazeera America, all of it verging on the hyperbolic. Critics say that it is a cancer trying to destroy America from within. Just two weeks ago, Glenn Beck announced that the cable news network was “the voice of the enemy.” Many conservatives insinuate that the American citizens Al Jazeera America employs or is connected with are somehow traitors; this includes a former U.S. Vice President. Fox News’s Senior VP of News went so far as to suggest that Hilary Clinton’s mere mention of the network was somehow a worked against the safety of the American people.
Others have been quick to heap high praise on the fledgling network. The Columbia Journalism Review compared it’s depth of coverage to NPR. Similar kudos have come from no less than the Washington Post and The Guardian.
After having watched some of Al Jazeera America this week, I have to say that it’s hard to believe that those heaping scorn or praise on the network hadn’t made up their mind what they were going to think of it long before it went to air. For myself, I wasn’t sure what to expect: Would Al Jazeera America be a reasoned anti-establishment point of view? Would it have an outsider’s view from which to better gauge our progress as a nation and a culture? Would it be a subversive voice looking to undermine U.S. interests?
As it turns out, it’s none of those things – or at least, it’s no more those things than every other cable news network. As best I can tell from my (admittedly sporadic) viewing, Al Jazeera America covers the exact same stories in the exact same fashion as everyone else it competes against. It even seems to interview the same cable-news-rotating experts I see everywhere else. In fact, here are the sole two differences I can suss out between Al Jazeera America’s news shows and everyone else’s:
1. The graphics are simpler and, because of this, better.
2. Al Jazeera America does not make its female on-air employees dye their hair blonde.
And that’s pretty much it. Want to see over-produced graphics and obvious bottle blonds? Well, let me show you what we have in your size in a nice Fox News and CNN. Oh, you say you prefer your female journalists to be very attractive brunettes? Well then, you really need to test drive our new Al Jazeera America.
It’s a shame that the first cable news network that really seemed to have promise to be something new, different, and – just maybe – better than the rest of the dreck currently available is just as bland, focus-group tested and awful as all the rest.
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I think you need to watch more of the coverage before you make a decision…I have lived with Al Jazeera (Arabic, English and now America) for most of my adult life…The glaring differences for me between AJAM and MSNBC and Fox:
1) AJAM is non-partisan. Fox audiences would probably consider it to be left wing but that’s because they are ideologically invested and any media that is not right wing aligned would have to be considered invasive and destructive.
2) I cant help but notice that MSNBC and Fox are too dramatic and over the top. When I watch their news coverage it actually makes me more stressed, less hopeful and more frustrated. I would rather just know the facts and make up mind about how I feel about a situation not to be subliminally told how to feel about it…
The reason AJAM is needed in America is because Americans need “dull” news. Its less stressful, more informative and more reasonable. At the end of the day, your watching news not the Kardashians! If you compared AJAM to BBC (not CNN either), then, I think you might have more of an argument that its “same ole same ole”… Plus, have you seen AJAM’s international coverage…come on man, FOX and MSNBC aint got nothin on dem! :-pReport
Note: A lot of my liberal friends have praised Al Jazeera America as being much more in-depth and serious than any American news network or possibly source. They have ranked it up with the BBC.
I think this is about showing liberal bona fides and that you are not Islamophobic or Xenophobic more than it is about anything dealing with whether they are a better news source. I’m sure there is also an air of cosmopolitanism about it. This is the kind of liberal-signaling about when someone says they prefer the Guardian to the New York Times.Report
I don’t watch the news, but the BCC and Al-J are the main news websites I follow, and they are a good step ahead of US news sources (or the CBC, for matter). They cover a lot more of the world, rather than just focusing on events in Europe, North America, and “whatever part of the third world has been exploding lately”, so they give you a better sense of the state of the world, rather than just the state of the West. (They also seem slightly more inclined to call things that are bull, bull, although that varies from time to time and subject to subject.)Report
Many conservatives insinuate that the American citizens Al Jazeera America employs or is connected with are somehow traitors; this includes a former U.S. Vice President.
Are you kidding? Gore is their main objection to Al Jazeera.Report
Well, his name is still right there in front.Report
It took me a while to get that one 🙂Report
A man sees cable news
He says why am I short of attention
Got a short little span of attention and
Those damn reports are so longReport
What about RT? I recall Hillary Clinton being in a huff about it, but I found it’s coverage to be of comparatively high quality. Of course, I was pretty much only watching the Alyona Show online, and I think it has since been canceled.Report
One of the main criticisms you had made of Fox News and MSNBC was that they had fused their news and editorial cycles together in a way that blurred the line between fact and opinion. That seems like a pretty significant con to play on your viewers, and if Al Jazeera isn’t playing it and also happens to have brunette hosts that would be a pretty big shift in the way 24hr news is currently run.
P.S: “Some people say this is the second coming of Hitler while others say this is on par with an average radio news program. I think both are wrong” is so close to a false-equivalence you must’ve had to open a window when you wrote it.Report
Oh False Equivalence Objection. Is there any error, miscalculation or corruption you can’t make magically disappear?Report
Al Jazeera is the BBC of Qatar.
Americans are generally the worst-informed people on the planet. Contrary to assorted morons and xenophobic Fox News Types, Qatar is a staunch US ally, hosting US CENTCOM. Conservatives everywhere should be welcoming Al Jazeera with open arms: it’s everything they’d ever want in a nation. No minimum wage, great place to booze it up and make money, hell, the Qataris “support our troops” more than Americans do. And they hate Shari’a Law more than any Texas Baptist.
Get a clue, Murka. Not all Ay-Rabs are beady-eyed terrorists. The very idea, attacking Al Jazeera America because Al Gore’s associated with it, well, it’s just plain dumb.Report
“Americans are generally the worst-informed people on the planet.”
I never understand comments like this. Considering that most people on the planet probably live in rural China, India, etc., is it that statement really likely?Report
“Americans are generally the
worst-informedmost willfully ignorant people on the planet.”
Not really. America is a country of more than 300 million people of varying ethnicities, incomes and education levels. What you’re saying just sounds like cosmopolitan status signaling to me.Report
There is actually a fairly large literature on political knowledge, and that literature does not suggest that, relative to other wealthy Western nations, Americans are woefully ignorant, though it does say that we tend to be less informed than the citizens of wealthy Western nations. Part of this is undoubtedly because our news media suck harder, but you know, the media we have are determined in part by our own preferences, so…
What you’re saying just sounds like cosmopolitan status signaling to me.
Man, you should see the kind of shoes I wear!Report
I know barefoot Mayan corn farmers who are better informed than the average Fox News viewer. Those indigenes have radios.Report
Wales == West Virginia
Germany == Connecticut
Italy == Florida
More or less.Report
And here I thought this program was going to be incisive and present a perspective from outside america. Should I just watch the normal AJ?Report
Unfortunately, AJ has closed down the AJ English feed.
Though with sober non-partisanship and without blondes I doubt AJ America will survive.Report
I prefer red heads anyway 🙂Report