Al Jazeera America is no more. The closure of the television news channel this week is sad for those of us into hard news. The timing of the closure is baffling.
Here in Jamaica most cable television package includes news channels such as Russia Today, BBC World, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and Al Jazeera America. Al Jazeera America has stood out from the rest for me when it came to original stories, content and balance of their news reports and documentaries.
I learnt a lot thanks to Al Jazeera’s coverage of US issues relating to the environment, state-wide politics, higher education, immigration and their criminal justice system. (Al-Jazeera America was covering the Flint water crisis in detail long before any of the mainstream news channels.)
The comprehensive coverage of police/race related events in areas such as Chicago, New York, Ferguson and Seattle (William Wingate) etc gave me a better visual understanding of some of the current racial issues that still permeates US society.
Al-Jazeera America was owned by the Qatari royal family through Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani. I am amazed that the owners closed the station right in the middle of one of the most incredible political races to the White House ever seen.
The presenters have all been impressive and professional. I never got the feeling the coverage was ever about them unlike numerous presenters on some other news channels.
Journalists that impressed me with their reports are too many mention but include Tony Harris, Joie Chen, Michael Okwu, Sheila MacVicar, Ray Suarez, Michael Shure, David Schuster, Lisa Fletcher, Soledad O’Brien, Lori Jane Gilha and Morgan Radford. Seeing Radford’s recent appearance on NBC’s weekend Today show looked so minor compared to her body of work at Al-Jazeera America.
I enjoyed the regular 30 minute interviews featureed on Al-Jazeera America such as those held with actor Wendell Pierce, ballet dancer Misty Copeland, author Malcolm Gladwell and the late Julian Bond.
Why did the channel fail to attract viewers? New York Times captures some of the highs and lows. But branding may have been an issue.
During the Iraq invasion the Al Jazeera Network was painted by the George W Bush administration as a mouth piece for Al Qaeda and anti-American. So such tags may have not worn off in America with some viewers and many Republican Party supporters.
“But my b.s. flag really went up when [Al Jazeera] said they wanted my address, to pick me up at night. They said they would send a car but wouldn’t tell me where it was going. I don’t know if it was a kidnapping attempt. But I am not going to entrust Al Jazeera with my life. I said, ‘Cancel the interview!’” –Former Republican Congressman Allen West
So maybe the Qatari owners should have launched the American news channel under an English type brand name and not use the Al Jazeera tag. Similar to Al Jazeera sister station – sports channel – BEIN sports which has a good following across North America.
To Al-Jazeera America owners …..find a buyer. Hard news is difficult to come by in this new media world of spin and sound bites.
But for now….