Al Jazeera’s CNN and ABC Moments…

This is sort of off topic because you really can’t get Al Jazeera in the U.S. but as I spent the better part of the last two weeks in The Maldives I was exposed to nothing but international news organizations (CNNI, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, some foreign language German, Russian, and French news channels) for the first time. Previously my international destinations I went to, which had TV (Tonga’s outer islands didn’t have TV…or internet…but I did manage four bars on the cell phone incredibly even on the remotest outer islands the size of an oversize football field) I also got either FNC or MSNBC (or both) and would spend too much time watching them instead of the internationals. But this time I had nothing but internationals.

This caused me to alter my perceptions of the international channels. I used to rank CNNI and BBC World as neck and neck in terms of quality. But then CNNI slipped behind BBC World. After The Maldives CNNI has slipped behind Al Jazeera as well.

I was in the Maldives while Tunisia was in chaos and Egypt began descending into chaos and Al Jazeera was all over it with more live satellite reports more often from the region than CNNI and I found myself watching Al Jazeera more as a result.

Al Jazeera is something of a taboo subject here in the US. It got pigeonholed early on as not being on the “US side” because of some of the segments it aired. After watching Al Jazeera for prolonged periods I feel that label is not an accurate description of Al Jazeera’s purpose as a news organization, particularly after what’s happened in Tunisia and Egypt. But that’s another subject for another day.

Back in the Gulf War in CNN had a coming out party of sorts for how it dominated coverage of the war. The playing field evened out with the Iraq War as MSNBC and FNC matched CNN’s level of coverage. But with Tunisia and Egypt you would see Al Jazeera is now having the kind of moment CNN had twenty years ago. Well you would see it if you could get Al Jazeera here. It’s little wonder Egypt just banned Al Jazeera today because of its coverage, one step further than Iraq went when it put handlers all over CNN’s people a few days after the war started.

This should be Al Jazeera’s moment to shine. Unfortunately a second, totally unrelated moment, also occurred while I was in The Maldives. Al Jazeera got ahold of Palestinian Authority documents related to the PA’s dealings with Israel and the US in the negotiation process. The fact that it got those documents and revealed them isn’t the problem. It’s how it revealed them that’s the problem.

Al Jazeera decided to employ the extremely controversial practice of “dramatic recreation” of some of the events that occurred. If there was a meeting with US and PA negotiators we would see video and voices of actors, faces blurred out of focus because they weren’t the actual historical participants, acting out the document’s event.

This is so fundamentally wrong on so many levels. It skews the reporting by adding tone and drama to documents which are devoid of both. Who is to say the tone of the actors is accurate? You can’t tell based on the documents so how can Al Jazeera? ABC notoriously tried the dramatic recreation route a few times years ago and got widely criticized for it. I don’t know if Al Jazeera has but it should be.

If Al Jazeera wants to play in the big leagues it needs to follow what the best of the big leagues do. Not the worst…

9 Responses to “Al Jazeera’s CNN and ABC Moments…”

  1. Al Jazeera, to me, has some excellent Op-Ed reading material, though, I am extreemely limited in what recorded videos that I have seen. Your point about their construction of this news seems rather spot on, paticularily in the PA situatioin.
    As an observation, it seems that the influence of Al Jazeera is growing in recognition and appreciation throughout Europe.

  2. I didn’t see the dramatic recreation, but like a lot of the internet, I’ve had the live stream of Al Jazeera: English running in a window ten or twelve hours a day, since the turmoil in Egypt began. Their coverage of the crisis and the lengths they have gone to remain on the air deserves all the kudos they’ve been getting all around. IMHO

    BTW (In case you missed it): Steve or Cory from LostRemote tweeted a link to Al Jazeera’s Creative Commons library, the other day. It looks like they may be having some bandwidth issues right now, but the site loaded completely yesterday and there may be some video that you could use.

  3. PS) Now that I’ve clicked through to the Creative Commons site, I see a couple of vids labeled “Palestine Papers”. Of course, due to those bandwidth issues the thumbnails aren’t showing, but the library is really made-up of YouTube videos and the one that I randomly chose appears to be one of those with which you are finding fault.

  4. Josh Kalb Says:

    I also think there is a big difference between an Arabic language network and an English language network. Since Al Jazeera has a bureau in D.C. they have American employees who contribute to the network as opposed to the Arabic one with is completely run out of Doha. At least that’s the way it seems to me.

  5. harry1420 Says:

    so you are a fan of news sensationalism. figures since you are a fox fan. news events need to be informative…NOT entertaining!

  6. Since we don’t get many libs here, could the ones we DO have try to make a little sense? I have no idea who Harry is responding to, or what the hell he’s talking about.

  7. “Al Jazeera is now having the kind of moment CNN had twenty years ago.”

    I had the same thought while watching all three news nets using the al jazeera feed and interviewing their reporters. Unfortunately they are unlikely too get the same credit from the general public or a much wider viewership in the US for the same reason BBC has no real audience in the US; that being Americans don’t really care what happens outside their borders.

    I haven’t checked but I expect ratings for the Egyptian uprising will not be all that great on any of the nets despite the importance of the revolution as a historic event.

    I don’t have a real problem with the reenactment of the Palestine papers story. It’s how much of the true crime shows have worked for years in the US and , I suspect it’s commonly used in the middle east as well.

  8. Josh Kalb Says:

    Since Al Jazeera is available online, cable companies don’t need to carry it. Especially now that you can get internet-enable TVs. This is just another example of the internet leading to a more efficient way to distribute content.

  9. Al Jazeera won’t get wider viewership from an audience it doesn’t reach. BBC World News gets an hour on a network nobody watches.

    ‘True crime re-enactments’ belong on cheesy true crime shows.

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