By Michael Mullins
Al Jazeera America launches Tuesday. With bureaus located in 12 major U.S. cities, and supported by an international network of news correspondents, Al Jazeera America will have 900 employees, of which 400 are newsroom employees, The New York Times reported.
The type of news coverage that will be offered by Al Jazeera America, which hopes to compete with the likes of cable news heavyweights like Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, is being compared to a PBS-style of news reporting, heavy on content and light on opinion.
“Viewers will see a news channel unlike the others, as our programming proves Al Jazeera America will air fact-based, unbiased and in-depth news,” said Ehab Al Shihabi, the channel’s acting chief executive, on a news conference call last week, The New York Times reported.
“There will be less opinion, less yelling, and fewer celebrity sightings,” Al Shihabi added in the call.
The American offshoot of the Persian Gulf-based television news network Al Jazeera will be available in approximately 48 million U.S. households, and is in talks with Time Warner Cable to expand its reach further.
Shortly after acquiring Al Gore’s Current TV for the purchase price of $500 million in January, Time Warner Cable very publicly dropped Current TV in order to avoid broadcasting Al Jazeera America.
Al Jazeera has long been considered anti-American by some for having aired messages from deceased al-Qaida terror leaded Osama Bin Laden and its critical coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As part of its attempt to win over American audiences, Al Jazeera America recently altered its broadcast news model, which was originally going to have an international bent, to a more domestic view of the news, The Times reported.
Bob Meyers, president of the National Press Foundation, wrote in his blog last week that Al Jazeera America “could be fun, and even beneficial, to watch.”
“I am reminded of three other news organization launches in the U.S. that were transformative,” Myers added in the blog post. “One was the launch of CNN on June 1, 1980; the second was the launch of Bloomberg News in 1990; and the third was the launch of Politico in 2007.”
As for how much the venture will cost, Al Jazeera English Executive Paul Eedle, who is reportedly assisting with the launch, would not discuss figures with The Times, saying only, “We’re here because we think our journalistic mission has something to offer America.”
The network has a substantial amount of money behind it, being owned by members of the royal family of House of Thani, which has a net worth of $60 billion, primarily from oil generated revenue.
Despite being owned by the government of Qatar, the personalities who will be relaying the news from Al Jazeera America will be familiar to U.S. audiences.
The well-known news personalities will include: former CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien, who signed up to be a special correspondent for Al Jazeera America in July; NBC news veteran John Seigenthaler, who will be a news anchor during the network’s prime-time hour; and Emmy Award-winning journalist Sheila MacVicar, among others.
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