journalism

Al-Jazeera and America, two name brands often at odds since 9/11, were wed as one on Tuesday (Aug. 20) when the Qatar-based media network began broadcasting its U.S. news channel Al-Jazeera America from New York. This is not the first time Al-Jazeera has tried to find a home on American TV. Al-Jazeera English debuted with an international focus in 2006 but was never picked up in major media markets outside the Northeast.

You have to give Al Jazeera America major points for chutzpah. In the face of fears that its parent company is essentially anti-America, it launched its new network with a tear-down of the American television news media. Its Tuesday premiere on the network formally known as Current TV opened with an hour dedicated to Al Jazeera America's mission statement: Offer an intelligent, unbiased, wide-reaching alternative to the broken and pitted mess that is currently in place.

Neither Al Jazeera English nor the Arabic network have a full-time ombudsperson, such as the CBC’s standards editor or the New York Times’s public editor Margaret Sullivan. For its part, Al Jazeera America has made copious public announcements about glitzy hires but has hired no full-time audience advocate. Al Jazeera America needn’t feel sheepish; Fox and MSNBC have no ombuds listed among their editorial staffs, and neither responded to calls and emails as of this writing.

Ecuador’s combative president is threatening to try to force the country’s newspapers to go all-digital as a way to save paper. Rafael Correa has long had a prickly relationship with Ecuador’s opposition-owned newspapers, and his Twitter statement Monday is a jab at papers backing a proposed referendum to block oil exploration in the pristine Yasuni national park.

The 'black sheep' of global broadcasting has finally managed to unlock the American TV market's tightly guarded doors. Beginning with a footprint of 48 million U.S. households it is making not an easy but a promising entrance. During its 17 years of existence, the Qatari media outlet has been equally vilified and praised for its editorial guidelines and news coverage. Conversations around it would always reflect feelings of hatred or worship; either or both.

The combination of Al Jazeera and America doesn't exactly sound like a match made in Heaven, or Jannah for that matter. But that's not stopping the deep-pocketed media giant, funded by the government of Qatar, from spending hundreds of millions of dollars to once again try to build a presence in the United States. On Tuesday, Al Jazeera launches Al Jazeera America, an ambitious news network that hopes to challenge CNN, Fox News and MSNBC on their own turf.

Very little coherent information is currently coming out of the parts of northern Nigeria under a state of emergency. What information is available indicates that activity and violence continue under the cover of the media silence, though it is difficult to judge its degree. In May, cell phones and satellite phones did not operate in the affected areas. Those services are only slowly being restored. Foreign media are almost entirely absent, and domestic media appear to be highly restricted. Foreign diplomats do not travel there.

Last week, for the first time ever, there was a panel dedicated to discussion of public diplomacy at the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). Held in Washington, DC the conference, and this panel in particular, offered an opportunity for scholars to talk about the emergence of public diplomacy as a subject of study in the discipline.

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