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Al Jazeera: A nice place to watch, but you wouldn't want to work there

The headline in Monday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel makes it sound like some irate journalism professor is tediously climbing on the soapbox again: TV news creates ignorant Americans. And certainly you've heard it all before:

Overseas coverage of television news has never been more costly. The plunging value of the U.S. dollar, the surging price to be paid for security, the shrinking, aging audience for news, the coming recession, all give TV news executives reasonable excuses for neglecting international coverage. And the uniquely interesting and uniquely extended presidential campaign of 2008 has in itself taken a double toll, displacing both budget and air time that might have gone to covering the world.

What makes this indictment a little more stinging is that it's written by Dave Marash, a veteran broadcast newsman who has worked at ABC, ESPN and Fox and won Emmys for his Nightline stories on terrorism. So when he writes about "campaign coverage sealed in its own intellectual bubble, picking up every candidate 'gaffe' or 'conflict,' like pennies off the pavement, while the world the winner will have to deal with rolls down the street, unobserved," you pay attention.

At least until you get to his solution: getting your news from the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network. If it strikes you as unlikely that a network owned by a an Arab royal family halfway around the world would be doing a better job covering the U.S. presidential campaign than CBS or NBC or CNN or Fox News, you're not alone. Marash himself just quit a two-year gig as the main anchor of Al Jazeera's English-language channel because, he said, the channel was becoming not only anti-American but provincial. "They started covering the whole world very well, but from the point of view and the interests of Doha and the surrounding region,” Marash told the New York Times.

So Marash thinks Al Jazeera's journalism is below his standards, but not yours. Well, I guess TV news really does create some ignorant Americans, but possibly not the ones Marash was thinking of.


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David Marash

Glenn, a very sloppy reading you gave my piece. Far from recommending Al Jazeera English's American campaign coverage, I wrote that i had left the channel because of its coverage of America.
And not becuse it didn't come up to my standards, but the standard AJ/E sets almost everywhere else in the world, particularly south of the Equator.
I think, if you would watch the channel, which i sincerely doubt you've done, you would recognize immediately that it is a very solid news channel, with a different agenda, and a different point of view, from its competitors. Originally, AJ/E was to express a variety of points of view, but movement away from that ideal is another reason i left.
Whatever its biases or predelictions, it is very much worth watching, just as, their biases and predilictions notwithstanding, papers like the Miami Herald or Washington Times or Washington Post are all worth reading.
In the case of Al Jazeera English, the places where it is outstanding, it is almost without competition. If you have interest in Latin America, Africa, or the Middle East, for examples, their coverage is both broader and deeper than any other English-language channel's. Check it out. Compare AJ/E to CNN, Fox, MSNBC, BBC, anyone doing news in English. For coverage beyond the old First World: North America, Western Europe, and Japan, tell me AJ/E isn't superior.
Without AJ/E coverage, most American TV news viewers have been abandoned to ignorance of half the planet.

Undercover Black Man

Greetings, Glenn. I've recently gotten into checking out AJ/E reports archived at YouTube... their YouTube channel has close to 4,000 videos.

Refreshing cultural coverage of the rest of the world.


Mr. Marash, thank you for your insights, point of view, and for writing in.

David Citron

"most American TV news viewers have been abandoned to ignorance of half the planet."

Yes, but it is their ignorant choice.... people who care more about the winner of American Idol or the World Series, than things that matter to their survival... and never even bothering to educate themselves about the scarlet past of the remaining three extremist wingnuts running for the presidency.

I have no reason to believe in the journalistic integrity of a TV station dedicated to the destruction of the US. Get real, Marash.

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