29 Jan

Salon.com – Why can’t we watch Al Jazeera?

Indeed, it’s nice to have world news at all. Since 2006, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday, the Boston Globe and the Baltimore Sun have all closed their foreign bureaus. When news organizations do send reporters abroad, they are rarely able to move about freely. On December 19, 2007, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released a survey of reporters working in Iraq that illustrated how removed our press corps is from the lives of the people they report on. Eighty-two percent of the reporters surveyed have minimal to no knowledge of Arabic, and 86 percent work within about three miles of the Green Zone. Perhaps because of these constraints, 62 percent of the surveyed reporters rated coverage of the lives of ordinary Iraqis as only fair to poor. In addition, though a major aspect of the “story” that is the Iraq war is the story of Iraqi terrorists and insurgents, 63 percent of journalists reported that access to insurgents was “nearly impossible.”

Compared to American news channels, AJE is remarkably staid. With bureaus on four continents, and reporters based in places such as the Cote d’Ivoire, Caracas, and Gaza, AJE’s news format tends to feature long-form, on-the-ground reporting, often by area natives. Aesthetically, the channel looks nothing like the sensory assault of Fox News or MSNBC, with their constantly updated tickers, red, white and blue graphics, and endless talking-head chatter. AJE runs one headline at a time on the bottom of the screen, and the font is small, so as not to distract from the newscast. Most images are from the field, and reporters tend to use voiceovers instead of stand-ups, so that the pieces end up being about the people and places that are being reported on, as opposed to the personality and appearance of the reporter or anchor.

On the day after the Pennsylvania primary, when U.S. cable news ran nearly nonstop coverage of the democratic race for president, AJE had reports on post-election violence in Zimbabwe and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s calls for an arms embargo on the south African nation, the resumption of fuel shipments from Israel to Palestine, General David Petraeus’s promotion, an elephant rampage in India, bombings in Mosul, Iraq, and a documentary program on the veterans of the Falklands War.

via Salon.com – Why can’t we watch Al Jazeera?. The first part is just sad, the second makes other cable news companies look pathetic in comparison. I also enjoyed the bit where AJE is accused of being to American. Pretty poignant considering Al Jazeera is the only news organization able to report on the Egypt protests.