Monday, October 05, 2009

Gaga for Al-Jazeera

Two recent articles, one in The Atlantic Monthly and the other in The Walrus, have said some nice things about Al-Jazeera. That's not really new, nor are the bad things said about Al-Jazeera. But the "gaga" I refer to (what's the etymology of "gaga" anyway?) is about the notion that Al-Jazeera is making U.S. journalism appear overly parochial, if not silly.

Before he contradicts himself at the end of his Atlantic article "Why I love Al Jazeera," well-known journalist Robert Kaplan--who has covered the Middle East for about as long as Larry King has been alive (well almost)--has this to say:
The Qatar-based Arab TV channel’s eclectic internationalism—a feast of vivid, pathbreaking coverage from all continents—is a rebuke to the dire predictions about the end of foreign news as we know it.... The fact that Doha, Qatar’s capital, is not the headquarters of a great power liberates Al Jazeera to focus equally on the four corners of the Earth rather than on just the flash points of any imperial or post-imperial interest. Outlets such as CNN and the BBC don’t cover foreign news so much as they cover the foreign extensions of Washington’s or London’s collective obsessions. And Al Jazeera, rather than spotlighting people who are loaded with credentials but often have little to say, has the knack of getting people on air who have interesting things to say, like the brilliant, no-name Russian analyst I heard explaining why both Russia and China need the current North Korean regime because it provides a buffer state against free and democratic South Korea.

Al Jazeera is also endearing because it exudes hustle. It constantly gets scoops. It has had gritty, hands-on coverage across the greater Middle East, from Gaza to Beirut to Iraq, that other channels haven’t matched.
In The Walrus, a well-known Canadian magazine, Deborah Campbell, in her article "The Most Hated Name in News," wonders out loud if Al-Jazeera English, now with Tony Burman, formerly of the CBC, at the helm, can cure "what ails North American journalism." It's actually a bold curiosity. She visits Al-Jazeera English (AJE) and observes
"a classic AJE story: a local reporter familiar with the language and culture investigates a place where few foreign correspondents venture to any depth, focusing on the plight of ordinary people and putting the story into context for a global audience. This kind of intrepid field reporting is how Burman made his mark as a producer for Canada’s public broadcaster in the ’80s and early ’90s, when he covered conflict in South America, civil war in Sudan, Mandela’s release from prison in South Africa, and the famine in Ethiopia. His crew famously broke that last story for North American viewers, in the process discovering three-year-old Birhan Woldu, who became the face of international relief efforts like Live Aid.
The author meanders up and down, left and right with AJE and Tony. Both of these articles are good to look at if you're interested in the news. Tomorrow, inshaAllah, I'll be visiting AJE and Tony Burman with our students. It should be interesting.


Anonymous BintKhalil said...

Assalamu alaikum

Anyone who has any interest in the happenings of the rest of the world (besides the West) and has watched AJE, will not be able to tolerate BBC or CNN after. Its like the author of one of the articles says, about how AJE presents the perspectives from the developing world's perspective. Especially after the phenomenal coverage of the attack of on Gaza, where AJE reporters had to speak over the din of the explosions that we could see behind them, BBC and CNN seem like dowdy old men living in their bubbles far removed from reality.

Could you pleeeeeaaaaaaase blog about your visit with AJE and Tony Burman in as much detail as possibe (as much as your time permits)? I would love to get an inside view.

10/07/2009 4:13 PM  
Blogger fromclay said...

BK, thanks for your note. I may write something up. Tony is a seasoned journalist and committed reporter. I liked very much what he had to says, as did our students. I recommend that you click on the link about to the Walrus article. The author speaks a lot about Tony. Thanks.

10/08/2009 4:44 AM  

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