Gaga for Al-Jazeera
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.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
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.
"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.