Big Day for News? Al Jazeera America Is Here

New channel plans to keep it serious
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 20, 2013 5:24 AM CDT
Updated Aug 20, 2013 7:30 AM CDT
Big Day for News? Al Jazeera America Set to Launch
News anchor John Seigenthaler will host Al Jazeera America’s central nightly newscast.   (AP Photo/Al-Jazeera America)

Al Jazeera America launches this afternoon, and while some analysts believe the channel's entry to cable line-ups is a development as important as the launch of CNN or the Fox News Channel, others wonder if the new channel and its formula of serious, in-depth news will ever be able to attract more than a handful of viewers.

  • The channel has decided to focus heavily on US news, and its "seemingly limitless financing" from the Qatari government may be "its biggest strength and its most remarked-upon weakness," writes Brian Stelter at the New York Times. With 900 staff, it is "one of the most significant investments in TV journalism in modern times," he notes. The channel has bureaus in New York City; Washington, DC; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Dallas; Detroit; Chicago; Denver; Miami; Seattle; Nashville; and New Orleans.

  • The channel's chief executive has promised "less opinion, less yelling, and fewer celebrity sightings," reports the Guardian, which notes that its 16-person investigative team sets it apart from peers like CNN, which recently ditched its entire investigative team. Advertisers, however, seem wary, and AJA will start out with just six minutes of commercials per hour.
  • Former Al Jazeera English reporter Dave Marash believe AJA's focus on solid news will help it make its mark. "Almost all of their hires are respectable people with real careers and real records," he tells the AP. "Several are flat-out outstanding—Sheila MacVicar is outstanding. I'm optimistic." Other major hires include John Seigenthaler, Joie Chen, and Antonio Mora.
  • But the new channel faces plenty of hurdles: It will be available in fewer than half of US homes; and like Current TV, which it replaces, cable systems have given it high-numbered channels unlikely to draw in many channel viewers. Some Americans are still suspicious of the Al Jazeera name, as well.
(Read more al-Jazeera stories.)

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