It strikes me as interesting that, as the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, the 24-hour news network Al Jazeera English (AJE) has launched in New York City. Interesting in that Al Jazeera faces big PR challenges, mainly due to actions that Al Jazeera Arabic has taken during the U.S. campaign against Al Qaeda, like regularly airing videos from Osama Bin Laden and reporting on the “other side” of the war on terrorism. Of course, this resulted in the Bush Administration’s condemnation of the network, and the actual bombing of their Baghdad headquarters during the Iraq invasion.
Yet today, Al Jazeera has garnered kudos from U.S. politicians for its recent coverage of Arab Spring demonstrations–including Hilary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi—and yes, Republican Sen. John McCain. And now that the network is one-third toward the goal of broadcasting in three major American cities, it’s clear that Al Jazeera English is hitting on most PR cylinders—including the establishment of a journalism fellowship at Columbia University.
Still, AJE has its communications work cut out for it, as there will always be the perception (rightly or wrongly) that the network is on the side of the bad guys and has no business broadcasting in the U.S.—especially in New York City. But, as someone who witnessed the attacks in New York nearly 10 years ago, I’m curious enough to watch the network and see what their reporting is all about. Will you be watching?
–Scott Van Camp