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What does Al Jazeera America see in the Northwest?

The cable news network launched a bureau in Seattle last August. What the Northwest brings to their international network.

Most of the pins on Al Jazeera America correspondent Allen Schauffler’s map are near the Seattle-area, but there are pins all over the Pacific Northwest, from Boise, Idaho to Ashland, Oregon. Some even extend up into Montana and Canada.

Each one represents a story Schauffler, as head of the Seattle bureau, plans to cover. As his hands glide over the territory, pointing out pins and verbally sketching out each story, his speech quickens, as if he doesn’t want to waste any time getting to the task at hand — a substantial one.

He, along with producer Kristen Fraser and photographer and editor Jose Cedeno, are responsible for telling the stories of the entire Pacific Northwest and a couple of Canadian provinces for Al Jazeera America, a brand new cable news network. And they haven’t even met their bosses yet.

Al Jazeera America's Allen Schauffler in his Lake Union-side office.

Launched in August 2013 by the Qatari-based Al Jazeera media network, Al Jazeera America (AJAM) expands the company's 70 international bureaus to include a dozen more within the U.S. The new network still offers the brand’s hallmark, in-depth news, lifestyle and investigative journalism, but in this case it's targeted specifically for an American audience.

AJAM broadcasts both stories from its U.S. bureaus and from other bureaus around the world. Sometimes, the network will broadcast stories from its U.S. bureaus internationally, through Al Jazeera English. Recently, a Seattle-area story about orcas and tidal energy was distributed to over 100 countries through Al Jazeera English.

The new network’s executives (whom Schauffler has so far met only over email and phone) plan to take a different approach than other U.S.-based media companies. They have deliberately placed several of their 12 bureaus in places like Detroit, Nashville and New Orleans; cities that don’t yet have strong media representation.

In AJAM corporate-speak, they want to tell stories that are “closer to the people at the heart of the news.”  

The network now has one of the largest newsgathering capabilities in American media, but their TV audience has yet to respond in large numbers. Since AJAM replaced Al Gore’s cable channel, Current TV, viewership has dropped by more than half.

In December 2013, Buzzfeed and the New York Post reported that, in the five months since Al Jazeera America’s launch, only 13,000 people tuned in during an average minute. That might sound like a lot, but in TV-land it’s too low even to be reported by popular ratings agency, Nielsen.

Jocelyn Austin, Al Jazeera America’s Director of Publicity, says they don’t have Seattle-specific ratings or any way of comparing the network’s popularity here with other cities or regions.

Still, Schauffler sees unique promise in the stories and headlines of the greater northwest; stories he believes will eventually attract more of a TV audience. “This area has a remarkable and vibrant business community. Microsoft and Amazon in Washington, Intel in Portland, Micron in Boise are just a few of the high-tech headliners," Schauffler explained in his first Al Jazeera post.

“The place is buzzing with international trade and major agricultural operations. We are surrounded by tremendous natural beauty and expansive wild lands that breed a host of environmental concerns and controversies.”

Since August, the news of the Seattle-area has kept the bureau especially busy: Marijuana legalization, the $15 minimum wage push and Socialist Kshama Sawant’s city council campaign have dominated coverage and Schauffler believes that the Northwest’s leadership in these areas will continue to “raise the volume of these kinds of conversations.”

The network itself isn’t discouraged either — at least not outwardly. In a year-end note to Al Jazeera America employees, network President Kate O’Brian outlined plans to expand existing programs, launch new documentaries and shows and continue marketing efforts.

The network is also expanding its availability — adding Time Warner to its list of providers, a move that will make it available in about 10 million more homes.  


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Feb 7, 5:16 a.m. Inappropriate

What does Al Jazeera America see in the Northwest? Sheep.

Cameron

Posted Fri, Feb 7, 7:56 a.m. Inappropriate

Schaufler was a news anchor on KING-5 TV for a decade or more, wasn't he?

How does Weitz manage to overlook this? Deep journalism, indeed.

Posted Fri, Feb 7, 8:04 a.m. Inappropriate

I love Al Jazeera. We used to watch Al Jazeera English while we were overseas and streamed it when we got back to the States.

US news is bland and predictable - if it bleeds, it leads. Al Jazeera has documentaries and stories from around the world. It is nice to see our place in the world (by our, I mean the US) and see what is happening to other people.

Al Jazeera America was the reason for our satellite choice and we watch several of our old favorite shows (The Stream, Talk to Al Jazeera, etc.).

Try it, you might like it.

Amaliada

Posted Sat, Feb 8, 12:03 a.m. Inappropriate

I had a similar experience in 2007 while teaching in Ukraine. At our apartment we had 300+ cable channels but few in English. The evening news pickings were between BBC, Voice of America, a Russian channel and Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera was the best by far -- correspondents on the scene with in-depth coverage. VOA was bland drivel and BBC a mere shadow of its former self, both consisting mostly of anchors reading generic copy. Al Jazeera actually had reporters on the ground. Parenthetically, Al Jazeera America seems less adventurous than its European counterpart, with a bit too much cautious pandering to the local audience.

As for political bias, Al Jazeera is owned by oil sheiks in Qatar. Who knows what they really stand for? Unlike what one hears about the Arabic version, it didn't seem to me that the English language programming had any particular axe to grind.

A bowl of steaming borscht and black bread, the news from Al Jazeera, topped off with "The Merchant of Joseon," a great historical serial on the South Korean channel -- many long Ukrainian winter evenings spent that way.

woofer

Posted Fri, Feb 7, 8:27 a.m. Inappropriate

Would be nice to sample it, but Frontier Fios does not carry.

Geezer

Posted Fri, Feb 7, 9:10 a.m. Inappropriate

Thanks, but I'll stick with Deutsche Welle and the World Radio Network as sources of news on the US and elsewhere.

Posted Sat, Feb 8, 8:17 a.m. Inappropriate

Is there a broadcast/cable source for Deutsche Welle locally? I haven't been able to find it since KUOW dropped their evening news show several years ago. My emails to DW (in English and German) went unanswered.

dbreneman

Posted Fri, Feb 7, 10:11 a.m. Inappropriate

To consider this journalism, you owe your audience more than what you've written. There is no mention of the most serious issues with Al Jazeera, which are well-established in fact.

Consider, e.g., what was outlined by Judea Pearl in an op-ed published in the NY Times op-ed, "Another Perspective, or Jihad TV?": http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/17/opinion/17pearl.html?oref=slogin&_r=0.

Allen Shaffler and team have not met their "bosses," and appear to have no idea about the leadership, aims, and ideology of the network.

If they did, they would know that that the most popular show on their network is one hosted by prominent Sunni jurist and Muslim Brotherhood paragon, Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, titled "Sharia and Life." The program, and Sheik al-Qaradawi's writings, are a good way for them to become acquainted with their network and bosses, and the rule(s) of Islamic Law.

Pearl writes, "The question is, to what extent will this pathological worldview infiltrate Al Jazeera’s English channel, which is still trying to find its voice? David Marash, a former “Nightline” correspondent who is the American anchor on Al Jazeera English, acknowledges such a possibility, but dismisses the responsibility of the network. “Undoubtedly, some Al Jazeera programs may have inspired some social misfits to undertake terrorism,” he told The New York Sun."

YaelLopez

Posted Mon, Feb 10, 10:05 a.m. Inappropriate

You seem to have not gotten to the last paragraph of the 2007 Pearl op-ed from the NY Times:

"I wouldn’t call for banning Al Jazeera English in the United States even if that were possible. It is important to extend a hand to the network because it can become a force for good; but it is as important for our news organizations to scrutinize its content and let its viewers know when anti-Western wishes are subverting objective truth. As Al Jazeera on the whole feels the heat of world media attention, we can hope that it will learn to harness its popularity in the service of humanity, progress and moderation."

Also, no where in the op-ed does Pearl state that Sheik Qaradawi's is "the most popular show" on Al Jazeera. It's important for people to be aware of the ownership and politics of our media, but it's also important to be accurate in comments and commentary. What's the basis for this claim by you? Maybe it's this 6 year old essay: http://www.investigativeproject.org/profile/167 Or maybe it was this page: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/01/03/meet-al-jazeeras-holocaust-denying-televangelist-is-this-what-we-can-expect-on-the-new-current-tv/ Such objective reporting...

louploup

Posted Fri, Feb 7, 10:56 a.m. Inappropriate

Deutche Welle, BBC, and other international news organizations are very good to great, but al Jazeera America is one of the best newcomers in decades.

I too have concerns about the Qatari financing, but so far the overall content is interesting, well presented, varied, and relatively devoid of political slant.

I also like al Jazeera English, and frequent the web pages. I am now undoubtedly on multiple watch lists.

Posted Fri, Feb 7, 12:14 p.m. Inappropriate

No doubt it's the (very rational) fear of being placed on one or more secret-police watch lists that keeps the Al Jazeera America audience so small. Thus the USian Empire's total surveillance regime fulfills another of its definitive purposes: ensuring that we the people remain imprisoned in ignorance.

Posted Fri, Feb 7, 3:08 p.m. Inappropriate

No doubt that's the reason why the overwhelming number of Americans are not watching Al Jazeera's agitprop.. SMH

Now, if they were in Qatar where there is real freedom, no doubt they would be turning on Al Jazeera and Jihad TV to watch Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi's "Sharia and Life" to ensure they are fully submitted to Allah and his law.

YaelLopez

Posted Mon, Feb 10, 7:48 a.m. Inappropriate

These words make clear that Yaellopez has no facts to support the statements other than a limited perspective.

Posted Sat, Feb 8, 1:12 p.m. Inappropriate

We've watched AJ when we've been able to get it (usually when we're travelling outside the country) and have been impressed with the news and features content. Unfortunately, we get our television signal through Comcast/Xfinity, and would have to upgrade several steps to get a package that includes the network. I'm still wishing that cable providers would shift to a cafeteria plan, rather than bundling a few arts and news channels with a pile of sports, sports, sports...

sandik

Posted Mon, Feb 10, 7:44 a.m. Inappropriate

If you want to get a multiple-perspective of world events watch Al Jazeera and RT. In contrast, the American channels provide endless and mindless "entertainment" and unquestioned government press releases.
Unfortunately, Comcast now only provides Russia Television, and the reason Al Jazeera's viewership is down is because of non-access. I have to try to find stories on the AJ web now if I want to get well-rounded (on most subjects, not all) coverage.

Posted Mon, Feb 10, 10:05 a.m. Inappropriate

"Unsustainability" is an appropriate user name. Your assertion fails to even pass "go."

No doubt that multiple perspectives of world events are important, if not vital to being well-informed, but the fact remains that Al Jazeera and RT are both networks funded and run by statist regimes that are largely dictatorial and effectively controlling of speech and association. You can imagine the "limited perspective" of something with those editorial controls.

YaelLopez

Posted Tue, Feb 11, 11:47 a.m. Inappropriate

Apropos "limited perspectives," I doubt there is any news perspective on this planet more limited than that of the U.S. Ruling Class "mainstream" media monopoly: the infinite greed of capitalism as the highest possible virtue (even at Bhopal, Deepwater Horizon or Bangladesh); Christianity (and occasionally Judaism) as the only true religions; the United States as the one nation that is never, ever wrong (even at Wounded Knee, My Lai, Kent State and Abu Ghraib); the panem-et-circenses mindlessness of 24/7 celebrity coverage; and let us not forget a regime of ideological self-censorship that would win top awards from both Josef Goebbels and Ayn Rand.

In this context, RT and Al Jazeera are the proverbial breaths of fresh air. For that matter -- because U.S. monopoly media is so relentlessly censored, we now must look abroad to learn what is happening here in the imperial homeland -- so are der Spiegel, le Monde, and especially The Guardian.

(And, yes, with a journalism career that spans more than half a century, I do know of what I speak.)

Posted Mon, Feb 10, 3:45 p.m. Inappropriate

Maybe he just got tired of listening to Jean Enersen, alleged serial shoplifter and apparent anorexic.

imacsob

Posted Tue, Feb 11, 11 a.m. Inappropriate

I find the hand-wringing over AJ amusing given the newsotainment present in most broadcast news. Or you could take the slop put forward on Faux News as a counterpoint. I mean, seriously - talk about agenda-driven "news". But that's ok, it's oligarch driven news as opposed to what? jihadist driven news? Sheesh.

Lily32

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