Al Jazeera’s First Week Gets Positive Reviews

Before its launch, Americans were already opposed to the idea of the English Al Jazeera network. But after being on the air for a week, the station has been receiving praise from American viewers and news media for its wide scope, unique perspective and its cold shoulder approach to the salacious OJ Simpson book release story.

The station broadcasts around the clock and can be picked up via satellite television in the United States on a few platforms listed on the website. These include Globecast, Fision, JumpTV and VDC. Broadcasts can also be seen online in 15-minute increments (or via subscription).

According to a source in an article from today’s International Herald Tribune, the station has been “flooded” with positive emails from viewers in the U.S. and China — places where people weren’t supposed to be watching.

In the Hartford Courant, Roger Catlin acclaims Al Jazeera’s “sleek presentation, with lush electronic fanfare.” (But can anyone really top CNN Headline News’ dramatic theme song?) More importantly, Catlin gives the station a thumbs up for its “solid, sober international reports from the Darfur region of Sudan in Africa to Baghdad, Iraq.”

Not surprisingly, a scan of the network’s website reveals a stronger emphasis on Middle East and Africa than American news networks. Since its launch on November 15, the network has been following the conflict in Uganda in detail. The network recently reported on the struggles of the Muslim Malay population in Thailand, a group that rarely makes it into headlines elsewhere.

An article in the New York Sun describes how Al Jazeera’s reputation is a key to insider access on stories on Muslim issues within immigrant circles.

Is this what parts of England have become? Places where only a reporter from Al-Jazeera can explain what’s going on in England to the English, because the Muslim inhabitants won’t speak to anyone else? If so, western news organizations, not to mention governments, should be worried.

The station’s bad rep might only be a boon amid stubborn American news network fans who still perceive the network is within arm’s length of Al Qaeda. Yesterday, in a press release, Al Jazeera announced it was the first foreign news network to gain access to Naypidaw in Myanmar (formerly Burma). Today’s report from the area by journalist Veronica Pedrosa can be read on the Al Jazeera English website.

The station network announced today the location of its fourth broadcast center — the 60th floor of the tallest towers in the world, the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. According to managing director, Nigel Parsons, Singapore was passed over as a headquarter because of its “sterile” politics.

— Caroline Dobuzinskis