Wednesday, February 02, 2011

That's Entertainment

I'm not sure where this article appears in the print edition of the Los Angeles Times, but it's filed away in the "Entertainment" section of the electronic edition, which I think is a pretty sad commentary on the policies of a major US newspaper. The story is about the extraordinary role of Al Jazeera in its coverage in the Middle East, specifically the unrest in Egypt.

Although available in fewer than 3 million American homes, the network's bright orange banner and signature flame-shaped icon have burned themselves into international consciousness during the last week as people bend over their laptops and smart phones to watch Al Jazeera's superlative coverage of the protests first in Tunisia and now in Egypt. ...

Some news outlets have remarked on the role of catalyst that Al Jazeera has played in events, but the network is also doing sentry duty. Watching, it's impossible not to believe that the knowledge of all the cameras, and the world's eyes, have held the police back after early images of beatings and shootings fed anger in Egypt and throughout the world. Likewise, the protesters seem quite aware of the response, both nationally and internationally, to their actions, which may explain why the looting that occurred last week appears to have died down as well. On Tuesday, a giant screen was erected in Tahrir Square; it was showing Al Jazeera.

"Thank you for having this live," one Egyptian actor told an Al Jazeera reporter. "No other networks can do this."
[Emphasis added]

The sniping by "some news outlets" is unseemly, just as unseemly as filing this article in "Entertainment". Al Jazeera is doing what the press has traditionally done, what it is supposed to do. Yes, because of its nature and location, it had more resources available when events began unfolding. It was there right from the start. It took days for the rest of the world's press to arrive, and in the mean time, the world's press relied on the young network for visual and verbal reporting.

How it covered those events was the extraordinary part: with images and interviews of not only protesters but also Egyptian leaders. Glib statements from the government were challenged with thoughtful follow-up questions rather than silence as those statements were being duly transcribed. Scenes of the mostly peaceful protests were balanced with scenes of early looting. Nothing was considered too politically incorrect to display or to analyze. And when the Egyptian government closed the Cairo bureau, the reporters were not scared off: they continued to do their job.

Al Jazeera took the rest of the world's press to school. I think we should take the rest of the world's press, especially the US members, behind the woodshed.



Anonymous Elton in Baltimore said...

I have a Roku box that streams video feeds from Netflix, Amazon, etc. to my TV. Noticed this morning they've added Al Jazeera to their channel lineup. It's in Roku's Newscaster section.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Classof65 said...

I remember seeing a segment on 60 Minutes about the launching of Al Jazeera and I remember thinking that it was about time the people of the Middle East would receive accurate news of the world and of their own region of the world. No longer would they have to rely on the word of their own rulers...

However, since then I have realized that Al Jazeera has their own agenda or that they are heavily reliant upon the good will of the rulers and imams of the various Arab nations and that they seem to be decidedly anti-American. Well, I can understand some of the anti-American feeling since the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and since America seems to look down their collective noses at the Middle Eastern nations -- our government is only nice when we want more oil and America is definitely pro-Israeli so we are certainly at loggerheads with the Arab nations.

Al Jazeera does have the advantage in reporting about the Middle East since they are already there and they are able to speak the language(s), but I do question the integrity of their reporting -- just as I question the integrity of American journalists.

5:44 PM  

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