Maybe it was the endless coverage of the debt ceiling debacle. Maybe it was my thinning schadenfreude towards the Murdoch scandal. Whatever it was, somehow I started watching Al Jazeera English, a 24 hour streaming news channel and the sister agency of Al Jazeera, the Arabic news channel.
Obviously, Al Jazeera has controversial connotations in the United States, where its willingness to feature “dissenting viewpoints,” is frowned up on and its cultural base is framed as closer to that of America’s enemies than that of the West. However, Al Jazeera English is a fascinating confluence of East and West, with headquarters in Doha and a geographically rotating source of news, with broadcasting centers in Doha, London, and Washington, DC, as well as news outlets in Gaza and Harare.
The mission of Al Jazeera is “to give voice to untold stories, promote debate, and challenge established perceptions,” for the more than 1 billion English speaking people, who may or may not have a Western worldview.
While seeing coverage on American issues was interesting (notably absent “lifestyle” articles), the range and angle of the topics that they cover is fascinating and should make each and every American news junkie think again.
Just compare Al Jazeera’s “Most Viewed” as of 8/2/2011 to CNN’s and the New York Times:
- In Pictures: The start of Ramadan
- Islamophobia, Zionism and the Norway massacre
- Mobile biometrics to hit US streets
- Gaddafi forces ‘launch Zlitan offensive’
- Military hawks upset with debt deal
- Protesters across Syria come under fire
- Unsafe at any speed?
- Has the Arab Spring arrived in Israel?
- Israel ‘sees border talks if PA drops UN bid’
- Syria: ‘Brother of a whore’ tossed like trash
- Space shuttle Columbia part found in Texas
- Man detained after jumping White House fence
- Obama signs debt ceiling bill, ends crisis
New York Times
- Tea Party’s War on America
- Ancient Moves for Orthopedic Problems
- Who Falls to Addiction, and Who Is Unscathed?
- Reaping Millions in Nonprofit Care for Disabled
- Putting an Antebellum Myth to Rest
- Pearls, Finer but Still Cheap, Flow From China
- The President Surrenders
- Study Sheds Light on Auditory Role in Dyslexia
There are exactly two articles in the American news outfits that even mention another country and the Chinese article appears to be about the Chinese market for pearls and how it is affecting the American one. It is not that this is inherently wrong, but it does contribute to the overall reputation that the United States is totally unaware of how it comes off to the world.
I will stand by my apple-pie-news-source staples, but hey, give Al Jazeera English a whirl. You might learn something new about what’s going on in America.