It’s been years in making, but Al-Jazeera has finally joined the ranks of Washington, D.C.-based cable news operations.
“Imagine six or seven years ago, trying to find real estate for Al-Jazeera in Washington. I’m sure it wasn’t easy,” said Rob Wheelock, a former ABC executive who is not in charge of establishing Al-Jazeera in the United States, according to a report in USA Today. Now “we’re going to have signage, you know, just like CBS, ABC, CNN, CBN, just like everybody else. We’re psyched.”
The expansion onto U.S. soil is seen by many as a softening of American attitudes toward the Middle-Eastern network — and by many others as an outrageous liberal reach-out from Al Gore and his investors to make a quick buck. Mr. Gore sold his Current TV for $500 million to Al Jazeera late last year in a deal that left the political world buzzing. The purchase gives Al-Jazeera presence on cable boxes in 41 million homes, USA Today reports.
Next up: Hiring reporters.
Al-Jazeera — with 13 employees — wants to grow to 200, in cities across America, according to USA Today. The network just posted help wanted ads for about 100 news positions — and received 13,000 applications, USA Today reports.
The network is owned by the government of Qatar. Company executives and industry analysts insist its news is not anti-Israel, or anti-West.
“They’re straight shooters as much as any major news outlet today. There is no unbiased news today,” said Isobel Coleman, with the Council on Foreign Relations, in the USA Today report. “The bias is in the selection of what stories you cover and how you cover them. Al-Jazeera will bring its own bias, but it’s no more or no less than what we’re used to already in this country.”