- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It has been a rough week for Al Jazeera America. The ambitious, Qatar-based news network that essentially grew out of Al Gore’s Current TV pubic affairs channel two years ago now has its own drama. “AJAM” was first slapped with a $15 million wrongful termination lawsuit by a former employee who also claimed the network was discriminating against women - and others.

Al Jazeera America does not tolerate any discriminatory conduct and we take great pride in the diversity of our organization and its leadership,” CEO Ehab Al Shihabi said at a press conference on Monday. “The recent attacks on us as being anti-Semitic, sexist and anti-American are absurd.”

But three top executives - all women - resigned on Monday. By Wednesday, Mr. Al Shihabi was ousted from his position without warning, to be replaced by Al Anstey, previously managing director for Al Jazeera English, based in London. There was considerable news coverage of the turmoil, complete with anecdotal chatter about poor morale and negative corporate culture within the troubled network. Mr. Anstey, however, issued a statement:

“Having started my career with CBS News, and lived in the U.S. later in my career, I’m very pleased to be returning to the U.S. to continue to uphold the highest standards of organizational excellence at the channel, with an absolute commitment to the very best in journalism and storytelling,” he said.

And the background: Al Jazeera America was launched in 2013, after Qatar’s financial backers purchased Mr. Gore’s network for $500 million, later investing a reported $1.5 billion in staff hires, state-of-the-art studios, field offices and other facilities. The new network hired close to 1,000 new employees, attracted executive talent from CNN, ABC and CBS, plus such on-camera names as former NBC News anchor John Seigenthaler, CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien and CBS News reporters Sheila MacVicar and Joie Chen. They promised “fact based, in-depth reporting.”

As AJAM approaches its two-year anniversary, the network’s nightly audience averaged around 30,000 viewers which some analysts blame on their lack of carriage on major cable carriers. In contrast, Fox News typically draws about 2 million on an average night.


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