Al Jazeera America failed because Yanks don’t really want hard, unbiased news reporting

Al Jazeera America failed because Yanks don’t really want hard, unbiased news reporting

[Ed. – Think I’m kidding?  Read it for yourself.]

But if Al Jazeera America’s brand was a handicap, its philosophy was a death sentence. The channel was founded on the utterly ill-conceived idea that Americans were starving for sober, “unbiased” hard news coverage. In other words, it made the mistake of offering viewers the programming they claimed to want, instead of the programming that all available evidence suggests they actually enjoy. Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2013, the channel’s first CEO, Ehab Al Shihabi, said market research suggested that there were 40 million or 50 million Americans yearning for deep, old-school reportage.  “If we do the kind of reporting that is considered ‘back to the future’—the hard-core journalistic reporting, not biased, not for entertainment, but fact-based—do we have a place? All the research indicates yes,” Al Shihabi later told the Nation.

The problem with this, as the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson later put it, is that “audiences are liars.” Handed a survey, they’ll profess to care deeply about international affairs, if only to make themselves feel a little more virtuous. Then they’ll be back to skimming Facebook for news about Kim and Kanye’s baby. …

Ultimately, Al Jazeera seems to have fallen for a very seductive fiction. Reporters would like to think that there’s a large, unsatisfied appetite for straight, fundamentally boring news…

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