1591 Jazeera- Bel
The news company Al Jazeera America announced it would close up shop later this year. Or to put it another way, Qatar’s failed attack on American news viewers is ending and so is the con game they played with the staff.
The Doha- based parent company which is a kingdom of two million people, dazzling beaches and garish nouveau riche tinfoil skyscrapers built on sand makes its money from oil. Oil prices are crashing, and even in this Hollywood-like fairy land, money has become tight.
So they’re closing their biggest loser which is in a close race with PBS in seeking the Emmy for boring. And in the process, they’re firing an army sized staff of American journalists who got suckered into believing that they could do real news and be paid well for doing it.
Al has been wrongheaded from the getgo.
--Spent half a billion dollars to buy Al Gore’s failed “Current TV” which almost no one watched, especially after Keith Olbermann threw his eighth consecutive tantrum and quit or was fired and then built a channel that absolutely no one watched.
--Opened themselves to suits charging antisemitism and sexism. (Could there be an element of truth in those? Heavens!)
--Hired a lawyer who evidently is not licensed to practice law.
--Ran an iffy story about the family of a major sports figure in which human growth hormone sales were prominently mentioned.
--Picked the wrong CEO at the start and replaced him with the right one but too late.
--Couldn’t raise clearances, the number of homes in which the channel was carried.
--Couldn’t sell advertising that came even close to paying the bills.
--Gave what little of the viewing public they reached nothing close to anything worth watching.
AJA is a clunky, amateurish presenter of news that no one wants to watch. Even though it originates in New York, it has the same creepy, oily plastic look and 1950s feel of a foreign news service or a televangelist channel, something Russia’s and China’s American channels are starting to climb away from.
They promised us news with sobriety. They gave us news with Sominex. They promised fact based reporting and gave us propaganda. They promised their staff -- mostly excellent journalists -- the tools and atmosphere to “do the job right” and gave them sledgehammers, rocks to break and corrections officers to watch over them.
Before long, the staff will have a Facebook Page “AJA Vets,” if they don’t already. And they’ll hold reunions and reminisce about the good old days … all 700 or so of them. They’ll break confidentiality agreements by disclosing their severance pay. They’ll drink a lot.
And some day in the distant future, when oil prices rebound and the skyscrapers of Doha pass inspection, maybe Jazeera-Bel will try again. For the sake of the fired staff… a fond hope. For the rest of us, we won’t watch then, either.
Meantime, Al Gore is laughing all the way to the bank, assuming the Emir’s payment checks don’t bounce.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016