Al Jazeera America

Al Jazeera America's demise and American concerns about Islam and Arabs

Al Jazeera America's demise and American concerns about Islam and Arabs

Soliciting and editing opinion pieces was part of my job many times during my almost 50 years around the news and communications business. Being a highly opinionated sort myself, I enjoyed that work quite a lot.

However, I've often been unsure about just how much to pressure an op-ed writer to add to, better justify or delete something they wrote.

In the end, I generally left the final decision to the writer. An op-ed is, after all, the writer's opinion about a subject and what they think is most important about it. It's the writer's prerogative to cherry pick from among the "facts" available on whatever the issue. The editor's job is to edit for style, grammar, originality, organization, libel and slander, personal animus and logical cohesiveness.

It's true that this can -- and often does -- result in one-sided, unfair and even intellectually dishonest copy. But that's the nature of the beast. Don't like it? Well, if you're in a position of authority you can always decide not to publish a piece or solicit another writer to produce one more to your liking. Or you can write one yourself (and hopefully find someone willing to publish it, but that's another issue).

A recent New York Times op-ed about the soon-to-close Al Jazeera America is a case in point.  (I'll get more precise shortly.)

One of the main reasons GetReligion was founded was to note this sort of imbalance when it shows up in basic, hard-news copy, specifically as it relates to religion news.

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Maybe Al Jazeera America was a brand that just wasn't meant to work out

Maybe Al Jazeera America was a brand that just wasn't meant to work out

Remember Life Savers soda, a misguided 1980s idea from the marketers of Life Savers hard candies, the sweet-treat so named because they resemble mini life preservers? You don't? Well, neither do I. But Google "worst branding flops" and it shows up again and again.

I can imagine the shocked brain trust behind Life Savers soda sitting around a conference room table flabbergasted that it's bright idea was utterly rejected by consumers who -- surprise! -- equated it with drinking too-sweet liquid candy. What went so horribly wrong in a nation where half of all consumers guzzle at least one sugary drink a day?

Maybe the answer is negative linkage -- like the New Coke thing. And here's another example: It appears we may soon get to add two-year-old Al Jazeera America (AJA) to the list of noted branding miscalculations.

As GetReligion readers may know, the Qatar government-funded television network is drowning in management and staff problems, much of them self-inflicted. Then there's the network's minuscule viewership and the more than passing criticism of the entire Al Jazeera enterprise (by which I mean AJA, the older Al Jazeera English, AJE, and the parent Al Jazeera Arabic channel) as being anti-West and pro-Sunni Islamist.

(For the record, I'm a very spotty viewer of AJA's and AJE's online feeds but a somewhat more frequent reader of their Web articles. I've not watched AJA's TV product, which is unavailable on my local cable system.)

I'm not at all surprised by AJA's problems, particularly given the American public's general lack of interest in international news coupled with its post 9/11 suspicion of all things Arab and Muslim, which has made it exceeding difficult for AJA to gain U.S. broadcast outlets and, therefore, exposure to potential viewers.

Let's face it. American Arabs and Muslims generally have a pretty big p.r. problem right now.

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TGIF: For Friday fulfillment, five female-friendly faith features

TGIF: For Friday fulfillment, five female-friendly faith features

Via a food truck, a Lutheran clergy member delivers hot calzones — and nuggets of Scripture. 

Two Roman Catholics in their 80s provide spiritual care for immigrants facing deportation. An Assembly of God pastor battles prostitution and pimps.

Weeks after contracting the often-deadly Ebola virus, an evangelical Christian missionary leaves the hospital in good health. A Hasidic Jewish rock band tries to reach a broader audience.

What do they have in common?

They're all women. 

For your weekend reading pleasure, here are five compelling religion stories (some pulled from my GetReligion guilt folder) that feature women of faith. No, not those Women of Faith, although I hope they check out the links, too.

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Al Jazeera America: a solid piece of religion journalism?

Let’s see: a meaty, 3,200-word religion story — part profile, part trend piece. Quick, name the national news organizations producing such in-depth journalism on the Godbeat these days. Did Al Jazeera America make your list?

That relatively new U.S. media organization spotlighted “Downwardly mobile for Jesus” over the weekend. The superb feature drew praise from ordinary readers and journalism pros alike.

“Good reporting,” said the subject line on an email from a GetReligion reader.

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Americans prejudiced against Al Jazeera?

The new cable news channel Al Jazeera America is drawing a lot of major media attention.

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