I recently started getting Al Jazeera English on my TV, and it’s pretty impressive. Not as tendentious as you might expect on GWOT and related matters, but not more unfair or imbalanced than Fox News. Interviews and panel discussions (on, e.g., global financial markets) are pitched at a fairly high level.
It beats the pants off the competition—BBC World Service and CNN International—in reporting the action in the more remote corners of the greater Middle East. Not surprising, perhaps, but watching all three for coverage of the crisis in Chad reinforces this distinction. AJ had an actual reporter and cameraman in N’Djamena, with footage from the bush. BBC and CNN had reporters in Addis Ababa (where the African Union is meeting), speaking over footage from…Al Jazeera.
And the Al Jazeera coverage presumes that the viewer isn’t going to confuse Chad with C.H.U.D. CNN introduces their report with “now we go to Nic Robertson, in nearby Addis Ababa.” Sure, in the sense that N’Djamena and Addis are in the same continent—they are as close as Madrid and Hamburg, or Los Angeles and Vancouver.
CNN International is anchored from London and Hong Kong, and is more substantial than the Atlanta broadcast (has CNN covered the Chad story?). Except for when it picks up the U.S. feed, for Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, and Larry King. Brits all lament the decline in standards of the BBC, so I encourage them to compare their interview program, Hard Talk (recent guests include Austan Goolsbee and Ernest Koroma) with Larry King (Ricki Lake and some UFO nuts).
Undermining my premise, CNN is now showing a thoughtful report on a crusading female journalist in Saudi Arabia. She has photos of Rosie the Riveter and Che Guevara above her desk. Callow Che admiration aside, an impressive young woman.