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AJAM's Hour One Mirrors Qatar on Egypt, Upbeat from the Bay, Asks for Video

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 20 -- Al Jazeera America launched today with an hour of news from 4 to 5 pm, New York time. It was heavy with news from Egypt, largely mirroring the foreign policy of Qatar, AJAM's funder. But the word Qatar was not used.

  The domestic US stories ranged from guns in schools to wild fires in Idaho, with a correspondent already on the scene. The profile of US firefighters was upbeat, consonant with the testimonial of the channel's American employees in the one hour promotional video that ran before the news.

  To Inner City Press, which previously covered Joe Kennedy's Bronx television commercials for CITGO, there was something of an echo: the US seen from a perspective from, or funded by, outside. An outsider perspective can be fresh.

  Monday's first hour was cautious, largely siding with Bay Area officials on the safety of their new bridge in Melissa Chan's piece, for example. Will AJAM uncover municipal corruption? Will it cover the New York City electoral races, like CNN with Bill De Blasio and MSNBC with Bill Thompson tonight?

Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access on August 19 repeated asked the UN to make sure Al Jazeera America would be on the UN's in-house television network, since it's no longer streaming on the Internet.

  It was put where Al Jazeera Arabic used to be, though the sound quality in the UN was bad. While a FUNCA question on media access Tuesday has so far been ignored, we give them credit for getting AJAM on.

  Watching from the UN, Inner City Press tweet-critiqued that AJAM's piece on the UK's detention of journalist Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda was heavy with day-old footage and did not include, for example, the UN's answer to the Press earlier on Tuesday that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has "no" comment on Miranda's detention.

  From Washington, Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan asked if Inner City Press had fresher video, that AJAM would run it. So citation was provided to the UN's footage of its noon briefing. (Video here, from Minute 16:50.) So we'll see.

  Anchor Tony Harris bantered about J.C. Penney with Aly Velshi, who'll do his own show from West 33rd Street. John Terrett who in full disclosure was on a UN Security Council trip in Khartoum with Inner City Press, and stood up strongly to the handlers, covered Kodak with word play. There was a sports segment on A-Rod, featuring Gary Sheffield prominently featuring his own book. There was that constant, like death and taxes: weather.

  On Al Jazeera and the UN, this sad news cannot go unreported: Al Jazeera cameraman Glenn Gabel, also a fan of motorcycles, tragically died on Friday on his bike, just days before this launch. Among the UN press corps and in many other places, not least by his partner Kristen, and their two young sons, Sawyer and Jax, Glenn will be sorely missed. Rest in Peace.


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