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Would you appear on Al Jazeera America?

Would you appear on Al Jazeera America?

Would you appear on Al Jazeera America?

Last December I wrote a blog post about the movie Anchorman 2, and after it ran, a producer from Al Jazeera America called and asked if I would be interested in appearing on the cable network to discuss the marketing of the Will Ferrell movie.  It made me pause and think.

I knew Al Jazeera America had purchased Current TV (famously paying Al Gore millions) and that it was working to gain a foothold in the U.S. – but little else.  The network is not on my cable system, and its viewership is quite small compared to CNN, FOX and the other major networks.

But mainly, my concern was that it was freakin’ Al Jazeera, the network of the Muslim world which for many Americans is synonymous with publishing messages from Osama Bin Laden and other terrorism related news.  If I appeared on the network, what would my friends, clients and prospects think?

I decided to take an informal poll of a few people within my circle and gauge their reactions.  I asked the question the same way to several people.

To my politically conservative brother Tom I asked “What would say if I told you I was appearing on Al Jazeera America?”  His reply: “That’s your industry.  You are in the media business, so you should have no issue with appearing on any network.”

Same question to my former Army paratrooper brother Chris: “What would you say if told you I was appearing on Al Jazeera America?”  His reply, after a brief pause: “Taliban.”  “Even if I’m talking about a silly topic like Ron Burgundy?” I asked.  Same response: “Taliban.”  (If you know my brother, you are laughing right now because the brevity and poignancy of the response are in complete alignment with his personality.)

One of my more liberal college buddies said I shouldn’t sweat it for a second.

Two other close friends said I should do it but not place the clip on my website.

Yet another friend, a media savvy attorney, said “You should absolutely do it.  We have been on the network many times.”

What would you do?

As background, Al Jazeera America (AJAM for short) is owned by the Qatar-based Al Jazeera Media Network.  Launched last August, it competes with CNN, HLN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel.  Al Jazeera Media Network purchased Current TV last year, reportedly for about $500 million.  Al Gore was said to have had a 20 percent stake in Current TV – you do the math.

AJAM quickly proceeded to build a new network aimed at covering the United States and compete with the big boys – and reportedly without a Muslim spin.  To that end, the network hired senior executives from ABC News, CNN, CBS and MSNBC to oversee programming and brought in top talent including former host of CNN’s American Morning Soledad O’Brien, CNN’s Ali Velshi, CBS’s Sheila MacVicar and former Good Morning America news anchor Antonio Mora.  His show on AJAM called Consider This was interested in interviewing yours truly.

On paper it seems like a straightforward decision.  A national network, run by U.S.- based news executives and staffed with well-known faces wants to interview you.  Do you do it?

The question begets more questions: Is our country ready for an Arab-owned news network?  Twelve years after the 9/11 attacks, are we OK with receiving our news from a source so closely aligned with the Muslim world?  Would there be perceived guilt by association?  I’m not sure what the answers are.

I like to believe that I’m a progressive thinker, so I decided to accept the invitation, but ultimately the decision was taken out of my hands.

Before major holidays, all news outlets work overtime to get as much of their programming as possible completed and in the can– so journalists can enjoy Christmas dinner like the rest of us.  Due to logistical reasons, the network ended up using a Hollywood-based expert to talk about the movie – leaving me on the sidelines.

To date, I have never appeared on Al Jazeera America.  I was asked.  I said yes.

What would you do?


Author: John P. David

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