Al Jazeera TV?. Bet that conjures up some images in your mind. You’d be right if you think Iraq, but you’d be off on all other counts if any include, Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden or any other terrorist-related notions. But Al Jazeera, a Pan Arab broadcast company gone international, offers an intimate look and and first hand knowledge of troubled comunities world-wide.
“If you are in the middle east and you are in a war zone, what are you going to cover? Is there dialogue to cover? Not yet, I wish there were, but they are not that mature,” explains Ehab Al Shihabi, the executive director for international operations for Al Jazeera America. His remarks are indicative of the type of hard-hitting candor viewers can expect from the station when it opens it Detroit bureau later this summer.
Al Jazeera television is infamous for shining a spotlight on the injustices and horrors. In fact the camera’s don’t shy away from showing viewers what’s really going on in that and other parts of the world.
Which may be why the broadcast company’s operating license was suspended by Iraqi officials only days ago. Al Jazeera, however continues to expand its mission of “giving a voice to the voiceless,” and unveiled plans to open an Al Jazeera bureau in Detroit at the Detroit Athletic Club recently.
“Detroit is not as covered as it should be and it’s communities have been overlooked … most news agencies have abandoned areas like [this], save for those tragic stories. … But we want to talk about what is really happening in these areas that have been so hard hit … the suffering on the human side needs to be covered,” said Shihab
The television station is currently head quartered in New York.
“We don’t want to parachute people in from different places and then [extract] them. They need to live here,” said Shihab. “I came by bus and expected to see all the disaster, but I was quite surprised about how beautiful [the area] is,” he confided.
Following an in-depth discussion outlining the details of Al Jazeera’s commitment to Detroit, Shihab addressed audience questions about the type of programming viewers can expect from Al Jazeera TV. “It will be in depth, fact-based news for the American audience with documentaries, talk shows, and lifestyle programs.”
Finally when asked about the news company’s image and the Americans audience’s reaction to the name Al-Jazeera, Shihab replied “All they have to do is watch. We will go into 50 million households and those viewers will talk to others about what they see on Al-Jazeera.”
To shore up the point Ale Velshir, who recently left CNN to join Al Jazeera recounted a news story he covered in Detroit. “I remember being here in 2005 when we had big layoffs, 40,000 in one day. Someone said that’s enough to fill a sports stadium. But what that does not what articulate is it’s not just 40,000 in a stadium and. Its 40,00 workers, people and their families and the communities and towns that will be shuttered. … That’s why it’s important to be here, and not cover the news remotely.”