Al Jazeera America will close out its nearly three-year run with a three-hour retrospective broadcast featuring highlights of the news channel’s reporting since its August 2013 launch.
Al Jazeera stunned its U.S. outpost in January with its decision to pull the plug on its American cable news channel. The company’s website ceased operations in February.
The Qatar-based Al Jazeera charged in the the U.S. cable fray in late 2012 with its $500 million acquisition of what was then Current TV, owned by Al Gore and Joel Hyatt.
Al Jazeera execs repeatedly insisted that the company was focused on building a strong newsgathering operation and had no expectations of realizing immediate profits. That made it a strong draw for many journalists as Al Jazeera America went on a hiring spree of more than 1,000 reporters, producers and digital journos. ABC News veteran Kate O’Brian was recruited as president.
But by last year, reports of turmoil behind the scenes and allegations of bias among top managers — against women, against Israel — surfaced in lawsuits as AJAM saw significant staff turnover and the ouster of founding CEO Ehab Al Shihabi. The parent company has put the channel on the block but it is unlikely to sell for even half of what Al Jazeera paid in 2012. The channel is believed to have about 50 million subscribers at present.
With Al Jazeera America shuttering, the news org still offers English-language programming in the U.S. through its Al Jazeera English feed that serves the U.K. and other territories. Al Jazeera said it intends to expand its existing digital operation to a “multi-platform presence” in the U.S. later this year.
The three-hour farewell will air at 6 p.m. ET and repeat at 9 p.m. ET for the West Coast. The program emphasizes the number of accolades that Al Jazeera America quickly racked up for its reporting, including Peabody, Emmy and DuPont awards.
In a letter to Al Jazeera America’s remaining staffers, O’Brian and Al Jazeera America CEO Al Antsey wrote:
Two and a half years ago we launched with a simple goal – to provide reliable, trusted information to audiences across the United States. Underpinning this mission was great journalism. Never take a side. Dig for the real story. Explain it properly. Uncover stories. Uphold balance. Hold power to account. Have courage in covering unreported stories. And, above all, act with integrity and be honest with our audiences.
Throughout our short history we have held true to this mission. We did so by putting the human being at the forefront of our editorial decisions: people across America and the world who are living the events taking place around them; people who are impacted by decisions made by governments, powerful individuals, or corporations. People who would not otherwise have a voice in mainstream media unless we covered them.
We have been privileged to cover stories of people who epitomize the strength and resilience of the human spirit. Individuals who have fought for good, who have tackled adversity, whose stories and voices deserve coverage. There are so many more people across America whose stories remain untold. Those stories need to be heard.
It was because of our colleagues’ remarkable dedication and skill that we’ve been able to carry out great journalism. Al Jazeera America has the most talented and diverse team any media organization could wish for. So, as we enter our final day, we would like to pass on our sincere thanks, appreciation, and respect for your amazing work, and for your commitment to those we cover.
We all know good journalism is critical. It ensures information is reliable, and can be trusted. Good journalism doesn’t mean opinion or spin. It is a responsibility which every media organization should carry with determination and resolve. We are proud to have done so since our first to our final moment on air.