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Monday, March 25, 2013

‘Al Jazeera America’ Faces Cynical Public

Al Jazeera English Channel staff prepare for the broadcast in Doha news room in Qatar on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2006. (Hamid Jalaudin/AP)

Al Jazeera English Channel staff prepare for the broadcast in Doha news room in Qatar on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2006. (Hamid Jalaudin/AP)

Al Jazeera is expanding its reach to more than 40 million American homes with the upcoming news channel Al Jazeera America.

Right now, the Qatar-based television network is only seen in a few cities, reaching just five million households.

But the network’s January purchase of Al Gore’s Current TV gave it access to a much wider audience.

The network plans to expand to about 200 journalists, and will set up a newsroom in New York City.

But the American public is skeptical of a network backed by the government of Qatar, and Time Warner dropped Al Jazeera from its lineup when the sale was announced.

Al Gore defended the sale by saying the network would raise the bar of American journalism.

And Traci Griffith, a journalism professor at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont, said that she watches the network to gain another perspective.

She lives in one of the few cities where Al Jazeera currently airs, and she says she doesn’t notice an anti-American bias.

But her students are still wary.

“I think they have been conditioned to be skeptical of most of what comes out of the Arab world because of the media that they consume here within the United States,” she said.

But will those students apply for a job with Al Jazeera? The network posted 170 job openings and has already received 18,000 applicants.

Griffith said that in this job market, some students would likely take a job there.

“There are a few of our students who have an international perspective, who would be interested in working for a news outlet like Al Jazeera,” Griffith said. “Oftentimes, it’s students that have lived overseas or traveled overseas and have exposure to media that isn’t just U.S. media.”

The new Al Jazeera America is slated to go on the air in July.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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