I am currently reading Diana West’s eye-opening Betrayal Of The West, which has gotten me thinking (as she explicitly intends) about how much trust I should put in press reports. What happens when I “think critically” about the news?
Just this morning, NPR provided me with a case study: its report on the launch of Al Jazeera America on cable systems throughout the US. (As of noon, 21 August, there is no transcript, only the audio.) The reporter, David Folkenflik, shares with the listeners that Al Jazeera’s goal is to provide objective, serious news to Americans. But David finds some skeptics, who think Americans don’t want serious news. That’s right: Al Jazeera America (AJA) might fail, not because it won’t be objective and serious, but because Americans won’t watch objective and serious news.
There appears to be no question about AJA’s sincerity in proclaiming its goals. Folkenflik quotes no less an authority than John Sigenthaler (sp?) one of the American reporters hired by AJA. John tells David that AJA’s goal is to do “serious, in-depth news”; and that “they” are “not interested in ratings.” Folkenflik, ever the careful reporter, second-sources Sigenthaler with… the president of AJA. Obviously, with sources that detached from any personal interest, David saw no need to look for any other perspectives.
Now, who are these benefactors who will spend half a billion dollars to buy a moribund cable network, then run programming without regard to ratings or profit (they will reportedly run only 6 minutes of commercials per hour, compared to about 20 on other cable news channels)? Who are these people so committed to truth and freedom of the press that they will pour out their fortunes to provide this service to a reluctant American public?
According to Freedom House, Qatar is not free, and does not have a free press. And yet, we are expected to believe that they will lose money to create a news outlet in American homes that will be serious, objective, fact-based, untainted by ideology or point of view.
No. No, no, no. If Qatar wants to promote a free press, let them start somewhere closer to home, such as Qatar. Once they’e demonstrated their abiding commitment to Western Enlightenment values, then we might entertain the possibility that they can provide serious objective news to America. In the meantime, anyone who chooses to watch AJA should stock up on grains of salt.