I’ve never had cable television. When I was a kid my mother absolutely couldn’t afford it and so I had to subsist on the big three (NBC, CBS, ABC) plus PBS. But, we didn’t watch much TV even though she forced me to suffer through the news every day. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized (in many ways) just what a great mother she was. The news was pretty much straight facts in those days without much editorializing outside of the magazine shows like 60 Minutes or Dateline both of which were mostly investigative in nature. As a result, I knew things most people didn’t at that age and I learned that knowledge was important.
Now, I’m all grown and I still don’t have cable and a lot of the reason I don’t is because of the news stations, they’re terrible. FOX, MSNBC, CNN, all of them. They’re all awful confirmation bias zones with almost no real content and an absolute glut of completely opinionated, rabble rousing domestic garbage. And while that stuff does the trick as far as getting older viewers hooked on cliffhanger moral outrage stories it doesn’t actually inform anyone very much and it makes people angry at others who don’t think just like them. I hate that stuff. It’s a race to the bottom and I believe it has a big hand in our current governmental intransigence. We don’t like each other because we subscribe to opposed and corporately manufactured narratives. We don’t like each other because the way we get our news is just as important as the news we’re getting.
Enter Al-Jazeera America. It promises straight news for 14 hours a day. That’s more than any other station on their air delivers excepting, perhaps, the seldom carried BBC America. So, what will that difference look like?
Viewers will see a news channel unlike the others, as our programming proves Al Jazeera America will air fact-based, unbiased and in-depth news,” said Ehab Al Shihabi, the channel’s acting chief executive, on a news conference call last week. He was explicit about what will be different, saying, “There will be less opinion, less yelling and fewer celebrity sightings.
We’ve all heard this claim before, the claim to be the station of record. The big three cable stations all claim to do this but we all know that none of them do. We all know they’d sell their mothers for exclusive access to an Amber Alert because they’re cultural propaganda machines. But I believe that this generation is sick of that kind of manipulation. I believe, given an option, Americans will flock to a station that gives them things to think about and consider, a station that does actual journalism, a thing missing in action for over a decade now, a thing that has taken on the air of a once believed myth rather than a past reality.
Bad journalism creates cynicism, it poisons the civic faith of nations, and it hurts our ability to make informed decisions and have outcome focused debates with those we disagree with. These guys seem to get that.
Mr. Al Shihabi and other Al Jazeera representatives say proprietary research supports their assertions that American viewers want a PBS-like news channel 24 hours a day.
Yes, that’s exactly what I want. Don’t tell me what I should be thinking. Show me what’s happening and ethically contextualize it. Give me the tools to make a decision. Don’t put me in a partisan box and make me nod or yell with you, make me smarter. Truly report, do your core business, and let me decide. If they can do that then I just might have to start ponying up every month.