Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Report: Al Jazeera America Angering Staffers

A host of Al Jazeera America staffers are upset that the cable news outfit — which made a big push into American living rooms with a seemingly unlimited budget, high-profile journalism hires and a mandate to play the news straight — is straying from its original mission, sources told The NY Post.

Insiders said AJA, funded by the government of Qatar, is laying off staffers and watering down its US editorial voice while programming from sibling Al Jazeera English occupies more air time.

In addition, insiders said CEO Ehab Al Shihabi has become a more forceful presence at the network, reshuffling senior news positions and laying off seven staffers last week. The recent moves on top of an earlier round of belt-tightening have led to rising newsroom tensions.

“People are considering legal counsel,” said one insider, adding that “good people came here and were lied to.”

AJA’s senior vice president for news gathering, Marcy McGinnis, a former top CBS News executive who played a key role in launching the network in August 2013, was replaced by Amir Ahmed last month. Amed was previously a vice president of news at the channel.

AJA has run through an estimated $2 billion trying to build a US presence, according to insiders.
Parent Al Jazeera paid $500 million to take over Current TV, whose backers included former Vice President Al Gore, and gain a distribution foothold for AJA.

AJA hired a slew of reporters from established US rivals — former CNNers Soledad O’Brien and Ali Velshi, former NBC anchor John Seigenthaler and PBS’s Ray Suarez — and opened up more than a dozen bureaus across the country.

Despite deep pockets and big names, the network has struggled to attract eyeballs and ad dollars.

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