Dave Marash: Why I quite Al Jazeera English

Al Jazeera English’s respected Jewish American anchor tells the Columbia Journalism Review why he quit the network:

It’s been a gradual process, and defining it all, is that with corporate encouragement, over the first two years of the channel’s existence, I have made myself effectively the American face of the channel and vouched for its credibility and value. And over the last seventeen months there have been several changes at the channel which put things on the air that, frankly, I could not vouch for. If I had just been another employee I might have just dropped my head and let it all wash over, because it is the nature of our business that every place you workoccasionally does things that embarrass you. But I felt an extra measure of responsibility.

Now, as anchor, I was in position to vouch for at least half of the material that went on air because I got to speak it and I could edit it on the fly if I felt that there were any inaccuracies or imbalances in it. But when the proposal was made that I leave the anchor chair [he was informed of this in December and his last day as anchor was March 13] and become a sort of heavy correspondent, I knew that I would never be able to have the kind of editorial input or control that would put me in a position to honestly vouch for anything. Furthermore, when I was taken off that meant that there were zero American accents in any of the presenter roles at Al Jazeera. And it occurred to me that this was just one part of a series of decisions that diminished editorial input from the United States. It got to the point where I feel that in a globe where Al Jazeera sets a very, very high reporting standard, and a very, very high standard for both numerical and qualitative and authentic staffing, that the United States was becoming a serious exception to their role, and a place where the journalism did not measure up to the standards that were set almost everywhere else by Al Jazeera English’s very fine reporting.

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