Al-Jazeera America prepares for Tuesday launch
NEW YORK (AP) — In a warren of offices at a former bank building near Madison Square Garden, dozens of journalists are at work on gleaming new electronic equipment, ready to turn their test runs of Al-Jazeera America into the real thing.
The Qatar-based news organization will finally establish a firm foothold on American television Tuesday after a decade of trying. At 3 p.m. EDT, Al Gore's former Current TV will turn out the lights in more than 45 million TV homes, replaced by the new U.S. affiliate of Al-Jazeera.
The network has hired many veterans of U.S. television, including John Seigenthaler, Joie Chen, Antonio Mora and Sheila MacVicar, and is promising a meaty diet of news that it believes will contrast with the opinionated talk that dominates American news networks.
"We're breaking in with something that we think is unique and are confident, with our guts and some research, that the American people are looking for," said Kate O'Brian, the former ABC News executive who is now Al-Jazeera America's president.
The dozens of flat-screen TVs and occupied desks scattered around marble pillars in AJA's New York office indicate this is no cheap startup. And this is temporary; the network is looking for a larger office in New York but wanted to start quickly after buying out Current in January. Bureaus are also being established in 11 other American cities.
Until Al-Jazeera America revealed a prime-time schedule last week, there were few indications of what the network would look like. Scheduled shows include a nightly newscast anchored by Seigenthaler, a newsmagazine hosted by Chen, a news talk show with Mora and a business program starring Ali Velshi.
It's still not clear what will be shown in the mornings and whether much of the broadcast day will be devoted to documentary-style programming or live news.
With its domestic bureaus, AJA will seek out stories beyond the towers of New York and government buildings in Washington, said Ehab Al Shihabi, the network's interim CEO. Besides those two cities, bureaus are located in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Detroit, Chicago, Denver, Miami, Seattle, Nashville, Tenn., and New Orleans.
This undated publicity image released by Al-Jazeera America shows news anchor John Seigenthaler. Seigenthaler will host Al-Jazeera America’s central nightly newscast when the network goes on the air next Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Al-Jazeera America)
"I am here because the promise of doing good work is just exceptional," said David Doss, a veteran of ABC, NBC and CNN who is Al-Jazeera America's senior vice president of news programming.