Launching Al Jazeera America is “frankly less challenging than people might think” network president Kate O’Brian insisted this afternoon. “The American viewer is looking for a particular set of things they just cannot find in the market place…unbiased news of quality and depth,” the well-respected ABC News veteran told reporters on a phone conference call walking up to Tuesday afternoon’s launch. “We really see that we are going to be fulfilling a need that the American viewer has,” she insisted. The network has opened a dozen domestic bureaus, hired hundreds of staffers, and, begun sending nearly daily announcements of program plans and hires of well-known talent, in the exec suites and on-air, including former CNN star Soledad O’Brien, former CBS News regulars Joie Chen and Sheila MacVicar, and former NBC News anchor John Seigenthaler, who will anchor the new network’s evening newscast. O’Brian said they’ve tried hard to staff the network’s 12 domestic bureaus with journalists from the area, as part of an effort to give “voice to the voiceless” by reporting stories not traditionally covered by national media from regions not traditionally spotlighted. “To do that best way is to hire someone who knows these stories. It’s very important for us to have some home grown coverage of different parts of the United States.”
Asked if the network would have covered the protests in Egypt this week, had it launched, O’Brian reiterated the network’s marching orders are not to cover U.S. only but “to cover news that is important to America,” adding, “The Middle East is extremely important to people in the U.S.” Read More »
Al Jazeera America confirmed this morning it had signed a deal with former CNN star Soledad O’Brien to contribute to the network as “special correspondent.” O’Brien’s production company, Starfish Media Group will produce hourlong documentary specials for the cable network. “I look forward to beginning a relationship with Al Jazeera America, which has made a commitment to producing quality programming and pursuing underreported stories,” O’Brien said in the announcement, confirming speculation that started last week. As a correspondent, O’Brien will contribute short-form segments to the primetime current affairs mag America Tonight on the new network, which is funded by the government of Qatar.
O’Brien stepped down from CNN in March when network chief Jeff Zucker scrubbed her program Starting Point; he gave the time slot to Chris Cuomo’s New Day. At the time she left CNN, she formed Starfish Media, which, in addition to the production deal with Al Jazeera America, now also has a production deal with CNN, and development deals at HBO and National Geographic Channel. Read More »
Soledad O’Brien, who left CNN in March, is staying in the Turner family by joining HBO‘s magazine Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel. Additionally, O’Brien and her production company, Starfish Media Group, have entered a first-look deal with HBO for scripted projects and long-form programming concepts. O’Brien also has a deal to continue to produce documentaries for CNN, including two installments of her Black In America series. Real Sports reunites two former Today hosts — Gumbel co-anchored the weekday show, while O’Brien co-hosted the weekend edition before moving to CNN, where she anchored morning programs American Morning and Starting Point.