The Most Trusted Name in News?

Al Jazeera English comes to North America with a reputation—for excellent journalism

| January-February 2010

  • Al Jazeera

    image by Carlos Cazalis / Corbis

  • Al Jazeera

To find out where to watch Al Jazeera English, visit .

Over the past decade, the tiny desert emirate of Qatar—a bump on the rib cage of Saudi Arabia, directly across the Persian Gulf from Iran—has asserted itself on the world stage in large measure by pouring money into, of all things, journalism. Since 1996 it has been funding Al Jazeera (Arabic for “the island”), the television network that revolutionized the Arab media and is poised to do the same for the English-speaking world with Al Jazeera English, the international news channel the network launched in November 2006.

In less than four years, Al Jazeera English (AJE) has emerged as the dominant news channel covering the developing world. As the first worldwide news station to be based in the “global South,” it has an audacious mandate: to reverse the information flow that has traditionally moved from the wealthy countries of the North to the poorer countries south of the equator, and to be the “voice of the voiceless,” delivering in-depth journalism from underreported regions around the world.

With nearly 70 bureaus run by staff drawn from some 50 nations, AJE on a typical news day might report on a nomadic camel-herding tribe whose members are key rebel leaders in Darfur, a lawsuit against Chiquita alleging financing of paramilitary death squads in Colombia, the effects of the global financial crisis on Pakistani carpet weavers, and the plight of political prisoners in China. AJE broadcasts to 150 million households in more than 100 countries—with the exception, until now, of North America.

That’s where Tony Burman, the managing director of this ambitious operation, comes in. The Canadian journalist, who has the sort of face that can appear to be scowling when in fact he is deep in thought, has a lifelong passion for foreign correspondence. Hired by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in the early ’70s, he eventually served as its European bureau chief, covering South America and Africa before moving into management. As head of television news, he was the kind of leader journalists were grateful to have on their side. Burman, though, became “less and less happy” with CBC’s Americanized direction and resigned in 2007. 

“When Tony left, people thought, ‘There goes the last great journalist in management,’” says Beth Haddon, an old friend and colleague of Burman’s who worked with him at CBC in the ’80s. “Tony really stood for something,” she says. “For quality journalism—that’s old-fashioned, of course—of fairness, balance, verification, public discourse.”

12/26/2013 1:12:54 AM

J Frace
1/3/2010 3:17:05 AM

On a recent visit to Italy, my choice of three English-language news networks on my hosts' TV were CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera. CNN, sadly, ran a distant third, while Al Jazeera surprised me again and again with the breadth, depth and balance of its coverage. It didn't see the "contentious brand", I only saw the most mature and intelligent television news I've ever seen. I can't wait for this channel to enter the US market.

Mary Marks_1
12/29/2009 10:06:49 PM

I spent 2 weeks in Turkey last year where I watched Al Jazeera for several hours every day. Its indepth coverage of of international events was superior to anything I had ever seen on U.S television. Its advent in this country will help remove our blinders. It cannot come soon enough.

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