Al Jazeera

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Al Jazeera launches in Seattle … and runs into the ‘branding’ problem | 

Al Jazeera America launched its Seattle bureau yesterday in a small office on Lake Union.

So I wanted to ask its lead correspondent Allen Schauffler, a well-known and widely respected journalist formerly with NBC’s local affiliate KING TV, what it felt like to work for a news organization supported by those who some say foster militant extremism around the world and armed struggles in the Middle East.

Kristin Fraser, Seattle bureau chief for Al Jazeera America, discusses a developing story with lead correspondent Allen Schauffler
Kristin Fraser, Seattle bureau chief for Al Jazeera America, discusses a developing story with lead correspondent Allen Schauffler

I was talking about NBC, of course, which for most of Schauffler’s career was owned by General Electric – one of the world’s largest corporations, a player in the global arms trade that occasionally gets into hot water for things like illegally selling military hardware to Israel or, in the old days, making nuclear bombs (and lots of nuclear waste). GE helped launch Ronald Reagan’s political career, ran the chronically troubled Hanford Nuclear Reservation and also made the now disabled leaking nuclear reactors at Fukushima in Japan.

Schauffler mistakenly thought I meant Al Jazeera. Understandable.

“The name Al Jazeera carries a lot of baggage with some people,” Schauffler said. “There were some quiet moments, raised eyebrows, when I told people I was taking this job. We’re going to have to deal with that as a challenge of branding.”

They are dealing with it already.

One of the first stories for the bureau is a report on the use of drones — aka, unmanned aerial vehicles — by Northwest farmers to monitor the health of their crops. Sounds like a cool story (so stay tuned)! But just as Schauffler and his crew were heading out to film, the pilot of the drone called and said they couldn’t come. Continue reading

Mixed Reactions to the DR Congo Peace Deal | 

Credit: Oxfam
Families on the move to escape the current fighting, eastern DRC; Credit

There is a new peace deal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, the outlook is mixed.

11 countries (DRC, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia) signed onto the deal at the EU headquarters in Ethiopia.

The Central African coalition agreed to provide support, including 2,500 troops, to stabilize a country that has been beset by conflict for decades.

It’s not stable yet, and many are uncertain if this negotiated deal will accomplish much. Continue reading

Bill and Melinda Gates on Al Jazeera | 

No new ground broken, but it may be of interest to see how Al Jazeera portrays the world’s most powerful philanthropists and the questions they ask. The music accompanying the introduction is kind of weird and scary ….

Melinda, responding to a question about how they respond to the critics of their various philanthropic strategies, says: “Criticism at the end of the day actually helps you… It helps you fine-tune what you want to do.”

One view on the Arab Spring: From Syrian jail cell to Muslim feminists | 

I’ve known journalist D Parvaz for a decade and may never quite see the world the way she does.

But it’s worth trying.

Parvaz is a reporter for Al Jazeera and was formerly a colleague of mine for many years at the (dearly departed print version) Seattle Post Intelligencer newspaper — now Seattlepi.com

She returned to Seattle this week to moderate a talk at Seattle Town Hall by Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who used Facebook to help spark the Egyptian revolution.

Tom Paulson

D Parvaz and Wael Ghonim at Seattle Town Hall

It was a great talk and Ghonim’s story is fairly well-known, as described here on NPR, in part to publicize his new book Revolution 2.0.

But a lot of the folks in the packed room would have liked to hear from D (technically, it’s ‘Dorothy’ but she prefers D). Ghonim tried to get Parvaz to talk about that moment last year when she was world famous – jailed by Syrian officials for attempting to report on protests there.

Held for nearly three weeks, first in Syria and then later in Iran after being secretly deported there for more interrogations, many think she’s lucky to be alive.

D refused to talk last night about her own experiences and perspectives, so I will. Continue reading

Dorothy Parvaz — friend and fellow journalist, now deported to Iran | 

Seattle PI

D Parvaz

Maybe you’ve heard about it already, but former Seattle PI reporter and columnist Dorothy Parvaz went missing in Syria weeks ago.

UPDATE: Syrian authorities, who finally admitted arresting her have now said she has been deported to Iran.

Go to the Free Dorothy Facebook page for further details and information on how best to help bring her home.

Journalists take risks to make sure people’s stories are told, to shine a light on wrongdoing based on the belief that public awareness is the first step toward positive change. Today happens to be World Press Freedom Day, this year hosted by the U.S.

D, as she prefers to be known, now works for Al Jazeera English, which contrary to popular opinion has done a lot to support freedom and democracy around the world.

If you think Al Jazeera is the Fox News of the Arab world, think again. It is no friend to Arab dictators and was widely viewed (by many despots) as having done more than any Western media to provide aggressive coverage to the uprising in the Middle East at the beginning (in Tunisia) and, frankly, does an excellent job of covering the news anywhere. Continue reading

If Congress de-funds NPR, let’s create NGR — National Global Radio | 

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Okay, these might not be the best of times to be at NPR — unless you are an adherent of the PT Barnum school of promotion that believes: “Any publicity is good publicity.”

Now, I have my own opinion of everything from the Juan Williams’ sacking to the secret videotaping of an unfortunately outspoken NPR fund-raiser (not a journalist, mind you … an important distinction), to Vivian Schiller’s forced resignation as CEO in the probably vain hope it will reduce the political heat on NPR right now.

But given everything that’s going on, I probably shouldn’t offer my opinion. Continue reading