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.
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