It's Al Jazeera calling
Ana Marie Cox is the founding editor of the political blog Wonkette and is the
"It's Al Jazeera calling."
I didn't even return the voice-mail message. The request to come on to talk about the 2008 election came a little over a year after the launch of Al Jazeera English -- and that's who was calling (my Arabic is somewhere below "Team America" gibberish). I'm pretty sure they didn't expect me indict George W. Bush for war crimes or burn a flag. But despite being more than a year old, the upstart offspring of the more infamous and provocative Arabic-language Al Jazeera suffered from the perception that it handed out burqas at the door and John Walker Lindh tracts on the way out. AJE, as it's come to be called, was obviously biased, the suspicion went; a reporter appearing on it as a commentator would be tainted somehow. And, for what it's worth, the Bush administration certainly did portray terrorism as something you inadvertently catch -- a virus transmitted via proximity to Korans or a close reading of the First Amendment.
Today, in part due to its round-the-clock coverage of the unrest in
Sitting down to compare the coverage of AJE with that of the American news networks, I knew the outsider would have a natural advantage at appearing more dignified -- most of its anchors speak in a British accent, after all. But a snap side-by-side look at just the organizations' websites -- eliminating the posh-accent variable and AJE's suspicious lack of fancy touch-screen maps -- devastated our domestic contestants' claims to being either "The Place for Politics" (MSNBC) or, as
I'll just tell you now: AJE's website is thoroughly sober and dignified. It may be biased as well, but it's not embarrassing. Down at the bottom, where other websites showcase clips -- not making this up -- on "How to avoid adopting an awful cat" (
Not that I think AJE is trying to make American television look bad. There's nothing too difficult in carrying out that mission statement, after all: Just avoid covering missing blondes and Twittering porn stars, and refrain from exhaustive coverage of the weather. AJE has more important things to attend to; its wall-to-wall coverage of
I've done a lot of guest appearances on the cable networks I criticize here, so I clearly don't mind stating the obvious. Nor do I especially mind the appearance of hypocrisy, for that matter: If Al Jazeera English calls today, I will put on my best serious-person attire and show up at its door. And I don't think I'm alone in my eagerness to associate with the reporters who are doing so much to remind American viewers of what real political reporting looks like. A
Tribune Media Services