Al Jazeera America’s Ehab Al Shihabi: ‘Hunger for Quality Journalism’ Inspires

[ 0 ] August 22, 2013 |

Al Jazeera America launches this week amidst high expectations; interim CEO Ehab Al Shihabi talks to genConnect about the network’s commitment to quality journalism, and how it’s making news an interactive experience for consumers

U.S. media is buzzing about the rapid creation of the soon-to-be-launched Al Jazeera America, which has signed former CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien as special correspondent and recruited its anchor team from HLN and local news outlets. The executives behind the American cohort of Al Jazeera, which some U.S. officials claimed has an anti-American bias, are focusing on investigative journalism and a vision of multi-media reporting to woo an American audience. New York Magazine describes the coming together of the network in a matter of months like “witnessing the birth of a unicorn.

In an interview with genConnect at Aspen Ideas FestivalEhab Al Shihabi, interim CEO of Al Jazeera America, called the station a “news channel for the 21st Century.” Watch as Al Shihabi talks about the explosive growth of Al Jazeera in America, its belief in quality journalism, how it’s recruiting big-name American journalists, and how Al Jazeera is making news an interactive experience for consumers:

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The New Al Jazeera America Network

The hiring of such big names like O’Brien, Sheila MacVicar (former international correspondent for CBS News) and Richelle Carey (HLN) is a tribute to Al Jazeera’s steadfast belief in quality journalism, Al Shihabi says. The American audience is looking for “fact-based, investigative journalism,” and journalists want to be a part of that, he says, adding that when Al Jazeera America announced it was seeking applicants for 800 positions, the new network received 21,000 applications.

You can see the hunger for quality journalism,” Al Shihabi says. “This is what is inspiring us.”

What distinguishes Al Jazeera America from other news networks is its multi-platform edge, Al Shihabi says. In addition to news streaming in on your television, computer, tablet, or smartphone, either with videos or as a digital magazine, as an audience member you can also interact and comment. Interacting with the audience is a “key component” in making Al Jazeera America a “news channel for the 21st Century,” he adds.

Ehab Al Shihabi

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But can Al Jazeera America really be “American” enough to make a new name for itself here? Al Shihabi says he is not concerned with cultural sensitivity issues.

“[We are an] American channel, by American staff, for the American audience, so I don’t think we are suffering from any cultural sensitivity,” Al Shihabi. “We are, in a matter of fact, adhering to the culture of Al Jazeera America.”

According to Al Shihabi, Al Jazeera America is about much more than its name. Its executives seek to create a new niche in the American news market, one that aims for fact over opinion-based journalism, and includes the audience in its mission. America, believes Al Shihabi, is hungry for it.

“Our vision here, really, is to inform, to reach an area that nobody reaches, to be the voice of the voiceless, to educate and inform.”

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Category: Aspen Ideas Festival 2013

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About Ehab Al Shihabi: Ehab Al Shihabi is executive director for international operations for Al Jazeera and the senior executive in charge of developing Al Jazeera America, the new American news channel slated to launch this year. Al Jazeera [...]
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