When Al Jazeera
, the satellite Arab news channel based in Qatar
, hired Dave Marash to be Al Jazeera English's high-profile American anchor two years ago, the channel must've known what it was getting: a tough, investigative, hard-news journalist who knows his American audience. Marash spent years as an investigative reporter and anchor in New York City television stations, then years as a correspondent for ABC's Nightline (so lusterless since Marash and Ted Koppel left it). He went to Al Jazeera thinking he was joining a serious news organization that would live up to its promise to leave its various bureaus, including Marsh's in Washington, do their work without too much interference from Doha.
It didn't work out as planned. Marash joins some 15 Al Jazeera staffers, Marash's video-journalist wife included, who've quit the station in the past two months, citing dissatisfaction with working conditions, pay, the station's increasingly shrill outlook in some regards (its anti-Americanism has amplified lately), and in Marash's case, its diminishing attention to the American market.
"The oddity is, everywhere else, particularly in the Southern hemisphere, their reporting is excellent, intelligent, authentic and driven by people from the place they're covering," Marash says. "In the U.S., they found it 'hard to find' American talent. It wouldn't be that hard if they were looking."
Al Jazeera claims to reach 100 million English-language viewers. But it's still next to impossible to watch the English service in the United States, where the major satellite providers (Dish and DirecTV) and all major cable providers, caving in to idiotic and un-American pressures, refuse to carry the network. A larger American audience might have either tempered Al Jazeera's anti-American tone or encouraged the channel's management to follow Marash's advice and pay more attention to its American audience's news needs. Shutting it out of the American market denied American audiences to see for themselves what the channel is really about (as Marash says, it can deliver high quality journalism when it chooses to) while giving the station little incentive against radicalizing its tone.