Monday, October 24, 2011

No News is Bad News for AlJazeera English

AlJazeera English is my primary source of TV news. Sometimes I can even watch it online, depending on the availability of bandwidth. This morning I noticed that something was going wrong: there was no news coming out of their Doha studio. Was AJE under attack? Was the staff on strike or being censored? All kinds of scenarios went through my mind.
After all, the station is owned by the state of Qatar, and they recently changed senior management, so anything was possible. What strikes me as most odd is that they, as a news outlet, did not see fit to tell their audience what was going on. This is bad news, especially for a company that has numerous twitter accounts and Facebook pages. It's bad for credibility.
On the one hand the fact that their primary studio isn't working may not count as "news", but there wasn't even an explanation on their web site, and tweets to their twitter news account went unanswered. A tweet to their @AJStream account, supposedly their flagship social media program, wasn't addressed directly. Weird.
I eventually got a reply from Alan Fisher, one of their best journalists: "significant tech issues I believe". Why couldn't the station itself say that? Why is it afraid of admitting it is having a technical hitch? It's not like you aren't going to notice if you switch on the TV looking for a 30 minute news program and you get a documentary instead. Instead of getting my "morning news fix" at 9am (News Live Doha), I eventually got it at 3pm (Newshour from London) instead. That's when I got the clue that the Doha centre was having difficulties.
Note to AJE: Just put a note on your program schedule when you cancel programs. Viewers will appreciate your honesty and trust you more. Hiding stuff doesn't build trust or credibility.

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