It is heartening to read about Al Jazeera International, the global version of the Arab satellite news channel. It is heartening because, as an Asian whow’s more at home in English living in Asia I am sick of what the rest of the international news organizations have to offer.

CNN covers Asia mostly when terrorism or Americans are involved, otherwise its about israel and the Arabs killing each other. BBC is Eurocentric and Middle-East-centric. Both espouse a rather Western Liberal point of view.

The FEER is dead as a serious paper. It has been dead for some time but it still hasn’t realised that its sould has left its body, so it still walks around thinking it’s God’s intellectual gift to Asia. The Wall Strreet Journal I stopped reading because it gets more irrelevant by the day. (see earlier gripes on this posting: Where have all the good reads gone?). Most of their news selection is very mainstream. The International Herald Tribune is the paper only worth reading these days. Which isn’t saying much.

As an Asian too, I keep wondering what is wrong with us Asians to be so unrepresentative in English media. Are Asians so stupid that most of the correspondents for these international organizations have to hire Westerners to do the job in our own turf?

So its great to hear Al Jezeera saying that it will be a champion of forgotten causes (hey, it’s like some blogs); a news organization willing to risk being controversial; hire Asian reporters to cover Asia and will have Africans talking about Africa.

if Al Jazeera suceeds with this then its the end of many careers for senior reporters in CNN and BBC who double up as “instant experts [who] land there and tell us a story.”

9 thoughts on “Welcome Al Jazeera International

  1. Yes, let’s institute quotas on news reporting positions in Asia so that hiring is based strictly on nationality – or is it skin color? – and ignore “peripherals” like talent, experience and interest in the story. Surely a caucasian can’t adequately report Asia the way an Asian can. Yes, Unspun, let’s hoist the framework of the pro-bumiputra policy in your native Malaysia onto the process of hiring journalists in Asia to ensure…. er, what? “Purity” of the message? Hmmm. the logic gets a bit fuzzy – are you channelling Dr. M this morning? And I like this: “So its great to hear Al Jezeera saying that it will…hire Asian reporters to cover Asia…” Sorry to rain on your parade, Unspun, but the Indonesian AJ correspondent is Dutch. And it will likely rile you further to find out she’s blonde. To AJ’s credit, they did their hiring on those “peripherals” listed above rather than a passport/skin color.Rage away, Unspun….

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  2. Kay: I’m afraid you exaggerate and distort my arguments. My position is that it would be good to see more Asians reporting on Asia, Africans reporting on Africa etc. This, I feel, is a valid argument if you accept the premise that propotrionally there are very few Asians holding top reporting positions in the international news agencies. Extending this argument to imply that it is an argument for racial purity is to engage in dishonest argument and argument by diversion.
    Also, of course you would argue for Caucasions covering Asia. Its a vested interest on your part. You’d be out of a job or find it harder to make a living and enjoying the ample fruits of your labor if the argument that it would be good to have more locals covering their home turf prevails. Credibility at stake here.

    You should also know that having “Asians reporting on Asia and Africans talk about Africa” is a quote of the Al Jazeera spokesperson as quoted in the New York Times and carried in the Trib yesterday.

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  3. good to have AJI as an alternative to dominant western broadcasters – but as these comments have hinted, what ‘alternative’ would that be when most of those hired by AJI are the lower-division and semi-retired anglo-euro hacks fleeing big cutbacks in CNN, BBC, etc? of course, it’s not about skin/race/ethnic quotas in the newsroom – but if that’s really the case, can it be that AJI’s KL newsroom is still mostly made up of transplanted hacks from outside south-east asia? just check and see, and much will be revealed…

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  4. Mat: Can’t agree with you more. Often organizations start with the best of intentions but then fall into the trap of expediency and hiring second rate journalists.

    This was the case of the Asia Times that started off with the intent of hiring Asians to cover Asia but then digressed into hiring the Hong Kong Ronin (see my earlier posting Where have all the good reads gone – https://unspun.wordpress.com/2006/05/29/where-have-all-the-good-reads-gone/ for an explanation of Hong Kong Ronin).

    Agree race has little to do with a journalist’s ability but it is also a fact that there are plenty Anglo-euro hacks of very moderate talents hanging around in Asia, what with the downscaliong of media organizations. The problem is that usually the good old boy network works for them and they end up getting some plum jobs which are beyond their capabilities. The sad thing is that many of them think they are shit hot.

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  5. re Matt:

    tommi sutjipto, formerly of reuters’ jakarta bureau, was hired earlier this year to act as assistant regional news editor in KL – so you can be confident that not all the editorial sway at AJ will be held by anglo-euro hacks.

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