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Behind the curve': initial reviews on Al Jazeera America

Al Jazeera America launched Tuesday. Here's what some people are saying...

Paul Farhi at the Washington Post: "There was little flash. The lead story — 'team coverage' of the Egypt crisis — consisted solely of talking-head reports from White House correspondent Mike Viqueira and Cairo reporter David Jackson, with Harris hopping in for some cross talk.

"The other stories also were presented without gimmickry. If anything, AJA was behind the curve. The detention of reporter Glenn Greenwald’s partner by anti-terrorism authorities in London aired more than 24 hours after the news broke; a story on Kodak’s retrenchment missed some breaking news about the company winning court approval for its plan to emerge from bankruptcy protection.

"'Inside Story,' a panel-discussion program that followed the inaugural one-hour newscast, featured three academic experts on climate change. They essentially agreed that ocean levels are rising and that major American cities are threatened — thereby producing none of the sparks that usually fly when such topics are discussed on cable TV." ...

Brian Stelter at the New York Times: "[W]hen it started Tuesday afternoon, it seemed to deliver on what it promised -- serious, straightforward news. The first hour had a lengthy promotional video that said, among other things, 'We will connect the world to America, and Americans to the world.' Then at 4 p.m., the news began, led by the former CNN anchor Tony Harris, who updated viewers on the unrest in Egypt and a shooting at a school in Georgia."

Lloyd Grove at The Daily Beast: "[W]hy did a news outlet that bills itself as a 'truly American network'—notwithstanding that it is bankrolled by oil-rich Qatar, which paid Al Gore and his business partners $500 million to buy and remake Current TV—expend so many of its precious introductory minutes, including the lead story of its first on-air news program, on a conflict thousands of miles away [Egypt] that, in the words of its own expert, is 'not vital' to the target audience? ...

"To be sure, AJAM’s launch boasted at least one strong offering, the powerful debut of its half-hour investigative program Faultlines, a look at Walmart’s indirect exploitation of often-underage sweatshop workers in Bangladesh, who risk death by fire and building collapse to earn $30 a month. It was the kind of excellent—and expensive—international long-form reporting for which AJAM’s sister network, Al Jazeera English, has distinguished itself. But one need not succumb to narrow-minded provincialism to wonder how the new channel plans to be different from AJE, which has become a respected and often invaluable source of foreign and especially Middle East coverage—often with a posh Brit accent—since its birth in 2006. In other words, how will AJAM become 'truly American'?"

Roger Yu at USA Today: "The lack of advertising on AJAM was conspicuous. Only about six minutes of ads per hour were shown, including in-house promos. Vonage and Procter & Gamble were early sponsors. ...

"AJAM has maintained that its light load of ads is a deliberate strategy to air more news.The channel is owned by the oil-rich government of Qatar, which is believed to be more interested in prestige than profits from its new channel."

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