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Al Jazeera English: Fighting Through Stereotypes

For anyone who can't resist betting on an underdog, Al Jazeera English is a 24-hour news network that might be worth watching. That is, if you can find it.

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"Can't you ask me a positive question?" he winced in the face of Fakhry's grilling.

"I am a journalist," she replied, offering up a demure smile as she went on to ask why the U.S. had scheduled the round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks for November at a time when leaders of both regions were suffering historically low approval ratings at home. From there she wondered, in view of President Bush's decision to flout the United Nations and attack Iraq, whether the American President should be tried as a war criminal. Kouchner dodged the question without once rejecting the possibility.

Recalling her own journalism career start as a researcher for a leading Arab newspaper based in London, she said, "I remember reading about Christiane Amanpour in Time magazine, that she had been working as a secretary when she asked, 'Hey, why don't you send me to the Balkans?''' said Fakhry, whose decision to adopt the same approach landed her an assignment covering the United Nations. "She paved the way for women journalists to go to a conflict zone."

"What makes Al Jazeera the best is we never waste our time with ephemeral non-news of the Paris Hilton and O.J. Simpson sort," claimed Marash. "And most of all because we cover, perhaps even preferentially, 60 percent of the planet that our conventional competitors radically undercover. Places like South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia."

Of course, Al Jazeera can afford to focus on a global view because, so far, it doesn't have any advertisers. Commercial pressures are growing on all areas of the Western media, a fact recently bemoaned by former vice president Al Gore on "The Daily Show" as one reason American newspapers and TV don't cover more global issues.

In Al Jazeera's case, the only vote that counts is that of Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who founded Al Jazeera International in 1996 with a grant of $150 million. A decade later, he started Al Jazeera English. But even the emir is interested in measuring his success. In November, he ordered a Nielsen report to mark the network's one-year anniversary, including an independent analysis of who is watching what.
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