Bombs away, Al Jazeera.
Dave Marash, a recent exile of Al Jazeera English, says his new book “certainly won’t be a ‘kiss and tell,’ ‘cut and whine’” about his former employer.
The ex-”Nightline” correspondent confirms he’s close to a deal for “The World Really is Watching,” (working title), an analysis of the planet-wide expansion of television news. He’s been mulling the topic for a while.
“I feel like I’ve got a book in me and I’ve got to get it out.”
Whether Americans like it or not, Al Jazeera, the controversial Arab-language news network based in Doha, “is a major milestone in the movement toward a media global culture,” says Marash, formerly AJE’s Washington-based U.S. anchor.
Marash’s two-year contract expired in February. He left March 21 in a huff over AJE’s increasing Middle Eastern spin on its U.S. coverage, he says. His wife, Amy Marash, an AJE video journalist, exited a week before him.
“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,” he says. “In the U.S., they found it ‘hard to find’ American talent. It wouldn’t be that hard if they were looking.”
Marash, 65, says his dissatisfaction had been building over the last eight or nine months “as it became clear to me that, for some reason, the U.S. was not a journalistic priority.
“That is not what I had been led to believe, nor was the Washington bureau’s independence to set its own agenda what it was cracked up to be in the prospectus.”
Also, the “slow-tempo, deep-digging, sophisticated kind of TV news” he had been promised never materialized, Marash says. Still, he “was encouraged to believe these things and to go out and sell the concept to the American people.”
It was a major coup for AJE when it signed Marash, a well-known network commodity and Jewish, to boot. Many warned him that he was being used as a propaganda tool. Not so, he says.
“Other than the fact that my Jewishness may have reflected positively on them, I have no evidence of that. I don’t think anti-Semitism is a charge that AJE should plead guilty to.”
The beef, he says, “was more with my American accent and my American point of view.” AJE has morphed from an “authentically cosmopolitan” network to “an authentically Middle Eastern” one, like, say, Al Jazeera.
And if that’s not enough, Marash had been virtually invisible in the U.S. since AJE’s November 2006 launch. Not a single major cable or satellite company in this country carries the network, a situation he labels “tragic.”
Despite everything, he has no regrets.
“I feel these were two very interesting, challenging and, in some ways, rewarding years. I learned a lot about a subject which may well be my subject for the next 20 years.”