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Posts Tagged ‘Kate O’Brian’

Layoffs at Al Jazeera America

Al-Jazeera-America304As it nears eight months on-air, Al Jazeera America is laying off a few dozen staff employees, as well as freelance employees, with the majority of cuts coming from the sports and business units, TVNewser has learned.

In an email to staff we obtained, network President Kate O’Brian said the network has reached a “steady-state level of operations, and we are bringing our staffing levels into alignment with our long-range plan as per our original business case.”

“As a result, certain parts of our organization will expand or contract and staff levels and resources will be recalibrated.”

The network has struggled in the ratings to date, and O’Brian told us last year that “our ratings will come as people are watching.”

O’Brian’s full email to staff after the jump.

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Al Jazeera America President’s #FreeAJStaff Plea

As we’ve been reporting, the calls to free the three imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists are getting louder, and with news this morning that their detainment could last as long as two years,  Al Jazeera America president Kate O’Brian took to Twitter to show her  support.

In an end of 2013 message to staff, O’Brian highlighted keeping the journalists in mind.

And, as we reflect at year’s end, let us all keep our colleagues Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and Mohamed Fawzy in our thoughts. Their incarceration highlights the importance, and the inherent dangers, of the fearless journalism we espouse.

Kate O’Brian’s Year-End Message to Al Jazeera America

Al-Jazeera-America304It might have been on for only four months, but Al Jazeera America certainly had a busy 2013.  Network president Kate O’Brian, who told TVNewser her aim is to make AJAM the number one news division in America, wrote a year-end note thanking her employees for their hard work while also requesting them to keep their detained colleagues in their thoughts.

“To all of you who have worked on the channel for much longer than those four months, and for all who started closer to or even since August 20th, thank you. Your hard work and dedication to excellence has created a foundation for success that will be the envy of the industry. As I watch the year-end wrap up stories I realize that in our short four months we have covered every important breaking story, from our first weeks focusing on the humanitarian crisis in Syria all the way to our expansive, respectful coverage of the death of Mandela.”

The full note is after the jump. Read more

News Pro Names ’12 to Watch in TV News’

12 to watch in TV NewsTV Week’s News Pro magazine is out with its forward-looking “12 to Watch in TV News” list. Unsurprisingly, HLN president Albie Hecht is on the list, as he’s expected to make major changes to the network early on in the new year.

Other network executives featured are NBC News President Deborah Turness—who is rumored to be eyeing major shakeups, including cutting on-air talent and possibly even making changes to “Meet the Press”—and Al Jazeera America President Kate O’Brian, who told TVNewser AJAM aims to become the top news division in America. Whether she can lift the new network from its ratings woes in an interesting storyline to watch in 2014.

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly made the list after she was moved to the 9pmET primetime slot earlier this year. Kelly has generated both strong ratings and holiday controversy on FNC. Read more

Al Jazeera America At Three Months: Pundit Free, ‘Experts When Needed’

AjamNewsroomAl Jazeera America turns the ripe old age of three months next week. So yesterday, TVNewser visited the channel’s midtown Manhattan studio and got a status update from network president Kate O’Brian.

Despite low rating to start—fewer than 25,000 total viewers at any given time, according to the New York Times— O’Brian sees preliminary success.

“We are executing on the mission that we set out when we put this thing together,” she said. “And that is to give a voice to the voiceless parts of the country and stories, report the under-reported stories that our competition is not doing, and to really go deep into some of the more interesting and unknown parts of this country, and frankly of the world. And we’re doing that literally every day.”

And regarding those competitors, Al Jazeera America is a pundit-free zone.

“We’re not putting pundits on, we’re putting experts when needed,” she said. “We don’t want to hear people just discussing, at whatever decibel level, their opinions on what’s is going on, we want to hear experts [when we have someone other than our reporter reporting a story] going deeply into the reasons something is the way it is.”

The network is also realistic about its challenges, which include being thinly distributed to cable subscribers and overcoming pre-conceived notions about the Al Jazeera brand in the U.S.

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Ray Suarez Joins Al Jazeera America

RSuarezFormer PBS correspondent Ray Suarez is set to join Al Jazeera America. Beginning November 11, he will be the host of “Inside Story.”

“Ray has repeatedly proven that he can deliver compelling coverage of the most challenging news stories and events with objectivity and depth, punctuated by Ray’s own brand of thoughtful analysis,” Al Jazeera America president Kate O’Brian said in a statement.

Suarez resigned last month after more than 10 years as the senior correspondent for “NewsHour.” After he signed off, he told Fox News Latino, “I felt like I didn’t have much of a future with the broadcast. (They) didn’t have much of a plan for me.”

“This is an exciting time to be joining Al Jazeera America and a great opportunity for me personally,” Suarez said. “This is exactly what I wanted to do: host a program that provides viewers with a close look at the day’s news and the issues they care about the most without the partisan rancor that you often see and hear elsewhere on television.”

More from Al Jazeera after the jump. Read more

Bracing For ‘Impact,’ Al Jazeera America Prepares To Launch

AJAM interim CEO Ehab Al Shihabi

Al Jazeera America has a long, tough road ahead.

Ehab Al Shihabi, the interim CEO for the channel, acknowledges as much. Al Shihabi said that according to their market research, 75% of people surveyed that had never seen any Al Jazeera programming had a negative perception of the brand.

There was a silver lining however: among people who saw Al Jazeera programming, 90% had a positive perception of it. “There was a perception, but it wasn’t a reality,” Al Shihabi said.

The channel is embarking on a wide-ranging branding effort, encompassing both an advertising campaign and in-person meetings with politicians, interest groups and community leaders. The push will be in cities where AJAM has carriage, as well as in places it doesn’t.

“We have engaged in this opportunity by taking on a lot of dialogue, so that people understand our mission and journalistic identity,” Al Shihabi said. ”With the heavy public affairs, with the heavy communications, with the heavy dialogue building, I think we can see most of the media coverage and most of the interactions, we can now move it on the positive side.”

Feedback will come quickly, as AJAM is planning to be rated by Nielsen at launch, even though it lost a few million households after acquiring Current TV and taking over its spot on the lineup. There is still a chance it finds space on other cable and satellite operators before launch.

A (Temporary) Home

Al Jazeera America’s New York headquarters sits inside a nondescript entrance on West 34th St. and 8th Avenue, inside the building that houses The New Yorker hotel (while the building does house the hotel, AJAM utilizes the Manhattan Center for services and utilities). There are TV screens on the sidewalk, though they have not been turned on yet, and a gold Al Jazeera America logo is emblazoned into the stone. The first thing you see when you walk in is a blindingly white lobby, while off to the right a security checkpoint looks like it would fit right in at a small airport.

Up a flight of stairs, the newsroom itself is vast, covering two floors (see photos in the slideshow below), with 150 or so desks flanked by 40 foot marble columns, while the walls are covered with flatscreen monitors and clocks. Natural light flows in through full-height frosted windows, a stark contrast to the cold, dark newsrooms at some other channels.

“It used to be a bank depository, and as I understand it was in quite decrepit shape,” Paul Eedle, Al Jazeera’s director of programming said on a tour this morning.

While it is now far from decrepit, the space is only slated to be temporary. Eedle says a search is underway to find a permanent home for all of AJAM’s New York staff. At the moment the network also uses Current TV’s old studio space on 33rd street, where Ali Velshi‘s program will originate. Eedle hopes to move to a permanent space in two years.

An Undercovered Mission

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Al Jazeera America’s Vision: ‘Less opinion, less yelling and fewer celebrity sightings’

On a conference call with reporters this afternoon, Al Jazeera America president Kate O’Brian and interim CEO Ehab Al Shihabi talked about the launch plans for the channel, which debuts next Tuesday at 3 PM ET. We will have more on the launch tomorrow, but we did want to highlight what Al Shihabi says is the “core mission” of AJAM.

“There will be less opinion, less yelling and fewer celebrity sightings,” Al Shihabi said. “Al Jazeera America also covers stories that won’t be covered elsewhere, and this our vision and mission. We know that there is a desire for the kind of journalism on Al Jazeera America.”

AJAM started engaging in research last September to determine if there was a market for an American Al Jazeera channel.

“We were very interested in understanding the market, and how this market matched with the demand for our core identity,” Al Shihabi said. [The research indicated that there are] 55 million households that are considered under-served, they need information, they don’t need infotainment.”

We will have more on the launch tomorrow, including a tour of Al Jazeera’s New York newsroom and studios.

ABC News Veteran Kate O’Brian Named President of Al Jazeera America

Al Jazeera America has filled one of the top two roles at the channel, as it adds ABC News veteran Kate O’Brian as its president. In her new role O’Brian will be responsible for leading AJAM’s newsgathering and programming. Even without a president, the channel has been staffing up and slating programs, so O’Brian will be joining a channel in progress.

AJAM is also on the market for a CEO, who will lead the channel’s business affairs. For the moment, the channel’s interim leader Ehab El-Shihabi will serve as CEO of AJAM. O’Brian will report to Al-Shihabi, and will eventually report to whomever gets the role full-time.

O’Brian’s hire was first reported by Brian Stelter in the NY Times.

AJAM also named CNN veteran David Doss senior VP for news programming, CBS News veteran Marcy McGinnis senior VP of newsgathering, and MSNBC veteran Shannon High-Bassalik as senior VP of documentaries and programs.

“While we will miss Kate’s insights, judgment and humor, we know that she is stepping into an important role and we wish her very best with this new challenge,” ABC News Ben Sherwood wrote in an email to ABC News staff today.

As TVNewser reported earlier this month, the channel will launch on August 20.

Sherwood’s note, and AJAM’s announcement, below.
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News Chiefs Talk Egypt Coverage

Broadcasting & Cable spoke to a number of network and cable news executives, to get their thoughts on how they have been covering the crisis in Egypt.

Each had their own perspective on the coverage, and how they will handle it going forward.

CNN’s Tony Maddox said that it is up to CNN’s journalists is they want to stay in Egypt to cover the story.

We’ve made it abundantly clear to our folks that if they want out, we’ll do all we can to help get them out as well. By and large, you’d be surprised at how many of these horrible looking stories people want to be in them, they get a sense of mission, a sense of purpose, they want to be in the thick of it. Makes you proud to work with people like that. But also some of our very bravest people are the ones that say, you know what, I’ve done all I can with this story, now I need a break from it and move on. Whenever anyone’s like that, we’re always very supportive and very quick to be able to facilitate it.

CBS News & Sports chief Sean McManus said that the coverage showed that there is still a commitment to international newsgathering:

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