Back in the mid-80’s my father finally was able to get cable television. Very quickly he became a fan of C-SPAN, and one program in particular: The morning news from Moscow. Back then, C-SPAN used to run time-delayed the morning news show from Russian television. Since my father was as anti-communist as you could get, often expounding at great length about the domino theory and the evils of the Soviet Union, this was a bit of a shock. Of course, I had to tease him about it, and he responded. “No, no, you don’t understand! It’s really good! Do you know how much is going on in this world that we don’t know about?”
I’ve been thinking back on that more recently as I watch the latest media flareup over Al Jazeera’s acquisition of Current TV. Reading through the various pontifications, outright diatribes, and hysterical denunciations, you’d think that our cable networks were soon to be infested with radical Islamic propaganda. Which is rather ridiculous to anyone who has actually bothered to check it out.
I have a bookmark folder labeled “News.” Its a set of bookmarks for various news sites. The “standard ones” most people think of are there. CNN, MSNBC, Fox (yes, Fox), some local newspaper sites, and so on. Also there are the BBC and … Al Jazeera. Why? Quite simply, both are excellent at covering the “what’s going on” that we don’t know about. The BBC does a good overall job, but if you want to know what’s happening in the Middle East, Africa, or Southwestern Asia? Al Jazeera. The quality and in-depth reporting they do is remarkable, and most of it doesn’t even merit a sentence on any news site here in this country.
For example, did you know that Sri Lanka’s chief justice has been impeached? That Lake Chad is drying up? I found out on Al Jazeera. It’s a terrific view into the rest of the world, things that are happening that we often ignore – sometimes to our detriment. Yes, the clearly labeled “Opinion” part has articles that sometime irritate me, but I don’t have to read them. That’s why I find all the hysteria about Al Jazeera appearing on our cable networks to be ridiculous. There’s a lot going on in this world that we don’t know about, and we should.