From the moment Al Jazeera America pulled the rug out from under Current TV and started airing, it's been trying to convince Americans that it's American. And, as a new study from the Pew Research Center shows, they've succeeded in one sense — just 16 percent of the network's Syria stories between August 26 and 31 had datelines from the Middle East, compared to 20 percent of CNN's stories and 25 percent of BBC America's. Keep in mind that AJAM has access to more than 60 international network bureaus by Pew's count, but what good are they if they're not in America?
The recent developments in Syria, particularly the American debate on intervention, was the first big story to break since AJAM launched on August 20. And the network's reporting shows that they're committed to targeting a U.S. domestic market, instead of presenting "an alternative, more global, view of events," according to the report.
In general AJAM's coverage matched up with the other major U.S. networks, with one exception: six percent of AJAM's Syria coverage focused on the humanitarian situation, more than any other network. That's including a 12-minute segment on Consider This. Earlier this month Dr. Sanjay Gupta complained to The Huffington Post about the media's less than stellar record reporting on Syrian refugees. Gupta said:
We don’t hear enough about who the people are who are really being affected. We hear the numbers — 100,000 dead, 1,400 people were gassed — and we hear those as big headlines, but when you meet some of these people, I think that really brings it home.
MSNBC came in second with three percent, which it managed to squeeze in with all the should we/shouldn't we bomb Syria debating. Along with Fox, more than 60 percent of its Syria coverage touched on the U.S. involvement debate. Fox devoted 0 percent of its Syria coverage to the humanitarian crisis during the period covered by the study, according to Pew.
It's also worth noting that the majority of stories from American news networks covered pro-U.S. involvement stances. As seen in the chart below, only BBC America gave approximately equal airtime to pro and anti-involvement arguments with 42 percent of their stories covering the "for" argument and 40 percent of their stories covering the "against" debate.
What's disappointing about the Pew results is that Al Jazeera America, the great hope of the media world, the non-partisan anomaly in this crazy, mixed up liberal-conservative media world. The last thing we need is another network putting on the same old song and dance as the other ones, especially to a much smaller audience. But despite our disappointment, AJAM seems pretty happy with the news — they even tweeted about it:
Yep, AJAM, you're American and officially on par with CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. Congratulations.