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25 October 2008 01:50 pm

Changing ethos at Al Jazeera English

Khalifa Al Haroon
Khalifa Al Haroon
Your friendly neighborhood Qatari
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Al Jazeera English, which lost quite a few hands due to the alleged bullying culture that was prevailing there, now finds itself trying to find space for those who want to come back. Much of the credit is being given to former Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) chief Tony Burman, who recently took over as Al Jazeera English Managing Director, replacing Nigel parson, who has been kicked upstairs. Burman has been quick to leap to the defence of the channel on matters such as the alleged racism in its coverage of the US elections. Burman now has started the 'AJE Renewal Project' in order to articulate more clearly its editorial vision, values and priorities and reflect them in the channel's daily news and overall presentation to the public. Youth are targeted as an audience and Burman feels the website should be the first route into AJE. "The website must be rich with high quality video content and have content and features not available on the TV channel," a memo to AJE staff said. The working groups cover editorial vision, the digital leap in how AJE can make digital, new media and cross-platform as the heart of its mission, Burman discusses the Al Jazeera 'family', which asks for inputs on how AJE can work better with its Arabic-language partner, targeting the young. Staff development and communications on how the AJE staff can communicate better are among other issues which will be looked at. As opposed to other organisations, Burman said Al Jazeera is different from the run-of-the mill lot. "Efforts of (media organisations) are motivated by a desire to achieve financial efficiencies or increase shareholder profits. At Al Jazeera, we are also looking at ways we can work better together, but our motivation is different and more audience-centered. We want to use all the resources at our disposal to maximise the quality, range and impact of our news coverage and programming." One way to go about it would be better cooperation with AJE's Arabic sister channel. As it is, the Arabic channel employees have taken a bit of umbrage on the pay packets and benefits AJE employees are getting. Questions to be considered by AJE English employees are what ideas and resources does it have that could benefit Al Jazeera Arabic and vice versa. There is an apparent divide between the two channels as Burman rhetorically asked if there are any unique and distinctive differences between the two that need to be protected. Personnel-wise, too, the channel is looking at young people as well. Sources have said senior, but grey-haired personnel, have been refused plum postings such as Washington and London among other so-called journalistically glamour cities. The Pen