Welcome to the club
Much of cable TV news long ago descended into a highly partisan scrum in which objective reporting became the principal casualty. Now, the degree of personal partisanship can be determined with the answer to a single question: Which cable news do you watch?
Americans looking simply for information, then, should welcome rather than worry about the arrival of Al-Jazeera America, the U.S. branch of the global, Middle East-based news network that has joined the cable news wars from its U.S. headquarters in New York.
Al Jazeera is financed by the government of Qatar, a pro-Western Arab oil state on the Persian Gulf. That government has established a track record of not interfering in the network's editorial decisions.
Al Jazeera became a dirty word in America during the Bush administration, which accused it of being a propaganda organ for anti-U.S. interests in the Middle East.
But the people who worry most about Al Jazeera are Middle East despots who fully understand the network's power to inform oppressed masses throughout the region. The network has established an intrepid record of doing so throughout the Arab Spring and in Syria and Egypt.
At a time when many cable and network news operations are diminishing their reach to cut costs, al Jazeera is using its deep pockets to go in the other direction.
It paid $500 million to buy the Current cable network to establish an audience, and has hired 400 news professionals in New York. It will staff U.S. bureaus in Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Detroit, Chicago, Denver, Miami, Seattle, New Orleans and Nashville, Tenn., and 70 other bureaus around the world.
To deal with its image issue, it has hired established U.S. talent, including Tony Harris, formerly of CNN; Soledad O'Brien, formerly of NBC and CNN; Sheila McVicar, formerly of CBS; and John Seigenthaler, formerly of NBC.
Comcast, the nation's largest cable system and the leading provider in Northeast Pennsylvania, is among the American cable providers that will carry the network on channels formerly occupied by Current.
Like any other news outlet, Al-Jazeera should be judged by what it does rather than where it originated.