The Now/ledge

A Guide to the 'Now' Revolution in News / by Alan Soon

Al Jazeera’s moment in the battle for Egypt and news

Every network has its time. For CNN, it was the first Gulf War. Now, it’s Al Jazeera’s big moment in the spotlight as the Egyptian crisis continues to unfold. (You can watch its coverage live here.)

The network’s coverage is top notch, bar none.

In a time of massive budget cuts, U.S. networks like CNN haven’t been able to keep their foreign bureaus running. The crisis in Egypt exposes a chronic problem among U.S. networks — their inability to quickly move away from “cheap” news in times of global crisis. Spend five minutes on CNN and FOX and you’ll see what I mean. Anchors are constantly using adjectives like “extraordinary” to describe the images, while the same video is replayed repeatedly. And that’s exactly the advantage that Al Jazeera is exploiting. For them, it’s not about the anchors or reporters — it’s about the live images on the ground.

The network is helping to create a “common struggle” across the Arab world, according to Marc Lynch, a professor of Middle East Studies at George Washington University. “They did not cause these events, but it’s almost impossible to imagine all this happening without Al Jazeera,” he told the New York Times.

But it isn’t just about the minute-to-minute coverage. Al Jazeera has unprecedented distribution thanks to the Internet. If you haven’t already downloaded the iPhone/iPad app, do it. Content may be king, but distribution is definitely queen in a crisis.

There’s clearly demand from North America, where the network is suffocated by cable companies who don’t want to be associated with the Arab channel. Mohamed Nanabhay, who runs the online operations for Al Jazeera English, noted on his Twitter feed that 55 percent of web traffic to the site is from the U.S. and Canada.

John R. Stanton probably said it best on Twitter: “So is everyone going to FINALLY get off of Al-Jazeera’s back and recognize them as not only legit but pretty goddamn good?”

Well said. Now back to watching the coverage live on AJE.

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