Al Jazeera America Failed At Its First Priority: Influence

Getty Images
Getty Images

By the time Al Jazeera America (AJA) shuts down later this year, 700 people will have lost their jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars will have been wasted on one of history’s great boondoggles. The Qatar-backed network’s primary failure was not ratings, even though those ratings were oftentimes so low Nielsen didn’t bother measuring them. As we learn in this report about AJA’s final days, the network’s biggest failure was also its primary goal —  influence:

They sought respect and influence by buying their way onto cable systems at a time when the market was saturated and the audience was moving online. …

For a while, his favorite word was “influence,” according to several people who worked closely with him. Some employees were required to check a box each time they filed a story indicating whether or not it had “influence.”

Al Shihabi’s former life as a management consultant was evident in his memos, checklists and PowerPoint presentations. His intent was to gauge AJAM’s impact, which he could then highlight to the leadership in Doha. “He was always selling Doha a new story,” one of his deputies said. If it wasn’t “influence,” it was awards or access to newsmakers.

Other than completely blowing a December hit-job against legendary NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, never once did AJA make a ripple in the news cycle.


Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC