AJAM 2016 Elections Coverage Strategy: No Horserace, No Soundbites

Good luck.

In an interview with IBT’s Christopher Zara, Al Jazeera America president Kate O’Brian lays out, in broad strokes, AJAM’s plans for coverage of the elections, which in part involves refraining from jumping into the rabbit hole of who’s-on-top, who-said-what-crazy-thing-today coverage. “We are really not doing the horse race,” she tells Zara. “Plenty of people are already doing the horse race.”

Ditto soundbites. AJAM is “not repeating the wild sound bite again and again.”

“We strive in everything we do to go to the heart of the matter by finding the human story,” O’Brian says of the strategy. “We’re covering the election through first-person vignettes that will illustrate the issue that people are facing in the U.S., by partnering with the Center for Public Integrity to go deeply into investigations of money and political support from a variety of places.”

It’s a respectable strategy, but will respectability be a good sell? O’Brian addresses concerns about how effectively AJAM can grow without dangling all those salacious indulgences before its audience by not worrying too much about its own numbers:

I hope that we’ll get the audience that we’re planning on, an audience that really cares about approaching the issues in the way that we’re doing it. I don’t want to be egocentric. I don’t want to have hubris and say what we’re doing will garner us millions and millions of viewers. What we’re doing is staying true to who we are, and in doing that, providing our audience with a level of depth and quality — and breadth, actually — that they’re not getting in other places. And if that turns into lots of extra ratings points, that’s great.

Read the full interview here.