Despite low rating to start—fewer than 25,000 total viewers at any given time, according to the New York Times— O’Brian sees preliminary success.
“We are executing on the mission that we set out when we put this thing together,” she said. “And that is to give a voice to the voiceless parts of the country and stories, report the under-reported stories that our competition is not doing, and to really go deep into some of the more interesting and unknown parts of this country, and frankly of the world. And we’re doing that literally every day.”
And regarding those competitors, Al Jazeera America is a pundit-free zone.
“We’re not putting pundits on, we’re putting experts when needed,” she said. “We don’t want to hear people just discussing, at whatever decibel level, their opinions on what’s is going on, we want to hear experts [when we have someone other than our reporter reporting a story] going deeply into the reasons something is the way it is.”
The network is also realistic about its challenges, which include being thinly distributed to cable subscribers and overcoming pre-conceived notions about the Al Jazeera brand in the U.S.
“We’re a start-up,” O’Brian says. “Some things that have been challenges, but we are working through very nicely, like getting Time Warner, getting more distribution, and we’re just continuing that process. There’s no question that we have to get our brand out there and we have to get people to tune in.”
Stay tuned next week for our full interview with Al Jazeera America president Kate O’Brian.