The news that Al Jazeera America was hiring former NBC News anchor and correspondent John Seigenthaler took many in the business by surprise. Seigenthaler has been out of the public eye since leaving NBC in 2007, working as media consultant.
“I really didn’t have any intention of going back into journalism,” Seigenthaler tells TVNewser. “I was very happy with the consulting business that I had worked out with my family members.
Al Jazeera came to me and explained to me what they were doing, explained to me they were starting this new national news channel in the United States, and that they were opening 12 bureaus in the U.S., and they told me about their 70 bureaus worldwide, and their commitment to unbiased, serious reporting of the news and that they weren’t interested in the ratings,” he added. “As a journalist for 27 years, that is a dream come true.”
Jumping in he is. Later this month Seigenthaler will make his AJAM debut as the primetime news anchor, a big job for the nascent channel. Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done. When asked what his news program will look like, Seigenthaler laughs.
“I have been here for four days,” he says. “You know better than anyone, over the last five or six years, what we have seen is cutbacks, news organizations have cut back reporters and producers and editors, we have also seen a turn toward tabloid journalism. I think that Al Jazeera will be something very different than what you see on your traditional cable news channels or the networks in this country.”
Seigenthaler joins a “who’s who” list of journalists at AJAM, including former CNNers Ali Velshi and Soledad O’Brien, as well as veterans Joie Chen and Sheila MacVicar.
“These are people with enormous experience,” Seigenthaler says. “Unfortunately in the current world of cable news and network news, they don’t necessarily appreciate experience. Well, Al Jazeera does, and they have gone out to find those experienced people.”
AJAM debuts August 20, and despite the hyperbolic comparisons to CNN, Seigenthaler says it will be a marathon, not a sprint.
“I think the viewers will make up their mind for what they want to watch,” he says. “I do think that what you will see on Al Jazeera will be different then what you see on CNN.”