Al Jazeera America Celebrates 2-Year Anniversary

By Brian Flood 

Al Jazeera America has officially lasted two years.

AJAM debuted on August 20, 2013 and new CEO Al Anstey celebrated with a video message to his staff. The six-minute video thanks staffers and says the network “shines a light on the stories no one else is talking about and gives a voice to the voiceless.”

The AJAM CEO takes a shot as his competitors, saying, “we’re not here to chase ratings by putting entertainment or opinion on air in the guise of news.” Anstey goes on to discuss a “number of changes” that are coming in the near future and says, “we still have a huge amount to do” before a montage of AJAM highlights  begins.

TVNewser has also obtained a memo that AJAM president Kate O’Brian sent to staffers.

Greetings AJAM team,

Two years ago today Al Jazeera America went live on the air and on line. In these 24 months we’ve covered breaking news from all over the world, dug deep into stories of struggle and of joy, investigated wrongdoing and unfairness, and in the process won important awards for our high quality content.  All of us came to AJAM with the same goal – to create a news channel and digital operation that epitomize back-to-basics journalism. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. Startups face great challenges and we have had our share. But the tenacity and drive of the people at AJAM have kept the focus on what is always at our core: quality journalism.

Our editorial vision is at the heart of AJAM. In Year 2 we produced great original reporting across the channel and website by working together to shrink silos and increase editorial integration. The evidence is in how we covered events in Ferguson, in Charleston, in Baltimore, or breaking decisions at the Supreme Court, or a unique look inside ISIL. You could see it in our investigations of corruption in the prison system, exclusive interviews, the in-depth specials on Iran or Cuba or Japan, and many more signature stories.

We also expanded our multiplatform coverage and distribution of news so that our audience can find our content however they choose. By leveraging social media millions have found packages like the story of St Louis’ Stolen Babies or the death of Sandra Bland. And we remain committed to pursuing our audience in every way we can and growing in the market.

Year 3 will continue the fine work and expand upon it. We will look to grow the scope of coverage and content creation by building up our field presence. As it is important to make editorial decisions together we are excited that our digital and social teams will be moving to the newsroom on 34th Street by mid-September. We are creating a new position, SVP of Engagement, to harness and expand our presence in all aspects of social media. In the coming weeks we will also be announcing new ways of getting our content on mobile devices. As you know, in the last few weeks we held illuminating and passionate meetings about our editorial identity and we will continue to brainstorm about our content and our grid going forward. We will produce the best news content possible because AJAM is here to stay. Period.

But on this second anniversary I don’t want to just talk about what can be seen on the screen. Today I celebrate you, AJAM’s unsung heroes. For two years you have risen to every challenge, hit every curveball thrown at you — and there have been a few, and done so with grit and dedication reflecting the core values of AJAM. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed.

You are the backbone of our endeavor. From the person on the news desk juggling phone calls, questions from EPs or line producers, while still watching the wires and twitter and other feeds coming in…to the team in the field who might file for mornings and evenings and still manage to report all day to get the exclusive story…or the folks who plan the next day’s and next weeks’ fine coverage, answering calls from the field late into the night…or the editor who, against all odds and Avid’s quirky behavior and a late graphic and the video that just won’t restore, still gets the package on the air…or the interview producer who stays optimistic and energized even when presented with an almost impossibly long list of guest requests for the highest of profile people…or the producers who scramble to gather all the right material to make the piece that much better…or the writers and editors who wrestle with the words and with short deadlines…or the correspondents who can keep their sense of humor when battling the elements or with dicey dejeros or with interview subjects who walk away…or the directors who keep the vision of our content in focus in the midst of a busy control room…or the anchors who keep our standards high, even if an occasional stray word or letter sneaks into the prompter…or the camerapeople working the extra-long days to get the pieces done in time.

These efforts have not gone unnoticed. You kept an unwavering focus on our editorial quality throughout the last year, despite all challenges, and that is deeply appreciated and valued.  I know what it takes and I know what you’ve all done. We are headed in the right direction, the pieces are falling into place, and because of you our best days are ahead.

Happy 2nd anniversary!