Al Jazeera America Unveils ‘Grid Changes and Road Map’

By Brian Flood 

Seventeen months after going on the air, Al Jazeera America is revamping its programming. The news comes via an email from AJAM CEO Ehab Al Shihabi sent to staffers today outlining “grid changes and road map for 2015.”

Beginning February 2, the network will air live news in prime time from 7pmET to 10pmET. One of the shows not making the cut is “Consider This” which aired at 10pmET and was hosted by Antonio Mora, the former ABC News anchor. Mora, we’re told, will be among the anchors for the new news shows while the “Consider This” team works on developing new programming.

The new primetime will consist of a national news program at 7pmET, followed by an 8pm program that Al Shihabi says will include “deeper dives and more investigation into specific issues.” International news will follow at 9pm. At 10pm the network’s documentary program “Fault Lines” will air on Mondays while “America Tonight,” hosted by Joie Chen, airs for a half hour Tuesday through Friday. “Real Money with Ali Velshi” moves to 1030pm. As we reported last week, Velshi’s show is also moving to the main AJAM studio.

As we first reported earlier this week the network will cancel the morning show. And as it develops a new program, the network will air “Fault Lines,” “TechKnow” and “Inside Story” in the mornings.

Here’s Al Shihabi’s memo to staff:

Dear Colleagues,
Since the network’s inception, Al Jazeera Media Network has served as a private entity for the public good with a global orientation, providing incisive news and documentary programming covering the large scope and complexity of the human experience. With its motto “the opinion and the other opinion,” it acts as a forum for plurality, seeking the truth while observing the principles of journalistic professionalism within an institutional framework. While promoting public awareness of local and global issues, Al Jazeera aspires to be a bridge between cultures, to support peoples’ right to obtain knowledge, and to strengthen the values of democracy and the respect of human liberties and basic rights In 2013, AJAM was handed the torch of in-depth, investigative and accountability reporting and committed to carry on the well-established tradition of producing real, hard news.

AJAM entered the market to fill a void and preserve the tradition of seriousness and excellence in news programming, at a time when many of our competitors have adopted a different tradition. They have blurred once clear lines between news and entertainment; between the serious and the trivial; between news and opinion; and between news that has an immediate and direct impact on peoples’ lives and news shaped primarily to attract and entertain audiences.

It was an eventful 2014 with major stories from all over the globe demanding our attention and keeping our teams busy. We brought the world to our audience with unparalleled depth and speed. That has been validated externally multiple times by the awards we’ve won and the reviews we’ve received.  And 2015 will be no less exciting.  We will report stories no one else is reporting, cover the news that matters to our audience, and work as one team to share the best ideas and resources.  We will hold ourselves to the highest standard as we continue to assess and invest in our content and production. We will stay true to our core values.  And we will also  focus on the most important measure of our success:  our impact upon the public good.  For Al Jazeera, the news is not merely an opportunity – it is an obligation.  And we will fulfill that obligation every single day.  

In the near term, beginning February 2, we will expand our live news in prime time to 3 straight hours from 7pm to 10pm. We’ll start with a national news hour at 7pm, followed by a program with deeper dives and more investigation into specific issues at 8pm, and then an internationally focused hour at 9pm with analysis of stories that impact the U.S.

At 10pm we’ll present Fault Lines on Mondays and America Tonight as a half hour Tuesday through Friday. This will allow AT to focus much more deeply on investigations and other stories of significant impact to our audience.

Real Money will be moving to 1030pm and will transition to a more hard-hitting program with emphasis on the impact of money and the accompanying accountability in all areas – politics, business, social issues, and more. We’ll share more details and a new title shortly.

At 11pm we’ll again air news at a time when our audience has clearly shown a desire for something other than happy talk, entertainment updates, or local car accidents.

And at 1130pm, we’ll schedule Inside Story, which will be focused much more on dissecting the big story of the day. We have some exciting new features for the show which we’ll be introducing very soon.

We are going to continue our expanded news wheel throughout the overnight, morning, and midday hours. News is at the heart of Al Jazeera and our strong advantage in the market is embodied in our live news programs. Our commitment to news around-the-clock remains at the heart of our mission. We will have an average of 14 hours per day of live news from our newsrooms in New York, London and Doha.

Simultaneously, we will be developing a new morning news format from 7am – 9am. We will give our viewers the national and international news that happened while they were sleeping; enlightened analyses from our editorial specialists of what to expect in the day ahead;  and the best in cultural offerings from around the world. During that development process, we will be bringing Fault Lines, TechKnow, and Inside Story to a morning audience.

In addition while Consider This will cease production, that team will be designing, piloting and launching a new program which will deliver on the promise of holding truth to power by delving into subjects others might consider too sensitive for cable news.

Certainly none of these shows will be a final version by the time we schedule these changes, but we believe that in a very short period of time, all of them will provide a powerhouse line-up of news, investigations, and analysis that will be second to none.

We have a number of exciting documentaries on the schedule including “Freeway: Crack in the System” which is attracting a great deal of interest across the country, and “Hard Earned” from the award-winning Kartemquin Films, with more to come.

We are also finalizing the multi-million dollar investment in our new Washington D.C. location which we’ll share with AJE and AJA. We expect to move into this spectacular facility in the center of the city sometime this spring. Additionally plans are proceeding well on our new HQ in New York, which should be completed in 2016.

It is our goal to continue adding new programs to our line-up as we grow over the coming months and years. Our objective is always to have our news coverage reflect the many significant events affecting our viewers. As we review the events of the last year, we cannot ignore the pivotal role played by news events outside of the U.S., whether the events were in Ukraine, Gaza, or more recently Paris. Given the 82 AJMN bureaus around the world, we have a unique advantage in our ability to bring in-depth coverage to stories wherever they occur in a timely manner. We can bring the type of balanced examinations on serious topics that have been missing in much of recent U.S. news coverage. We must be as up-close-and-personal globally as we have been in Ferguson and throughout America. We are committed to covering every important story and bringing real news to our audience in the U.S.

Thank you for all of your hard work. I’m looking forward to a great and productive 2015.

Regards
Ehab Al Shihabi

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