Al Jazeera America announced yesterday that it will shut down at the end of April. In honor of the hard-hitting, award-winning journalism the good employees of AJAM presumably did, here’s a crappy explainer:
1. What was Al Jazeera America? It was apparently a TV news network, right here in the United States! In 2013, the Qatari royal family, which owns the Arab-language Al Jazeera news network—best known in America for Osama bin Laden’s controversial 2001-2005 stint as evening news anchor—bought Current TV from Al Gore and renamed it Al Jazeera America. This seemed like a great idea to everyone involved.
2. What was AJAM’s whole deal, then? Its brand was apparently “serious, in-depth reporting,” so, as many are pointing out, it was doomed from the beginning. Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall said the business plan was to tackle America’s tightly government-controlled state news service head-on, and disrupt the stagnant media atmosphere with the refreshing blast of investigative poverty reporting the American people were clearly yearning for. The Qatari royal family, it’s worth noting, are literally from Mars and have never visited America, or even Earth.
3. Why is it closing? No one watched it. I mean, be honest: You sure didn’t. Multiply that by everyone, and that’s how many people were not watching. After opening 12 bureaus and spending $2 billion, prime time viewership was reportedly 20,000-40,000 people. Those are numbers slightly higher than, but very comparable to, the readership of this dumb newsletter. There were also strange distribution deals in place that prevented the network from putting its own content online, which is why AJAM was so absent from social media.
4. Okay, but why is it closing right now?
5. Who had the best burn? Peyton Manning, who AJAM recently linked to human growth hormone, said, “I’m sure it’s gonna be just devastating to all their viewers.” Today in Tabs rates that burn: solid. The second best burn was this one:
@jaredbkeller Yep, a ton of good journalists out of work yet plagiarists are given second chances.
— Kevin Draper (@kevinmdraper) January 13, 2016
6. It’s sure been a rough year in media so far, huh? Yeah, but look, what are the chances there are any more lavishly funded but entirely unwatched cable TV ventures out there?
7. What else is going on in media? Oh, are we just gonna roll on with the explainer format? All right, okay. I guess it is Thursday so, like, who cares right?
8. Right. Well, Josh Topolsky, previously of The Verge and “laughing at Michael Bloomberg to his damn face,” announced that he’s raising money to do a new media thing, which is currently parked at independentmedia.com.
9. And did anyone die? Ugh, this is the dumbest and laziest Tabs has ever been. Yes, Alan Rickman, who memorably portrayed Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies, as well as villainous Apple blogger Hans Gruber in Die Hard, has died of cancer at age 69.
10. So, what does it all mean? Al Jazeera America was founded and run by a large number of experienced media executives, and although he had been a stage and television actor for several years already, Alan Rickman’s first major film role was in “Die Hard” at age 42. So today’s moral is: No one else has any idea what they’re doing either, and it’s never too late.