Fast Company magazine (one of my favorite mags out there) is running an AMAZING cover story (subscription required) about Al Jazeera International, the global English language news channel which is to be launched soon. Although the story focuses on Josh Rushing, the US Marine spokesman who quit his job to become AJI’s washington anchor, it explores the various challenges and the potential media upheaval the channel might cause.
AJI will, in essence, be running a superfunded media lab to test a revolutionary proposition: Can a channel that employs the language of global commerce—English—but consciously eschews its natural Anglo-American worldview, become a new transnational cultural and economic force? In other words, once each region of the world can step to the mike on an equal footing and tell its story through the lens of its own audience, the world will be that much flatter. Remote parts of China, Indonesia, and the Indian subcontinent, for example, will be able to get their world news—and their advertising and, presumably, their actual products—filtered not by London (via the BBC) and Atlanta (on CNN) but by a new, independent, global vision. No one’s saying that’s AJI’s explicit objective. But its success—or failure—will make a powerful statement about the mood of the world and about America’s place in it.
As the May launch deadline looms, the channel is generating some major buzz. The New York Times is also running a major story on AJI.