"I am one of only a couple people in my entire office with [only] a local news background," May says. "The head of my show [Kim Bondy], she was a VP at CNN. I've been in New Orleans for the past eight days shooting a couple of different reports, and the photographer I worked with, Fletcher Johnson, worked with Ted Koppel and 'Nightline' for the last couple of decades."
The job at Al Jazeera America has "exceeded" his expectations in virtually every way, May says.
"I was promised we would be doing in-depth, unbiased journalism, and we're doing exactly that," he says. "And when they say 'long-format pieces,' I just got an email from a producer for a story I worked on a couple of weeks ago, and the script is coming out at 12 minutes.
"So I am really excited that we're actually being given the time to tell these stories appropriately and to let the interviews breathe and to flesh out issues — and not do flash-in-the-pan journalism like so many people these days."
Roger Aronoff, editor at Accuracy in Media, a conservative watchdog organization that has worked to keep Al Jazeera English off TV in the U.S., acknowledges the global media giant's journalistic muscle.
"Look, if we're not talking about their coverage of Israel and situations in the Middle East and Egypt and all that, Al Jazeera English has some of the best coverage," he says. "If you want to follow the elections in Zimbabwe like I do or you want to know what's going in Mali, it's true, CNN and the others hardly have any coverage of that anymore."
But, he quickly adds, AIM sees Al Jazeera America as "a wolf in sheep's clothing" with "a long history of being tied to al Qaida."
"Our concern is that these people have a hidden agenda," Aronoff says. "I think they're thinking long term, 'Let's get in. Let's win their confidence. Let's just seem to be a normal, average network and not show our real agenda, and then 10, 20 years from now we'll be sitting pretty.' That's the fear we have."
Aronoff says AIM wants the House Committee on Homeland Security Committee to conduct hearings on Al Jazeera America.
"We think they should possibly be registered as a foreign agent for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Qatari government," he says.
"Al Jazeera is not a network that is providing a platform for terrorists," el-Nawawy, the Knight-Crane professor of communications at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina, says emphatically.
"Al Jazeera has done way more than air the bin Laden tapes," he adds, referring to audio and video tapes released by Osama bin Laden to Al Jazeera among others between 2001 and 2011.
"I think that kind of talk needs to end," he concludes. "There is still some remnant of that reputation in some people's minds, and I think that's the elephant in the room when you talk about Al Jazeera now. But I think it's the responsibility of mainstream American media to make it clear that Al Jazeera is a regular network that has very high journalistic standards. And that adding a network like Al Jazeera to the U.S. market will enrich and enliven and even revitalize the news media scheme in the United States."
Al Jazeera America did not respond to a request for comment on AIM's claims.
While efforts by AIM and others were successful in keeping Al Jazeera English off most U.S. cable systems, the only carrier so far that says it will not replace Current TV with Al Jazeera America on Aug. 20 is Time Warner. And the two sides are said to still be in negotiations.
In Baltimore City, for example, Comcast subscribers will find Al Jazeera America on Current TV's Channel 107 on Aug. 20 — where it will be grouped with the Fox Business Channel, C-SPAN2, C-SPAN3 and Bloomberg.
Still, 50 million homes is only half of the 100 million U.S. households that CNN, for example, has access to.
Thanks to financing from the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Al Jazeera doesn't need instant ratings. But it still has a long and uncertain way to go if it wants to play in the league of CNN and Fox News — and not be marginalized in the U.S. the way Current was.
"Cable operators perceive that there is a part of their audience that bought into the Bush administration arguments about Al Jazeera," says Seib, a professor of journalism and international relations at the University of Southern California.
"Most of these people have never even looked at Al Jazeera Arabic or Al Jazeera English, but there is a prejudice still out there," he adds. "And, you know, cable operators like to follow the path of least resistance.