Barely two months on the air, Al Jazeera America is vowing to hire more staffers for the news channel and open more U.S. bureaus.
The expansion push was detailed Tuesday morning by interim CEO Ehab Al Shihabi and prexy Kate O'Brian. It comes on the heels of a distrib pact inked with Time Warner Cable last week. The impetus to add staff and bureaus was spurred by the fact that "the results from our first two months have been very encouraging," Al Shihabi said.
Manhattan within the next 18 months, though the channel has yet to settle on a specific space. Plans for the staff and bureau expansion will unfold during the next 12 months but no specific numbers were given.
More staff means more shows, and AJA plans a new morning news program, a new weekly programs focusing on sports and culture. The memo also said "multiple" new documentary series are in the works. And the news channel will put even greater emphasis on investigative reporting, O'Brian said.
"More people and more bureaus plus our new programming will help us keep the promise we made to our viewers about always providing the highest possible quality journalism," she said. "Not only will you continue to see unbiased reporting about the stories that really matter, you'll see more of it from more places around the U.S."
The memo added that talks with other distributors are under way. The TW Cable deal should put AJA over the 50 million subscriber base mark, but it still has a ways to go to gain parity with its fully distributed (in around 100 million homes) rivals Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC.
AJA's growth plan also includes increased investment in marketing the channel as a home for hard news and news of substance to "Main Street America" rather than partisan bickering.
AJA is an unusual animal in today's media biz. The parent company has made it clear it is not focused on the bottom line, unlike the situation at most of the major U.S. news orgs. The state-funded Al Jazeera org has sought to gain credibility and distribution throughout the world as it builds up the AJA brand and news-gathering infrastructure.
The entry of Al Jazeera into the U.S. market in a major way has been closely watched by U.S. journos, from the moment the org paid a whopping $500 million in January to acquire the struggling cabler Current TV from Al Gore and his partners. The remodel as AJA bowed Aug. 20.
Al Jazeera America Vows Expansion Push
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