You grew up in the Watergate era. Or at least, you saw All the President's Men. Or anyway, Lou Grant. You knew in your bones what you wanted: you wanted to shine light into the dark corners of government and society. You wanted to turn impunity into accountability. You wanted to speak truth to power.
So you went to journalism school, and it was good. You got to use those skinny reporter's notebooks, which you used to cover the de-chartering of Kappa Sigma for its "statutory rape social" and the lawsuit by the Hmong Students Association to have a Hmong studies department set up.
Also, you pulled out your pad in bars to interview hot women.
"J school" prepared you well. After four short years, you were ready to leave the womb of undergraduate studies to take on the rough-and-tumble world of graduate studies. At the age of 24, you were released into general society as professional reporter, in central Pennsylvania, covering the solid waste authority, the county fair and live births at Community Hospital. There, you broke the first-baby-of-1982 story.
Your career progressed, from a 20,000-circulation suburban weekly to a 45,000 small-city daily, where you won a reporting prize after recognizing the state insurance commissioner in a strip bar. This was big news because she was dancing there.
You parleyed that into a job at a major metropolitan daily, where you were part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team that uncovered widespread bribery and corruption in the city licensing bureau. This was in 1995. In 1996, you were hired on the metropolitan desk of the New York Times. This job mainly involved going to murder scenes and fires in the outer boroughs.
But you noticed a pattern of arrests ' or, actually, non-arrests ' in homicide cases involving minority victims, particularly immigrants. For this, in the year 2000, you received your second Pulitzer Prize. You were immediately promoted to the national desk, where you covered civil rights for five years. This got you a foreign desk posting. London! Mumbai! Seoul!
Then, last week, they laid off your sorry ass. You are fictional, of course, but not by much.
No problem, you are an A-list journalist with two Pulitzers. All you have to do is sit by the phone until Time Magazine and the Washington Post and Newsweek and Newsday, or at least the Kansas City Star, give you a call. And perhaps they will ' as soon as they get finished laying off their own staff. Which will not happen until the last editorial employee turns off the lights for good.
Trrrrrrrinnnng. Al-Jazeera calls.
Yes, calling you. You are being offered a job funded by the Emir of Qatar, a petro-rich sheik.
Al-Jazeera is one of the most significant news organizations of the past 20 years, covering the Arab world with a degree of depth and scope unprecedented in the region, where otherwise redlines abound for national media in every country. It does a pretty good job covering the rest of the world, too. But to repeat, it is bankrolled by petro-royalty in a country that is nobody's idea of a liberal democracy.
Ahmed Mohamed Shafik, born November 1941, is an Egyptian politician and candidate for the presidency of Egypt. He was a senior commander in the Egyptian Air Force and later served as Prime Minister of Egypt from the 31st of January 2011 to the 3rd of March 2011, a period of 33 days. | Photo: Associated Press | Ahmed Shafik, Egypt, President, Candidate,
Vigorous reporting on revolutions in Egypt, Syria and Tunisia somehow has not been matched when the dissidence occurs in Gulf neighbors Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. And then, there is the inflammatory anti-western and anti-Israeli rhetoric give so much oxygen on its broadcasts. Perhaps not on al-Jazeera English, which is recruiting you, but didn't Dave Marash quit that channel because the editorial agenda kept poking him in the ribs? And didn't you once turn down a job at the Christian Science Monitor because you didn't want to explain Mary Baker Eddy?
Will it be easier to take your paycheck from an emirate whose economy functions based on indentured servitude?
But will CBS call? Will NBC call? Will ABC call? Will CNN call? Nah, they're all trimming staff, too. The only other news organization on the grow is Bloomberg. Has Bloomberg called?
No, Bloomberg has not called. Poet Mohammed al-Ajami is rotting in prison for life on the charge of insulting the emir, but, once again, Bloomberg has not called. This is a conundrum, is it not?
But wait. There's this: al-Jazeera English has never had much distribution in the US because cable operators wouldn't pick up the channel. The market penetration was so bad that the emir just shelled out $1bn to Al Gore and friends to buy their Current channel, which was available in 40 million homes.
The thing is, nobody, but nobody, watched that channel. That's the beauty part. You don't have to explain away your employer, if nobody ever sees your reporting.
So it's settled. You tell friends that this is the channel that brought down tyrants. You tell your family that the health insurance is fantastic.