Friday, February 12, 2010

Getting the news from Aljazeera

Since my language skills are still pretty much limited to a few phrases of greeting and a handful of food-related words, getting any news means turning to the internet and tv news.

I have to assume that when I come across a channel with a man or woman sitting at a desk and speaking or reading into a camera that it must be a Bosnian news program. But, of course, I am unable to understand a single word. Several of the channels are in German and I am able to catch a word or two here and there. Fortunately, we also get the international version of CNN and the English version of Aljazeera.

CNN uses a similar format to the US version, with the same news stories repeated every hour. But they also seem to have adopted some of the US network morning show tactics. Most of the hour is devoted to “feature” stories including entertainment and celebrity news. Yesterday, until the “breaking news” story about Bill Clinton’s heart procedure knocked it out of rotation, most of CNN’s time was devoted to endless repetitions of stories about the death of English fashion designer Alexander McQueen, in an apparent suicide. 

The better choice for tv news here is the Aljazeera/English channel. Like international CNN, many if not most of the commentators have British accents. As an American, I had an impression of Aljazeera as being a highly biased news source, possibly even in collusion with some terrorist groups. I still cannot assess how the news is presented in the Arabic language broadcasts on Aljazeera, but I have found the English broadcast much more informative than CNN. The news reports on Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq appear to be balanced, with reports not much different in content than what I would expect to hear on CBS or NBC. The biggest difference on Aljazeera is that they carry more news stories on Middle Eastern, Arabic and African countries, a perspective that is often missing on US news reports.

I will continue to tune in to Aljazeera.