“WTF!” That was my first reaction when I learned that Al Gore and his partner Joel Hyatt had agreed to sell Current TV to Al-Jazeera. Sell-out, was more like it, I thought.
My next thought was that it actually made a lot of sense. If Gore had to sell, this move was better than flipping Current to a well-established American news organization, which would do little to foster the diversity of news reporting to the American public.
If you ask me, if there's one thing the American public could use, it's a more diverse array of news and information sources. I know
this firsthand, because one of the first things I did after Sept. 11, 2001, was to bookmark Al-Jazeera’s English-language website, and begin tracking how they covered news -- news about us, and
news about the Middle East. I didn’t do it necessarily so I could change my point of view. I did it to broaden my point of view. I just wanted to understand how people outside the U.S. --
especially ones wired so ideologically different from myself -- looked at us.
That was my first reason to begin following Al-Jazeera. Over time, I learned that they were actually a pretty fair-and-balanced news organization. (More fair and balanced than a lot of indigenous American news organizations that purported to be “fair and balanced.”)But it wasn’t until I heard Gore begin explaining his rationale for selling to Al-Jazeera that it really started to make sense. Yes, Gore sidestepped the personal economics of the move (the fact that he’s reaping a reported $100 million from it) when interviewed by “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart and PBS “NewsHour’s” Jeffrey Brown this week. But what would you expect? What I found enlightening, and eminently rationalizing, is that he believes that the Qatar-based media company isn’t just an opportunity to flip Current TV, but is a logical legacy to carry on its mission, especially for some key stories like climate change.
Watch Al Gore's 'Future' Tackles Technology, Global Economy on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.
"In doing diligence on what Al-Jazeera really is, you will find very clearly that it has long since established itself as a truly news-gathering network,” Gore told “NewsHour’s” Brown last night, adding, ““And let me give you one example. Their coverage of the climate crisis is the highest-quality and most extensive of any television network. By contrast, we just went through, here in the United States, a long presidential campaign in a year that was the hottest in American history, with Superstorm Sandy and 60% of the country in drought and massive fires in the West and $110 billion of climate disasters, and not one journalist asked any of the candidates in any of the debates a single question about climate change.”
That’s good enough for me to give another player a shot at what I believe is one of the most important and pressing stories of our time. And for all the criticism about Gore selling Current TV to an organization backed by fossil fuel money, I can’t help wondering how much Big Oil has influenced the coverage of climate change on U.S. television.I agreed with Gore when he told Brown, “We have had a kind of odd silence about the issue.”
And for all his work with Current TV, his books and movies, I’m just not sure Gore could have had much more of a personal media influence on the subject. He’s just too closely associated with it. It’s time for someone new to take it on, and if Al-Jazeera is the one that does it, I will be watching them not just to get another point of view, but to help me stay informed on one of my own.