Saturday, July 15, 2017

William Lafi Youmans's "An Unlikely Audience"

William Lafi Youmans is an Assistant Professor at George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs. Broadly interested in questions of transnationalism, power and communication, his primary research interests include global news, technology, law and politics. His other areas of research interest include international broadcasting, Middle East politics, and Arab-American studies.

Youmans applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, An Unlikely Audience: Al Jazeera's Struggle in America, and reported the following:
My book is about Al Jazeera’s decade-long ambition to build an American audience. An Unlikely Audience: Al Jazeera’s Struggle in America tells the story of this largely failed effort.

It should have appeared improbable from the start. Could Al Jazeera really reverse the long history of unidirectional news and information flow from the United States to the Arab world? From the cultural politics of US-Arab relations to the barriers of entry in the crowded American TV news market, the Qatar-based network faced tremendous obstacles.

Still, it established three different US-facing news outlets: Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera America and AJ+. The first, an international channel, floundered as cable companies refused it carriage. It withdrew from the US. Then, the America-only channel closed after only a few short years and exorbitant expenditures. Only with its final offshoot, the digital news pioneer AJ+, has the network found success attracting an American audience.

By page 99, the book was several pages into an analysis of one key event that encapsulated the network’s renewed visibility during the Arab spring, which many lauded as “Al Jazeera’s moment.”

In mid-May, 2011, Al Jazeera held a forum in Washington, DC to celebrate its newfound popularity and promote it further. On the first night of the event, senior politicians Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and Senator John McCain spoke. They lauded Al Jazeera English’s reporting from the sites of protest that captivated the world. Such accolades were a far cry from the vilification the network experienced during the Bush administration.

Page 99 introduces prominent Al Jazeera figures at the forum who personified the problems and prospects of the channel’s desire to be widely seen in the United States. Their biographies help tell the story of Al Jazeera in America.
Visit William Youmans's website.

--Marshal Zeringue