Perspectives On War:  Inside Al Jazeera
By Rick Zednik

Considering its influence, Al Jazeera's newsroom is puny. When Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak peeked in during a visit to Doha, Qatar, a couple of years ago, he asked, "All this noise comes from this matchbox?" Behind a glass wall at one end is the smallest of Al Jazeera's three broadcast studios, where anchors read five-minute newscasts every hour. On the opposite side of the room an illuminated map of the world, flanked by thirty-two television screens, serves as a backdrop for the newscasts. In between are forty-eight computer terminals.

It feels like an American newsroom at first, until you notice the details. While a few of the monitors are tuned to CNN, BBC, and AP Television News, most are set to stations from across the Arab world: Palestine, Iraq, Egypt, Abu Dhabi, Beirut-based Al Manar, and the Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC), soon to move from London to Dubai. Journalists bang away at keyboards with Arabic characters, which they read on their screens from right to left. Many of them wear khakis or Western business suits, but some men dress in traditional white thoubs and several women wear headscarves. Virtually all employees are Arab Muslims, although Al Jazeera's headquarters is a secular place. Employees who choose to pray during work hours do so in a tiny mosque behind the main building.

The journalists are a loose, sociable bunch, representing almost all twenty-two members of the Arab League. Moroccan producers, Syrian talk show hosts, Iraqi translators, Algerian fixers, Sudanese librarians, Palestinian secretaries, and Qatari executives all speak together in Arabic.

Rick Zednik at the Al Jazeera studio in Doha, Qatar
A few paces away from the newsroom is the corner office of Mohamed Jasem Al Ali, Al Jazeera's managing director. Al Ali strides around his office, his thoub flowing and white kaffiyeh held on his head by black cords, pointing out some of the dozens of plaques, trophies, and framed certificates jamming the sill along two walls. He points to citations from the Netherlands, Germany, Lebanon, Egypt, and Russia, clearly proud of the honors his satellite network has garnered in barely five years. Click to continue reading the article.

Allied Media Corp.
McLean, VA 22101