Among the items that awaited me in the e-mail directory I largely neglected during two weeks of vacation was a note from the press office of Al Jazeera English, the latest spinoff from the controversial Al Jazeera network. The copy within the e-mail avoided association with any specific faith. It read: "Dear Colleague, Seasons Greetings & a Happy New Year!" Likewise, the attached art seen here flashed between the noncommital "Seasons Greetings" phrase and the Al Jazeera English logo. However, members of the Bill O'Reilly/War on Christmas crowd will be pleased to know that the clickable icon attached to the e-mail was labeled "Christmas Card." Apparently, there's at least one Christian working on the net's tech staff...
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In an October 2005 Message column, Gabriel Elizondo, a former Channel 7 employee who was among the staffers who launched Al Jazeera English, was optimistic that the American public would modify its largely negative opinions about the service once people here got a chance to see it. However, the decision on the part of major cable companies not to add the channel has largely prevented the sort of sampling Elizondo envisioned. Al Jazeera English has tried a variety of methods to let Yanks know that the network exists, even cooperating with the folks at The Daily Show on a Samantha Bee-helmed piece that needled the stiffness and seriousness of primary anchors Dave Marash and Ghida Fakhry; the YouTube link to the segment can be found by clicking here.
But if acting like good sports and sending out de facto Christmas cards are good ideas, such entreaties have had little impact thus far. Broadcast distributors hold the key to Al Jazeera English's future in this country, and unless they change their tune, the network's unlikely to have a happy new year in the U.S. of A. -- Michael Roberts