Al Jazeera America is signing off tonight with a live broadcast airing from 6-9 p.m. ET and re-airing at 9 p.m. for West Coast viewers. Featured will be journalists who've been on the channel since it launched in 2013, revisiting subjects they have covered in that time, the network said (here's a link to the schedule). UPDATE: The first hour of the retrospective show revisited stories from Ferguson, Mo.; Baltimore and Washington, D.C., largely dealing with African Americans and law enforcement; a Katrina hero and a story about Cuban immigrants coming to the United States.
AJAM, which launched using former Current TV channel locations after Al Jazeera Media bought Current for about $500 million, announced in January that it would close down this month, while continuing to report news on the america.aljazeera.com site. Al Jazeera said Tuesday it plans to "expand its existing international digital services to broaden its multi-platform presence into the U.S. later this year."
The network's Qatari owners had ambitious efforts to build a nationwide news organization, hiring hundreds of journalists, some of whom left later via layoffs. About 700 staffers have remained at the channel until the end. Their efforts met with respectful reviews (including this 2014 deep dive in Columbia Journalism Review) for serious coverage and investigative and documentary work, but never caught on with viewers. Distributors of the network, in about 60 million homes on top providers including Comcast, DirecTV and Time Warner Cable, are expected to reclaim the channel space -- despite interest expressed early on by broadcasters including One America News Network parent Herring Broadcasting in buying the slots. Al Jazeera America also was limited in how much of its programming it could make available online as part of distribution terms with distributors, according to CJR and other reports. Adam May, a Baltimore-based anchor at the network, tweeted today that "the online restrictions imposed by carrier agreements were crippling."
The network's public relations firm released part of a letter from network CEO Al Anstey and president Kate O’Brian, the former ABC News executive. It began: "Two and a half years ago we launched with a simple goal – to provide reliable, trusted information to audiences across the United States. Underpinning this mission was great journalism. Never take a side. Dig for the real story. Explain it properly. Uncover stories. Uphold balance. Hold power to account. Have courage in covering unreported stories. And, above all, act with integrity and be honest with our audiences. Throughout our short history we have held true to this mission. We did so by putting the human being at the forefront of our editorial decisions: people across America and the world who are living the events taking place around them; people who are impacted by decisions made by governments, powerful individuals, or corporations. People who would not otherwise have a voice in mainstream media unless we covered them."
The network cited awards it had received during its less than three years of existence, including Peabody, Emmy, and Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University awards, and three nominations for the upcoming NAMIC Vision Awards.