Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism says a new report shows that Al Jazeera America's focus in its coverage of the Syrian chemical attack story is in line with those of its U.S. cable news competition.
Calling that story the first mega-story to break since Al Jazeera America launched Aug. 20 and an early test of whether it would provide "a U.S. perspective or provide an alternative, more global, view," Pew researchers concluded that "if Syrian coverage is any indication, Al Jazeera America is targeting its programming at the domestic U.S. audience its owner has long tried to reach."
Pew said that according to its analysis of cable news coverage of the story, Al Jazeera America's Focus, key messages and "mix of reporting and opinion" was "largely in sync" with U.S. cable nets CNN, MSNBC, and Fox.
There has been some concern that Al Jazeera would bring a Middle East-centric view to its U.S.-based and targetted channel.
Al Jazeera America devoted the majority of its coverage to the debate over whether the U.S. should get involved, just like the other news operations. It cited the same sources--American politicians and policymakers--and the most common message conveyed in the coverage--that the U.S. should get involved--was also the same one conveyed on CNN, Fox, and MSNBC.
The study also found that despite access to more than 60 international bureaus, about three-quarters (76%) of Al Jazeera America's stories originated from either Washington or New York City, its two headquarters, which was more than CNN (71%), though less than MSNBC (85%) or Fox News (94%).
Al Jazeera America was pleased with the findings.
"The Pew Research Center's report on how Al Jazeera America and the other major cable television news channels have covered the Syria story over the past few weeks validates everything we have been saying about the high quality journalism Al Jazeera America provides to its viewers," said network president Kate O'Brian in a statement. "As the report indicates, Al Jazeera America's coverage shows that is an American news channel that provides unbiased, fact-based reporting that doesn't have a partisan or other point of view."
O'Brien said she was particularly pleased with the report's conclusion that her network had a greater "focus than others on the humanitarian aspects of the story. The report found that Al Jazeera America framed a small minority of its stories by the humanitarian crisis in the region. "Seeing beyond the headlines and statements from politicians and having the largest global newsgathering capability of any U.S. news channel are what will most benefit our viewers," she said.
Pew analyzed daytime and prime time coverage of the story from Aug. 26 to Aug. 31--321 stories and nearly 21 hours of Syria coverage on talk and news-oriented cable.