On Tuesday morning, the nation witnessed the launch of a brand new cable news channel with many familiar faces, and one of significant note for Alaskans.
Libby Casey, former Washington correspondent for Alaska Public Radio Network, debuted behind the anchor desk of Al Jazeera’s Inside Story.
Casey was the first correspondent chosen for the network’s Washington DC bureau, and joins an impressive cadre of cable news notables like David Shuster (formerly an MSNBC show host) and half of CNN’s cast over the past few years: Joie Chen, Soledad O’Brien, Ali Velshi and Tony Harris, as well as other well established reporters who will operate at several different bureaus in major markets.
Al Jazeera’s entrance into the U.S. media market has been controversial. Worries about the reception of a news organization, headed by the Emir of Qatar – a country that has supported an Al Qaeda offshoot in Syria – has led to many advertisers and cable providers opting out. The network will be broadcast to roughly 40 million households; nearly half that of the Big Three news channels it intends to compete with. For Alaskans, unless you have Directv or Dish, you’re out of luck.
As an international award-winning news organization, Al Jazeera is impressive. Their launch may come at an opportune time, as their less-opinion, more-facts style of journalism offers a departure from the increasingly partisan slants of their competitors. Tuesday’s launch was accompanied with a full page ad buy in the Washington Post that read simply: “Shouldn’t news just give me the facts?”
The network’s website touts a similar slogan: “Know More Angles, No More Sides.”
This translates well for Casey, who has built a career devoid of political leanings or partisan bent leaking into her reporting.
Upon the announcement of her hiring, she told the Washington Times:
I see this as an opportunity to be part of a strong news presence in the media landscape, emphasizing serious news and serious storytelling…. They want genuine storytelling, they want audience connection, they want newspeople delivering straightforward information.
It’s no doubt a welcome change. Before her Al Jazeera debut, she hosted the morning call-in show Washington Journal on C-SPAN. She handled the (shall we say interesting?) viewer feedback in real time with a calm, cool ease that at times seemed inhuman.
Covering Alaska politics is a good place to thicken one’s skin quickly. Senator Ted Stevens was indicted just two days into her tenure as DC correspondent for APRN. And then there was that whole Palin thing. But it would seem Casey followed guidance she would later pass on to Washington’s Famous DC blog:
I got great advice once from Kim Severson, who’s with the New York Times but used to be a reporter in Alaska. She said something along the lines of dig into what you’re doing now with passion and live in the moment, but learn all you can because you never know when opportunity will knock, and you want to be ready.
We wish Libby Casey the best on her new journey. May it contain far less prank calls and even less Sarah Palin.
And, in case you missed it, the first show was fantastic.