Scrolling Headlines:

UMass hockey falls to No. 6 UMass Lowell for third time this season -

February 18, 2017

UMass hockey breakdown in final minutes of the second period on route to 5-2 loss to UMass Lowell -

February 18, 2017

Notebook: Jack Gibbs stars as UMass men’s basketball team drops game to Davidson Saturday -

February 18, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops another close game, falls to Davidson Saturday afternoon -

February 18, 2017

Local blogger Larry Kelley dies in car crash, remembered by community -

February 18, 2017

REPORT: UMass football to name Ed Pinkham as next defensive coordinator -

February 18, 2017

UMass students skip class to stand in solidarity with undocumented immigrants and refugees -

February 18, 2017

NPR Education Correspondent Eric Westervelt talks on future of education -

February 18, 2017

Faculty of journalism department discusses failures of journalism during Trump era -

February 16, 2017

UMass hockey prepares for third and final match-up against No. 6 UMass Lowell on Saturday -

February 16, 2017

Panelists hold discussion on embodying global coalitions -

February 16, 2017

Journalist speaks on criminalization of youth in the United States -

February 16, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse heads to Florida in search of first win of 2017 -

February 16, 2017

UMass men’s lacrosse looks to get offense back on track against Ohio State -

February 16, 2017

Duquesne stomps UMass men’s basketball 96-66 in Pittsburgh -

February 16, 2017

UMass softball focuses on mental approach ahead of Madeira Beach Invitational -

February 16, 2017

UMass women’s basketball drops eighth straight in loss at Richmond -

February 16, 2017

‘50 Shades Darker’ steams up all windows in the nation -

February 16, 2017

’20th Century Women’ is a love letter to women across generations -

February 16, 2017

‘Santa Clarita Diet’ delivers on the laughs and the scares -

February 16, 2017

Al Jazeera America: A new kind of news

Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com/flickr

Since the founding of Fox News Channel in 1996, the American news scene has remained essentially the same. Traditionally, Fox caters to conservative audiences, ABC, CBS and NBC cater to left-leaning audiences, MSNBC caters to liberal audiences, and CNN provides more moderate views. However, in recent years, other news stations have been coming to America from foreign countries.

For University of Massachusetts students, all one needs to do is merely turn on the television to find that foreign stations, such as China’s CCTV and Germany’s Deutsche Welle, are available. Such news stations provide an entirely different variety of news than the mainstream American media do – news that isn’t, well, American.

Unlike American news broadcasters, which only run stories on the largest of international events, these news stations focus on world news, as they are the international branches of their respective news agencies. World news is given very little emphasis on American news channels, as television networks make money from advertisements, and thus by viewership rates, and people want to watch stories about pop culture and their favorite celebrities rather than about what is actually happening in the world. There is a market for world news; it just does not have the high demand the major networks want. This leaves the world news market, a sector gradually increasing in importance as the populace becomes more educated, open to foreign competition.

Riding this trend of foreign news is Al Jazeera, the most well-known news agency in the Arab world, which just recently bought Current TV, and thus access to more than 60 million American television subscribers. In the past, Al Jazeera has been criticized for broadcasting videos released by Al Qaeda and its sympathizers, and has been labeled by some as anti-American or even pro-terrorist. Some have even argued that the Qatari government – which previously owned Al Jazeera – is attempting to spread pro-Muslim propaganda in the U.S. market through this expansion.

This, of course, is ridiculous; Al Jazeera is just a news agency. One need only look at Al Jazeera’s English edition website to see what Al Jazeera America, the new branch that will provide programming for Al Jazeera’s newfound presence in the American market, will be like.

The English edition, which can be streamed for free on the Internet, provides world news, particularly in regard to the Arab world and the Indian subcontinent. The articles are rather normal and what one would expect of an international news agency. This holds true for the Arabic edition as well. In addition, Qatar, while still governed by absolute monarchy, is one of the United States’ strongest allies on the Arabian Peninsula. The country has an incredibly diverse (more than 50 percent foreign) population, and maintains a strong, flourishing domestic economy. It seems unlikely that Qatar would have a devious plot to indoctrinate the American people in radical Islam.

Regardless of the skepticism that Al Jazeera America may be biased, one ought to view this development as an opportunity to see what the Arab world sees. A world of peace and cooperation isn’t possible if we don’t know how the world is to others, and this includes their views and opinions, not just the casualty lists found in American coverage of the Middle East.

It is preposterous to require that Al Jazeera America be completely unbiased, seeing as we as a nation are perfectly content with the current status quo of obvious news bias. For informed viewers, Al Jazeera will be an opportunity to observe and understand the events and opinions of the Middle East without needing an American news agency as a middleman. After all, the purpose of watching the news is not to passively accept everything it tells you but, rather, to analyze and understand it.

Stefan Herlitz is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at sherlitz@student.umass.edu.

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