Written by Melisha “Mel” Childs, Senior Blog Contributor
I remember flipping through cable network channels some time ago and I came across a station called Al Jazeera. I remember thinking to myself that “a station like this seems to be bridging the gap between Western and Eastern World relations.” My curiosity led me to find out more about this network and share it with our Reel Focus readers. On this blog, I have teamed up with Richelle Carey, News Anchor at Al Jazeera America, who will give us insight into this new television station that launched in 2013.
MC: Richelle, Reel Focus thanks you for taking the opportunity to chat with our readers in this blog interview. First of all, for those who are not aware of what Al Jazeera news is, tell them more about this station and what types of news programs are most popular for this station?
RC: Thank you for inviting me to participate. Well, Al Jazeera is an international news network that launched Al Jazeera America a little over a year ago. It was on honor on August 20th 2013 to co-host the first program seen on our air at 3pm ET that day, along with my colleague Antonio Mora. Al Jazeera America offers a variety of programming, including newscasts, documentaries, and news magazine shows. What they all have in common is a seriousness of purpose. There is no fluff. That’s not to say the content is boring – far from it. It is engaging, but it is not entertainment. Viewers deserve better. I’m not the ratings person, I focus on my job. I can say that the bosses tell me the weekend newscasts do well and I’m proud to be part of that team.
MC: The show title is obviously Arabic. Explain to readers why is it important to have such a show tying American news to Middle Eastern news?
RC: Al Jazeera is an intimidating name to some because they don’t know what it means. So, let’s get that out of the way, first. It simply means “the peninsula” or “the island.” Now, it’s never a bad thing to have more voices in news. Because Al Jazeera is such a diverse, global company we have resources in parts of the world, other networks don’t. And even in places where all networks have resources, Al Jazeera America will look for those voices you won’t hear on other networks. So, for example, while all networks will cover what happens in the Middle East, on AJAM you will hear a variety of perspectives from those whose lives are actually affected, perspectives that you likely won’t hear on other networks.
MC: Women in Film and Television’s focus is, of course, women in film and television. Richelle, share with our readers who are interested in anchoring for television why this station could be a good option for advancing their career.
RC: It starts at the top. Al Jazeera America has several women in strong leadership roles. Our president, Kate O’Brian, and several VPs are women. Also, one of the company’s first hires was Kim Bondy, the senior executive producer on our flagship show “America Tonight.” Kim is a trailblazer in this business. Seeing the senior leadership of the company take shape said to me…my voice will matter here. I hope it says the same to other women.
MC: Finally, how does Al Jazeera plan to strengthen and encourage viewership in the future, especially among women and young viewers?
RC: That only comes by doing the work. That’s not empty marketing campaigns with nothing of substance behind them. That’s not pandering to viewers you don’t actually care about or try to understand. At Al Jazeera America, we put voices on TV you don’t see on other networks. Often, that’s women, people of color, and young people who don’t have fancy publicists getting them booked on cable TV all day, but have something dynamic to say. Those voices, we believe, will bring in viewers. It won’t happen overnight, and ratings are what drives us, but it will happen.
About Richelle Carey
Richelle Carey is an anchor at Al Jazeera America, the new U.S. cable news channel available in Atlanta on Comcast Channel 107, AT&T Channel 1219, DirecTV Channel 347 and Dish Channel 215. Prior to joining Al Jazeera America, Carey spent seven years as an anchor and correspondent for CNN in Atlanta.
Prior to CNN, Carey was a weekday morning anchor for KMOV-TV in St. Louis and KVVU-TV in Las Vegas.
Carey is a strong advocate for girls and women and serves as vice president of the board of directors at Men Stopping Violence, an organization whose mission is to end violence against women and girls. She is also a former board member of the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, one of the largest councils in the nation.
Carey attended both Smith College in Massachusetts and Baylor University in Texas. Her many journalism awards include an Emmy for consumer features reporting while in St. Louis and the “Emerging Journalist” award from the Houston Association of Black Journalists.
Photo courtesy of Richelle Carey.