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March 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik has taken his fellow TV critics to task for their coverage of the scrappy new news channel Al Jazeera America. “Six months in, there is more to say about Al Jazeera America than that its ratings stink,” he wrote on Sunday. “But that’s about the only thing I see written about the Qatar-owned cable channel these days.” He concedes that the ratings are “minuscule,” compared with those of its cable news rivals; however, he observes, “I believe there are more important viewer-oriented stories for media critics to tell about the upstart channel than those written in the horse-race language of Nielsen ratings.” For example, he remarks, two upcoming documentaries, On the Frontlines with the Taliban, premiering on March 21, and This Is Taliban Country on March 28, suggest to him that “Al Jazeera America [is] expanding the diversity of American TV” and may on its way to becoming “a true alternative for the kinds of news and information that U.S. viewers might not be able to find anywhere else on television.” The films are the work of Nagieb Khaja, a Danish journalist with Afghan roots who embedded with the Taliban, “Instead of talking to PR-prepped generals and government officials back in their safe offices,” he writes, “this film gets down in the dust of the battlefield and captures the foot soldiers in all their fervor, bluster, frustration, finger-pointing, hope and fear as they launch an attack and then see it go mostly wrong.” Zurawik concludes that Al-Jazeera, with stories like Khaja’s “is serving democracy in the best tradition of journalism. It’s bringing viewers information about matters of life and death that they probably otherwise wouldn’t have.”