opening shot

Opening Shot

Al Jazeera showed global media how to cover an uprising
February 23, 2011

>Al Jazeera, the pan-Arab satellite news network, showed global media how to cover a people’s uprising—by getting right into the thick of things and keeping the cameras running, both witnessing and propelling events. Perched on a telephone booth in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on January 31, the TV in the photo above was one of many positioned so that the crowds could keep tabs on Al Jazeera’s nonstop coverage of the events, primarily the protest itself, that eventually toppled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Al Jazeera’s correspondents, like other foreign media, faced police harassment and worse as Mubarak’s forces attempted, unsuccessfully, to shut down reports that were usurping state media propaganda. Watching Al Jazeera in the moments following Mubarak’s resignation was riveting TV: the correspondents stepped aside and let the roar of the jubilant throngs tell the story. It’s a pity that at press time no major US cable system was carrying Al Jazeera or Al Jazeera English’s signal; most of us here can only watch their reports via online streaming. And there is reason to continue watching: its raw, straightforward reporting will continue to reverberate in Egypt and through other Arab countries. Stephen Franklin addresses the promise and the challenge faced by reporters in the region in his essay in the March/April issue of CJR.

The Editors are the staffers of the Columbia Journalism Review.