“Knowing what I know now … I’d make exactly the same decision,” journalist writes
Ali Velshi, the host of Al Jazeera America’s “Ali Velshi on Target,” is speaking following the news that the network will cease operations in April.
Velshi previously served as an anchor and correspondent for CNN from 2001 to 2013, leaving to join Al Jazeera America. He says that while some have now criticized his choice to leave CNN, most have simply expressed their condolences.
“[Largely], folks were crestfallen that our grand experiment into the quasi-commercialization of the type of journalism that has been relegated to public broadcasting didn’t work,” Velshi wrote on LinkedIn.
“I’m disappointed about that, too,” he continued. “I’m devastated for the colleagues whom I convinced to leave their secure jobs and join me in this adventure. But I’m not sad about anything else.”
Velshi went on to say that he left CNN on the “best of terms” and had looked forward to the challenges that joining the newly-formed American branch of the Arab news service would present.
“Though in a near-constant state of flux, the DNA at CNN was baked in,” he said. “Al Jazeera America was to be some hybrid of the great in-depth reporting of Al Jazeera English with the dynamism of American cable TV. I could be part of a great experiment in the evolution of American journalism.”
But things got off to a rocky start at the network, with its primetime programming drawing a measly 30,000 viewers on average. Velshi also clashed with former CEO Ehab Alshihabi during a staff meeting in May 2015, according to Politico.
“Knowing what I know now — about the management struggles that would ensue, about the layoffs, about languishing in relative ratings obscurity, about facing challenges from critics who judged our book by its cover — I’d make exactly the same decision,” he said.
Al Jazeera America announced Wednesday that it will shut down by April 30 after less than three years on the air.
“While Al Jazeera America built a loyal audience across the U.S. and increasingly was recognized as an important new voice in television news, the economic landscape of the media environment has driven its strategic decision to wind down its operations and conclude its service,” the company said in a statement.
Al Jazeera America, which is owned by the Qatari government’s ruling al Thani family, went live in August 2013 after acquiring Al Gore’s Current TV for $500 million.