NBC vet tells TheWrap: "I really didn't think I would end up back in television news again"
When Al Jazeera America announced that John Seigenthaler would anchor its flagship primetime news show, it came as a surprise — he'd been out of the broadcast journalism game since budget cuts at NBC eliminated his weekend anchor position on NBC Nightly News in 2007.
After a brief stint at the AP, Seigenthaler left news altogether in 2008 to join his family's public relations firm.
But the siren song of journalism proved too hard to resist, so when Al Jazeera America approached Seigenthaler about a position, he readily accepted. He joins several other high-profile hires at the network, including Sheila MacVicar, Soledad O'Brien, Joie Chen and Ali Velshi.
Seigenthaler spoke to TheWrap about what brought him back to the news and what he's looking forward to doing at his new digs.
TheWrap: You've been gone for a while.
John Seigenthaler: I have .. I left NBC a while back and I really didn't think I would end up back in television news again. But [Al Jazeera America] asked me to consider this opportunity and I started to look at their mission and their commitment to deliver quality, unbiased in-depth news to an American audience and to cover stories in other countries. I was just thrilled – while other news organizations have cut back on reporters and producers and editors and we've seen an increase in tabloid journalism in America, this was an incredibly refreshing opportunity and I couldn't turn it down.
So they came to you?
They did. This was not something that I had been looking for. I had planned to continue my work, I was very happy with it at the time. But this was too good an offer to refuse. To be part of a new voice in this country that really covers serious news is extremely exciting.
What will you bring to Al Jazeera America?
The thing about this organization is that it's got extremely experienced correspondents around the world, it has 70 bureaus, it has 12 bureaus in the US and they've hired some terrific journalists to man those bureaus. They've hired people like Sheila MacVicar, who I believe is one of the strongest foreign correspondents in the world. And Soledad O'Brien and Ali Velshi. I'm going to be anchoring the primetime news hour and we're gonna try to bring an American audience what we believe are important stories each night. So I mean, that's really our job and every day we'll try to do it well.
What will Al Jazeera America do differently than NBC?
I think this cable news channel has the resources to cover foreign news in a way that most American cable channels don't. And many of the resources to put in to their coverage of the news. They have experienced journalists and they're not as worried about the ratings as much as they are delivering a quality product. That's something I find refreshing and exciting.
What are the big three stories you want to cover that other channels aren't or aren't doing enough?
I think what's going on in Egypt is a story that we'll be covering that the other Al Jazeera networks have done a terrific job covering. What's going on in Syria, the talks in the Middle East, the potential talks between the Palestinians and Israelis. I think with the 12 bureaus that we have in the United States, we can explore and investigate some of the stories that are outside the Beltway, outside New York or LA, and dig a little deeper than other networks have been able to, given the cuts in their resources. And that's what I'm hoping to do.