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Al Jazeera America’s New CEO Aims to ‘Bring the Team Together’ After Lawsuit, Turmoil

”In the weeks ahead we will be holding editorial sessions too, in order to articulate and debate the editorial DNA of AJAM,“ Al Anstey writes

New Al Jazeera CEO Al Anstey wrote a detailed memo Monday to staffers as he asserts control over a network that’s been marred by poor ratings, lawsuits and morale problems.

“In the weeks ahead we will be holding editorial sessions too, in order to articulate and debate the editorial DNA of AJAM so everyone knows why we are different to the rest,” he wrote in a memo obtained by TheWrap.

That original DNA was a straight news network built on in-depth reporting and a lack of partisanship and politics in coverage, offering an alternative to the more ideological networks. But ratings have been weak, averaging 30,000 viewers a night.

Anstey replaces Ehab Al Shihabi, who was demoted last week after an anti-semitism/gender bias lawsuit was recently filed against the network. There’s also a massive morale problem, as staffers have shared accounts of abrasive executives and a culture of fear, mostly attributable to Al Shihabi, who was said to exert control over editorial.

“In the next couple of weeks I will hold a briefing and answer all the questions you may have openly, honestly, and with the aim of bringing the team together with a unified mission and spirit,” Anstey wrote, clearly understanding the gravity of the situation in the newsroom.

Read his full memo below.

I arrive in New York tomorrow evening and am looking forward to working with every one of you.

We have a critically important job to do. To tell the stories, and cover people caught up in events, that need to be heard. To provide information that is trusted, that challenges, that informs, and ultimately that inspires. This may sound like great PR, but it is a fact. You all know there are untold stories out there that deserve to be told. Decisions and organizations that need to be questioned and challenged. And moments of achievement and celebration that merit coverage. And that’s our job. No spin. No infotainment. No opinion inherent in our output. Just powerful stories and people to be heard.

That is our commitment to our audiences. And to our future viewers. That is what we are known for. That’s why we win acclaim and awards and will do so in the future. And this is the foundation for Al Jazeera America’s future.

We will and must stand up to scrutiny every time. The more powerful our content, the more we will be challenged by those that want us to tell stories their way. So we must be confident, and we must have courage in our journalism. And we must always be correct with our facts, and honest with our viewers.

You’ll hear me use the word integrity a lot internally and externally. It is the cornerstone of everything we do internally at Al Jazeera America, and with the product our viewers see every second of every day on every platform we deliver our information.

It is critical that we all uphold this integrity at AJAM. We are all part of the same team. Respect, transparency, and the best practice of management is the only standard we will adhere to, and we will expect nothing less.

In the coming days as I familiarize myself with AJAM I look forward to catching up with as many of you as I can. I will be meeting with the leadership team in the days to come to learn from them too – and start working together on the way forward. In the next couple of weeks I will hold a briefing and answer all the questions you may have openly, honestly, and with the aim of bringing the team together with a unified mission and spirit.

In the weeks ahead we will be holding editorial sessions too, in order to articulate and debate the editorial DNA of AJAM so everyone knows why we are different to the rest, and why that identity and commitment is of immense value and appeal to our audiences. I will also outline the strategy for our future development and evolution, to ensure everyone understands where we are going, and why.

Our mission is fundamentally in service of those people we cover and everyone that we provide information to – and our new viewers in the future. The information we provide is critical. We have a huge responsibility, and we will uphold it with courage, with independence, and with integrity.

I look forward to working with you all, and meeting you soon.