We all see those short 30 second videos highlighting an international incident, and we naturally assume that it’s another viral issue shared by a “connected generation” as so eloquently described by Mashable.
The multitude of “independent” news platforms that sprung up during the 2011-2013 social media revolution period have taken a turn for the worse, where large broadcasting stations have learnt how to leverage these sources and abused them liberally.
CNN has yet to understand that sharing death on TV, panic on mobile notifications, and selling sex on digital media is a Neanderthal approach to broadcast it’s news services to the world. I mean seriously; the Kardashians failed to publish a second-by-second of their Thanksgiving dinner, so it made major CNN headlines? Seriously, check the link. It made CNN headlines. Not E!, not MTV, not even Mashable… CN friggin N. The once internationally acclaimed news pioneer is now fishing for views using the Kardashians.
Others major broadcasting agencies like AlArabia in English still focus on pieces like decapitations and their role in politics, and FOX broadcasts news which has earned it it’s first place as the butt of jokes in every Simpsons episode.
The success of independent channels has largely depended on focusing on certain niche categories;
- Mashable talks about $3.7billion mergers.
- Now This talks about the survival of Fire Ants depending on their loyalty to their community.
- The Next Web talks about globalizing web design standards to avoid ugly websites.
- Buzzfeed talks about eye tracking software and drone racing.
So you see, successful platforms talk about stories within their area of expertise. So why is AJ+ so focused on international politically oriented incidents?
To understand the motivation behind that tunnel vision, you must learn more about it’s background.
Taking a look at AJ+‘s page, their short bio states that they are “…part of a global generation – without borders – connected to issues that impact your life, our world.”. Hmm, interesting. But who are you? The longer description challenges the reader “…Do you ever laugh, cry, get angry or inspired? You’ll fit right in…”. Uh-huh. Brilliant, but who are you?
Move over to their site ajplus.net, and break down the site:
- Short and bold motto: EXPERIENCE.EMPOWER.ENGAGE
- Focus on featured and trending articles.
- Bragging their numbers, 1.6 billion views and 2 million fb page likes.
- App links tidily set up on a cloud in the top right corner.
Wow, I’m impressed! A rare gem of a site based on simplified design focused on UX with a “Work for us” in the footer. Nice. But who are you?
Oh, look, it’s part of the AlJazeera Network!
That suddenly explains a lot. The brand color, the abbreviation AJ plus, and the ridiculous amount of manpower spent in creating branded HD videos. Hmmm, then why hide the name AlJazeera from the forefront? Why hide behind a new brand name? Why change the logo? All these questions can be answered with the concept of intelligent adaptation. AlJazeera news channels have been riddled with controversy and scandals over their political agenda, second only to AlArabia. Plus, their attempts to share clickable media this week of this 5 year old motorcycle crash resembles my third Aunt’s attempt in scouring facebook for eligible bachelorettes to tune her matchmaking skills.
I can only assume that investing in a new team of digital gurus has really paid off, because their US targeted content is somehow pushed into billions of timelines worlwide. Not everyone is aware of who is behind AJ+, so even those who are tentative to listen to what is probably a biased station are involuntarily sharing data tweaked videos. Now, for those AlJazeera executives who will defiantly claim that AlJazeera is a noble entity, I ask them “Are you watching the same channel as I am?”.
I first initiated my investigation of the team behind AJ+ when I saw the caption “White supremacist trolls or racist students? Does it matter?“. The video has since been removed from their page. When I first read it, my first thought was that this wasn’t the brainless rabble of a community-driven news team, it had the smell of a political agenda, mainly because it was not being reported “As-Is”. An opinion was stated by AJ+; “Who cares?”. The group may (or may not) have had clean intent, but when a Nazi/KKK is the sole interviewee in a short video, and a caption that gives a bilateral choice (White supremacist or Racist students), then the video can no longer be categorized as an objective and unbiased news piece, it becomes an opinion.
Just like AlJazeera management’s inclination to the US presidential race, they play a key role in influencing the public into liking or disliking certain parties or candidates. The lack of transparent accountability here for big media astounds me.
Other than bashing Donald Trump at every opportunity that they get, here are some of the captions for the “unbiased productions” shared by AJ+.
- What happens when politicians tell people to kill suspects in the street? (Notice the use of the term “Mob Violence” in the video as opposed to the many terms used by the Arab community. AJ+ is an English speaking channel targeted and tailored for an American audience)
- #MuslimID might be the best response to Trump’s ID card idea (Agree or disagree with his MuslimID statement, that is not for the media to judge. Shouldn’t they be reporting objectively with “MuslimID is a community response to Trump”?)
- This woman was falsely portrayed as a suicide bomber by media outlets, including AJ+. We found her in Morocco (No more retractions, just post a more awesome video and pretend you didn’t already ruin a persons life.)
- There are 72 active KKK groups in America, 12 of them are in Tennessee alone! (Video removed, racial provocation in the times of #BlackLivesMatter and White Racist Trolls.)
- Things Fox News hosts say to African-American co-hosts: Do you make Kool-Aid? (Can’t blame them here, but still…)
Those who are familiar with the powers of video editing can testify to the way public opinion is swayed with simple suggestive placement, and AlJazeera digital teams are experts at this.
I give full due credit to the AlJazeera news crew for creating a perfect digital mouthpiece that is not publicly linked to them, giving them the power to broadcast their ideas without the backlash of journalism accountability.
When I say “publicly linked”, I mean commonly known by the public. AlJazeera PR has an official page dedicated to the launch of AJ+ (Jun/Sep 2014) so it’s not like it’s a secret (Wikipedia has an in depth description of the “service”). But I must question why the launch was so quiet, and why does the page have only one Like after 20 months of operation?
The team working on AJ+ have been highly successful in covering international news items and packaging them into properly branded clips, whilst leveraging every possible digital tool and UX available to journalists and media persons. I highly commend Ms. @Dima_Khatib (Managing director of AJ+) for this groundbreaking approach, and gawk at the flawless procedure of rebranding a global agency into a younger anonymous digital champion.
Though this is unchartered territory for traditional broadcasting media, their manipulation of the earned media reveals that the business ethics appear unchanged.
The question I pose is this; is it ethically sound for a broadcasting corporation to manipulate digital media channels and impose it’s political agenda while hiding behind an alternate proxy brand boasting minimal accountability?
A penny for your thoughts.."The Truth Behind AJ+",