Tags: Al Jazeera America | discrimination lawsuit | sinking ratings

Inner Turmoil Grips News 'Non-Factor' Al Jazeera America

Image: Inner Turmoil Grips News 'Non-Factor' Al Jazeera America
(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 06 May 2015 03:40 PM

With an average of 30,000 viewers per night, Al Jazeera America, the cable news network owned by the ruling family of Qatar, is a "non-factor in news," according to The New York Times, which reports that in the past week the network's problems have gone from bad to worse with a "mass exodus" of top executives and a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee.

The toxic culture alleged in former employee Matthew Luke's workplace retaliation lawsuit filed in late April includes accusations of discrimination against women and "offensive" remarks about Israel and the United States by Osman Mahmud, the network's senior vice president of broadcast operations, The Washington Post reported.

The Times story quoted unnamed employees who said that days after a contentious February newsroom meeting, during which a heated exchange took place between network host Ali Velshi, formerly of CNN, and CEO Ehab Al Shihabi, Al Shihabi threatened to fire Velshi and sue him.

"I'll spend whatever I have to spend to bankrupt him in court," Al Shihabi said, according to the Times, citing an employee who heard the threat. Another Al Jazeera America employee told the newspaper that Al Shihabi said Velshi is "finished here."

At another newsroom meeting last week, employees vented about "problems at the station: how women have lost their jobs; the fear that offering criticism will lead to retaliation; the lack of promotional efforts for the channel; and how the standards for internal reviews changed without any announcement."

Those complaints mirror Luke's lawsuit, which says that Mahmud, his former supervisor, instructed him to remove women employees from projects they had been assigned and exclude them "from emails and meetings relevant to their assignments."

Luke also accused Mahmud of "making discriminatory, anti-Semitic and anti-American remarks such as 'whoever supports Israel should die a fiery death in hell.'"

The channel fired Luke after he reported Mahmud's alleged actions to Human Resources, according to his lawsuit.

"At the termination meeting, the EVP of Human Resources told Mr. Luke that he 'did not fit into the company culture,' " the complaint says, according to the Post.

Three top officials have left the network in the last week, most recently Marcy McGinnis, former senior vice president for news gathering. She told the Times that "people are afraid to lose their jobs if they cross Ehab," a Georgetown-educated native of Jordan.

The chief of human resources and the executive vice president for communications have also tendered their resignations.

In August, the Columbia Journalism Review reported on Al Jazeera America's struggles, calling its average of 17,000 prime-time viewers "immaterial. Fox News averaged 1.87 million prime-time viewers and CNN averaged 453,000, CJR reported.

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With an average of 30,000 viewers per night, Al Jazeera America, the cable news network owned by the ruling family of Qatar, is a "nonfactor in news," according to The New York Times.
Al Jazeera America, discrimination lawsuit, sinking ratings
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2015-40-06
Wednesday, 06 May 2015 03:40 PM
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