The Fiction of Owen Thomas

Henry's Interview Corner


A Beagle Dreams of Finally Getting Some Answers

Al Jazeera

(Interviewed August 31, 2013)

H:   Mr. Jazeera, welcome to Henry’s Interview Corner.

AJ:   Uhhhmmm…

H:   You look confused.

AJ:   I am confused.

H:   What…

AJ:   Two things. First, you’re really a Beagle?

H:   Last I checked. You were expecting a Schnauzer? What else?

AJ:   …

H:   Sir?

AJ:   Okay… Second, my name is not Mr. Jazeera.

H:   Yes it is. Albert. Albert Jazeera.

AJ:   No.

H:   Al. Can I call you Al? You can call me Beagle.

AJ:   No.

H:   But it says right here…

AJ:   That says Al Jazeera.

H:   … right. Al Jazeera.

AJ:   That’s not my name.

H:   …

AJ:   My name is Rob Reynolds.  Al Jazeera is…

H:    Yeah, I know. A famous jazz vocalist. We’re in this Love Together. Look, I’m a Beagle; I’m not stupid.

AJ:   You’re thinking of Al Jarreau.

H:    Swanee - how I love ya, how I love ya.

AJ:   Yeah, that’s Al Jolson.

H:   Well then who the hell are you?

AJ:   I’m a senior correspondent for Al Jazeera English. Al Jazeera is a global news broadcast organization with a new presence in the United States. I’m based in the Al Jazeera Washington Bureau.

H:   Oh.

AJ:   Yeah, so…

H:   Well. Hmm.  So, if you were interviewing you, what would you want to be asked?

AJ:   I kind of thought this was going to be an interview about Al Jazeera’s purchase of Current TV.

H:   Current TV? You mean the cable news network that Al Gore put together that no one watches?

AJ:   The very same.

H:   With the guy with the enormous head…

AJ:   Keith Olbermann.

H:   Replaced by that prosecutor who became a governor who became steady hooker meal-ticket who became a late-night punch line who became a documentary star who became a cable pundit who became a candidate for New York Comptroller…

AJ:   Yeah Elliot Spitzer. That’s the network. Current TV.

H:   Man, you must have gotten that thing for a song. More people watch me paint the fire hydrant than watch Current TV. What’d you pay? Ten grand? Five?

AJ:   Five hundred million.

H:   What?! You paid half a billion dollars for …

AJ:   Al Jazeera has long wanted an American cable broadcasting platform.

H:   That’s a lot of coin.

AJ:   Yes. It is.

H:    Well, so then Al Jazeera must really be into the whole global warming, environmentalist, anti-fossil fuel agenda.

AJ:   Why do you say that?

H:   Al Gore is many things, my friend, but he’s not going to sell out the Earth. There’s a tipping point.

AJ:   Okay.

H:   Who owns Al Jazeera? Wait. Let me guess. Greenpeace, right?

AJ:   No.

H:   Bono? Oprah?

AJ:   Qatar.

H:   Say what?

AJ:   The nation of Qatar.

H:   You mean…

AJ:   Yes.

H:   The world’s richest nation per capita…

AJ:   Yes.

H:   Ruled by an absolute monarchy of Arab sheiks…

AJ:   Yes.

H:   Whose fortunes are based entirely on the global export of fossil fuels. That Qatar?

AJ:   That’s the one. Yeah.

H:   Oh.  And Al Gore got how much out of this deal?

AJ:   He cleared a hundred million.

H:   Sheesh.

AJ:   You seem … disillusioned.

H:    So Qatar’s got its own cable show.

AJ:   We have nothing more than an opportunity to provide more of the quality news reporting that we always have in the past. In 2012 Al Jazeera received the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award Grand Prize and the Scripps Howard Award for Television/Cable In-Depth Reporting. We know what we’re doing.

H:   So you’ve got some quality people.

AJ:   Take me for instance. I’ve got over 25 years experience in international television journalism. I’ve reported from over 30 countries, and from war zones including Iraq, Kuwait, Bosnia, Somalia, Ethiopia, Russia and Haiti. I covered the 2000 and 2008 US Presidential elections for CNBC. I was the Moscow correspondent for NBC News during the Yeltsin years. And I covered the first Gulf war and the war in Chechnya for CNN.

H:   Wow. That is impressive.

AJ:   We have over 150 employees located in North America alone, including experienced veterans of CNN, NBC, NPR, CBC, and the BBC. Our Managing Director is none other than Tony Burman.

H:   And he is…

AJ:   Canadian.

H:   Oh, well. In that case.

AJ:   As the U.S. State Department will attest, Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Arab world is unparalleled. We covered the pants off the Arab Spring. Everybody else, including CNN, tuned in to our feeds to deliver sloppy seconds to the American public. This country deserves better. And now, finally, after years of struggle, Current TV provides Al Jazeera English with a new opportunity to provide unique in-depth reporting on North America for a global audience.

H:   If you’re so darned good, why has it been so difficult for Al Jazeera to get a cable platform in this country? Honey Boo Boo has her own show. Have you seen this kid?

AJ:   Yeah, well, George Bush was not a fan.

H:   Of Honey Boo Boo?

AJ:   No, I’m pretty sure George Bush is a fan of Honey Boo Boo. I meant he was not a fan of Al Jazeera.

H:   Because…

AJ:   Because we kind of … sort of… just a little bit…

H:   What already.

AJ:   … let Osama Bin Laden use us as his own private cable access show for death-to-America sing-alongs.

H:   Oh. Well, that’s not good is it?

AJ:   No. I suppose not. We got ourselves branded.

H:   And are you still experiencing fall out?

AJ:   Time Warner Cable dropped Current TV like a hot rock.

H:   Did they say why?

AJ:   Something about how Al Gore never provided any notice that he was handing the keys over to Al Jazeera. Also something about the Titanic.

H:   So what do you plan to do to overcome this cultural prejudice?

AJ:   Provide top-notch, quality cable news programming.

H:   Think anyone in this country is going to watch?

AJ:   Oh hell no. We’re just hoping to win over Canada.

H:   I don’t know, Bob… that’s a lot of money and work for no American audience.

AJ:   You mean kind of like Henry’s Interview Corner?

H:   Hey, pal, that’s the wrong tone for a network that needs to make friends.

AJ:   Sorry. You’re right. Sorry.

H:   Bygones. Listen, do you know if they like Beagles in Canada?

AJ:   I have to go.

H:   Wait, wait. How about Arab sheiks? If I wanted to try my luck as a royal Beagle you think you could hook me up?

AJ:   Bye.

H:   Do they like Al Jarreau in Qatar? I kill ‘em in karaoke. Swanee - how I love ya, how I love ya. Rob! Wait up!

Next Guest: Anthony Wiener


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