AJAM session

Tarek Albasti, owner of Aya's Cafe in Center City, checks the Al-Jazeera website on his iPhone. Protests in the Middle East have been linked to protests in the United States during the late 1960s. (FILE: TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)

There's good news for lovers of actual news: Al-Jazeera America is on the air tonight. It's good news because unlike certain cable news channels whose full names I don't want to reveal -- I'll disguise them by using their initials....CNN, MSNBC, and FNC -- the new AJAM is committed to covering real, reported news and not just shouting heads. That includes more reporting from the Middle East -- where as you may have heard, AJAM has some connections -- but also from around America, since Al Jazeera America has established bureaus in places like New Orleans that gets short shrift from America's penny-pinching networks. (If you live in the Philly area and have Comcast, as I do, it's probably on Channel 107.)

So what's the bad news? In order to get any cable systems to carry AJAM, it had to promise not to stream its broadcasts on the Internet, and even cut off the feed of its sister channel Al Jazeera English, which has won awards and kudos for its documentaries and its extensive coverage of the Arab Spring. What's more, early reports about AJAM's extensive hiring suggested that viewers hoping for the kind of international coverage not currently on U.S. cable would be disappointed, that the plan called for Americanizing AJAM into a bland pulp, a kind of a CNN Lite. That would be a huge disappointment.

But on the whole, Al-Jazerra America is a good thing to have, for now. When it comes to public information, I'm decidedly pro-choice.

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