Kate O’Brian – President of Al Jazeera America
By Allan Dodds Frank
While I was watching Al Jazeera recently, who should pop up as a guest but the great comedian Mel Brooks. Midway in the interview, he made a fantastic unsolicited endorsement of the network, saying when he first heard about it, he figured it was at least vaguely anti-Semitic but once he watched it at home in Santa Monica, he was delighted. He now views Al Jazeera as “the New York Times” of cable television news.
Come listen to Kate O’Brian – President of Al Jazeera America tell us about what the new network is doing to be taken seriously. (Watch Al Jazeera on 57 on Time Warner cable in Manhattan, 114 on FIOS, 107 on Comcast in Connecticut)
O’Brian will be the speaker at The Society of the Silurians luncheon on Tuesday at noon March 18th at The Players, 16 Gramercy Park South.
Ms. O’Brian left ABC News as a Senior Vice President for News last July to become the President of Al Jazeera America, shortly after the network announced it had bought Current TV with the goal of creating a true hard news cable network in English for North America.
Dr. Mostefa Souag, acting director general of the Al Jazeera Media Networks, heralded the hiring of O’Brian: “Kate’s arrival speaks volumes about what we intend to do and how we intend to do it. She is a highly experienced and award-winning journalist who fully understands what Americans want to see and hear when they watch the news. Kate has the vision, tenacity and integrity to ensure that Al Jazeera America will quickly become the success we expect it to be.”
The network’s press release summarized her career as “long and storied. She began as a television desk assistant in New York and then joined the staff of “This Week with David Brinkley” when it launched in 1981. O’Brian has also been general manager of programming for ABC News Radio responsible for editorial content; overseas field producer in Rome and London; producer for “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings,” both in Washington DC and New York; and manager in talent development.”
O’Brian said, in a statement: “Al Jazeera America will demonstrate that quality journalism is alive and well in the United States,” she said. “Working alongside the talented journalists at ABC News has prepared me to take this step and I am deeply grateful for thirty years at that outstanding organization. As I bring everything I learned to this new role I’m looking forward to showing the Al Jazeera viewers that there is a strong demand for the type of in depth reporting for which Al Jazeera is so well known.”
As president, O’Brian is based at Al Jazeera America’s headquarters in New York City and has full responsibility for defining and implementing the editorial strategy and operations across the network, including news, documentary and all other programming.”
When she left ABC, Ben Sherwood, the President of ABC News, said: “Kate has been a mentor and role model to scores of young people across the news division. On a personal level, I’m deeply grateful to her for helping steer the division through the complex transitions of the last several years. And I will miss the sound of her voice, urgent and measured, calling in the middle of the night, when news is breaking somewhere around the world. In moments of crisis and every day, two principles always guide her: The safety of our people and the excellence of our work. While we will miss Kate’s insights, judgment and humor, we know that she is stepping into an important role and we wish her very best with this new challenge.”
With nearly nine months at the helm now and Al Jazeera making news in the United States and abroad, O’Brian undoubtedly will have plenty to tell us about the daunting tasks facing her and her 800 colleagues in the United States as they try to fight the overwhelming trend by news organizations toward ever more quick, cheap and superficial coverage.
Please make your reservations now for what is sure to be a fascinating discussion. Use the EventBrite form that you will have received separately or call the Silurians Reservation Line 212 532-0887. $45 for members, $50 guests.