I don’t know jack shit about Qatar. Its location, its vernacular, what its people eat: lost on me. Chances are I’ll never set foot on Qatari soil, as I don’t like long plane rides and it sounds far away. I’m not even sure how to properly pronounce Qatar.
But there is one thing of which I’m sure: I love Qatari news service Al Jazeera. Love it, love it, love it! Love that it bought Al Gore’s Currents TV network and now plans to sneak into the homes of 49 million cable subscribers in the United States. And I love that it’s hiring as many as 800 people to run its news operations from 12 US cities. Love it!
The best part is that Al Jazeera’s US network won’t be just a funnel for its existing English-language programming, produced in downtown Doha. Instead, it will “look inward, covering domestic affairs more often than foreign affairs,” and is relying on American reporters to do it, according to The New York Times.
And really, what’s more inward, domestic and American than hyperlocal news? If a hyperlocal organization can package its neighborhood or town as a profile in larger, national concerns, then it just might open the door to a lucrative business partnership with Al Jazeera.
Got a hyperlocal newsroom in El Paso or Detroit? Hook Al Jazeera up with coverage of immigration, international trade and national security policies, all with a local angle. Creating content for a hyperlocal news site in the Raleigh-Durham area? Sell Al Jazeera on the impacts of scientific discoveries, federal research funding and student-loan debt on average North Carolinians.
Even if a hyperlocal news beat doesn’t have any perceived sex appeal (a silly notion, as all hyperlocal news is sexy), newsroom talent can be a selling point. As of press time, Al Jazeera was hiring editors and designers in digital and video content. If an existing newsroom can carry some of that workload on a contract basis, then a partnership is still possible.
In return, hyperlocal partners earn additional revenue and bragging rights, though the latter is a double-edged scimitar. Al Jazeera’s objectivity as a news service has been (and will continue to be) questioned, which can be a drag on any of its business partners. However, if a hyperlocal news outlet’s main audience is sympathetic or at least ambivalent to this issue, then the risk is minimal.
And if Al Jazeera isn’t the proper partner for a hyperlocal organization, there’s always the Anonymous News Network.
Photo of Al Jazeera’s weather report courtesy of Flickr user John Kannenberg.