As rumors swirl that Egypt's president will step down, TV nets scramble and Al Jazeera English makes case to join U.S. media mix
Just as American TV networks and anchors had begun to turn away from Egypt, the biggest news breaks out: Rampant announcements and signals that embattled Egypt president Hosni Mubarak is about to step down.
From the start, the unrest in Egypt has challenged U.S. media outlets, which coped with the media recession by cutting back on its international reporting resources just as social media and an increasingly aware young generation has brought political instability to some of the Arab world's most stable regimes.
Here in the U.S., Mubarak's fall has seemed a stunningly swift and relatively bloodless fall, as protesters took to the streets and refused to back down from halfhearted attempts to subvert or intimidate them. Even as Western journalists were caught up in the unrest, the beatings of high-profile TV crews were serious, but not as brutal as the 12 journalists killed in the Philippines in 2009.
Still, CNN's Anderson Cooper was back in New York Wednesday, describing to late night chat host David Letterman how it felt to be attacked by an unpredictable Egyptian crowd.
He must be feeling a bit upset now, as ABC's Christiane Amanpour remains the biggest star still around, as other big name anchors had left the country, concerned about safety and concluding the transition might take time.
NBC anchor Brian Williams channeled his inner Dan Rather, noting Egyptians must be nervous as a "long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs" on MSNBC. I expect, should Mubarak step down anytime soon, the networks might actually break in with coverage.
Since it's absent from most cable systems, Al Jazeera English's images have been shown on MSNBC for a while today. It's stream is also available on its website and YouTube.
For me, it's been amusing to see figures such as Fox News Channel pundit Bill O'Reilly complaining about Al Jazeera's content, when his channel claims to do the same thing Al Jazeera does, in a way. Fox News claims its news reporting is separate from its pundit shows, which are obviously led by strong conservative voices. Al Jazeera also says its reporting is free from the pro-Arab sentiments which appear in its opinion shows.
Click here to see an embedded feed from AJE, to watch what MSNBC's Rachel Maddow is calling a "Berlin wall moment."