Golden to host Arab network Al-Jazeera during DNC
By April M. Washington, Rocky Mountain News
Originally published 08:05 p.m., August 13, 2008
Updated 08:05 p.m., August 13, 2008
The city of Golden has rolled out the welcome mat for a global Arab news network the Bush Administration has condemned for its reporting on the Iraq war.
When Al-Jazeera comes to Colorado to cover the Democratic National Convention this month, it will use Golden as the backdrop to show the Arab world what life is like in a typical American town.
“It’s a great opportunity to share a slice of life in small-town America in the midst of an engaging Democratic process,” said Golden Mayor Jacob Smith. “I’m sure we’ll learn a lot in the process, and so will Arabs about us.”
The news organization, which some describe as the CNN of the Arabic-speaking world, reaches 120 million viewers in 80 countries.
The U.S. has criticized Al-Jazeera for running stories on civilian casualties during the Iraq War. The station also broadcast video-taped statements from Osama bin Laden after Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“The U.S. government does not like al-Jazeera because there’s a sense they feed into anti-U.S. sentiment,” said Bella Mody, a professor of journalism at the University of Colorado. But she called Al-Jezeera “an excellent alternative news source.”
“Its mission is to represent the Arab streets to the rest of the world and present the rest of the world to the Arab streets.”
Al-Jazeera program directors could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The main station broadcast is in Arabic, but about three years ago the network began an English language news channel that airs on the Internet.
Al-Jazeera’s Washington, D.C., bureau will broadcast from both Denver and Golden during the DNC, reporting on a variety of issues, including the economy, environment, health care, Iraq War and Democrats’ floor speeches.
The backdrop for its Aug. 27 broadcast from Golden is the Buffalo Rose salon, an iconic bar in the heart of downtown, where the college-educated townies and tattooed Harley riders blow off steam after work.
On Aug. 28, the day of Barack Obama’s historic speech, an al-Jazeera crew will broadcast from a bar near Invesco, said Golden officials.
Another crew will film an American-style barbecue at the home of Golden City Manager Mike Bestor, which boasts spectacular views of Table Mountain.
The broadcast calls for pre-selected townspeople to discuss the environment and health care while enjoying hamburgers and hot dogs, Bestor said.
“It’s a color piece to show Arab viewers what Americans are like,” said Bestor. Al-Jazeera scouted other cities, including Boulder, but was turned down by at least one, said Golden spokeswoman Sabrina D’Agosta.
“The idea is reach out to real world people and not just politicians and activists,” she said. “They saw Golden as a good place to have small-town, real-world discussions.”
The Arabic-language network created nearly 10 years ago in Qatar has grown to include cable and Internet outlets.
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