I Want My Al Jazeera English!

I’ll admit to being absolutely enthralled by whats been happening in Egypt this past week. If events follow what happened in Tunisia, we could see the face of the political world change wildly in the next couple of months. Take an admitted news junkie, add a dash of once-a-lifetime events, and place that person in the United States media market. The very definition of frustrating.

Good Morning America had twenty minutes or so on the (admittedly tragic) story of the Tampa Bay woman who killed her children, at the same moment that two million people are massing in Tahrir Square in Cairo and the Jordanian King has thrown out his government and appointed a new Prime Minister in order to stave off unrest. The Middle East is changing before our eyes! And Charlie Sheen’s drinking problem and how that affects the TV show Two and a Half Men is still making headlines.

The news service that is at the forefront of reporting on the situation is Al Jazeera. Even the local Philadelphia newspapers are reporting on this dearth of up to the minute news:

The best international TV coverage of the chaos in Egypt is coming from Al Jazeera, whose journalists fit right in with the throng. But, as the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim points out here, not a lot of Americans can watch it.

Because of previous governmental and corporate antipathy for the Arab news network, not to mention a general suspicion among millions of Americans, only a tiny handful of U.S. cable operators carry Al Jazeera English, although U.S. news outlets are using footage that the network is sharing.

For my part, I’ve been glued to a newly released iOS app published by Al Jazeera English. Live streaming video provided by livestream.com (and when that flunks out, it switches to audio only) of the events in Egypt, as they happen. It’s like CNN in the eighties and nineties.

All of those critics who scoff at the idea that the media we have is the best and reports only on the most newsworthy items have new ammunition to question the oligopoly.

The media bubble I’ve created to stay on top of events encompasses this Al Jazeera English app and Twitter generally. Specially, NPR’s Andy Carvin Twitter feed has been at the forefront of both Tunisian and Egyptian reporting.

Keep your ears to the ground folks, 2011 is already shaping up as a wild year.