Al Jazeera Speaker Series: Carlos Van Meek

September 30, 2013

The following text is a transcript of the September 19, 2013, Al Jazeera Speaker Series conversation with Carlos Van Meek, head of output at Al Jazeera English and editorial team lead for the launch of Al Jazeera America. NU-Q Professor Khaled Hroub moderated the discussion. 

Introduction by Dean Everette Dennis:

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. This is the second of what is going to be a continuing series of conversations with Al Jazeera. It is part of our memorandum of understanding. Our speaker today is going to be introduced by Professor Hroub, and we are welcoming him back and are glad to have him here again.

Just want to say a word about NU-Q’s role. It’s a small one but important for us. We were invited to conduct a strategic content discussion with the top leadership of Al Jazeera here in Doha last April and had a chance to lay a bunch of things out. Faculty were involved, as well as staff, and one of our outside consultants played some role in helping to frame some of the discussion that then took place a month later in NYC. A mixture of Al Jazeera and the new Al Jazeera team was there, as well as people from current TV, on which Al Jazeera was built to some degree.

So that was very exciting, to actually be involved with the creation of a new network and then the very first opportunity for Al Jazeera America to do a rollout to a school—or anyplace—in the US was at the Medill school at Northwestern, in terms of their very first presentation to a college or university. So we’re very proud of that and of this relationship and especially having this program today.

So I’m going to ask our colleague Professor Khaled Hroub to have a conversation with our guest.

Professor Khaled Hroub:

Thank you very much Dean Dennis. I welcome everybody and welcome Carlos, our guest. Carlos Van Meek is head of Al Jazeera English, and he has been in industrial media for more than 20 years. Maybe because of this he has been charged with the “easy” job of establishing Al Jazeera in America. Reading the achievements and things that Carlos has been doing over the past 20 years is a really impressive experience.

I’m going to stop on the landmarks, starting in 1992, at a Fox affiliate and in 1996 when he helped launch Fox news channel. He then opened and managed bureaus in Afghanistan and Iraq for the channel. In 2003, he started global media works with clients such as ABC, NBC, Sky, Entertainment Tonight and Fox News Channel. After that, he started with Al Jazeera and in Central Europe opened their Athens bureau, covering Balkans, Central Europe and the Middle East. He moved to Doha in 2010. In 2012, he was promoted to head of output, and after that he had been shipped to America to do Al Jazeera America. Carlos, we are happy to have you.

Now let us start with perhaps the most important question and that is why. Why Al Jazeera America? What is new that the channel can provide for American audiences? And what is the niche that Al Jazeera has found there?

Carlos Van Meek:

Well I think it’s no secret Al Jazeera has been trying to really get into the American market for the last several years. There were a variety of ways that it was achieving that goal, albeit on a very small scale. There were small distribution deals within the US—some in the Northeast, some in the Midwest, but it was still really somewhere around the 5 million mark. There were other deals that were potentially much bigger, but they weren’t really coming to fruition, so at some stage there was a discussion, at levels far beyond mine, that this channel, Current TV, became available.

This is late fall of last year, and the Sheikh had some folks look into what this entailed, and what it entailed was a distribution network, a platform, where if you purchased this channel, you would inherit their distribution deals. So there was a debate about whether you build a channel, you buy a channel, how do you do it. A decision was made, again at levels beyond me, that this was the way that Al Jazeera wanted to go. They wanted an impact, and with this they went from approximately five million homes to approximately 45 million homes … so that’s a splash, right there.

It’s about impact in America now. It’s about more homes. And of course when you’re on that scale, everybody’s watching. So I believe I got a call January 3, and I was in San Francisco January 5 for the initial discussion with the folks over at Current TV, whose channel had just been purchased by Al Jazeera. You can imagine what that was like. So folks who had no idea who this new employer was … by all accounts at that stage the numbers had begun to leak into the press about purchasing, and hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. There was a bit of press at the time … going after Jazeera, and, more than that, going after Al Gore, who was one of the principle owners of Current TV at the time.

Nevertheless, that was pretty much the beginning and why. It’s about impact, about getting more bang for your buck. And of course it was still very much an idea—the decision was made to launch, the decision was made to buy, and once you make that decision you have to put a channel together.


Talking about figures and audience outreach, when you mentioned Current TV used to reach 40 million homes, just to have it in a comparative perspective, do we have any figures about CNN or Fox News, how many homes are they in?

Van Meek:

CNN is in about 100 m homes right now approximately. Fox News Channel, somewhere between 90 and 100 million. To really maximize ratings and how ratings work in America, you need to be in more homes. CNN is in third place right now, if you look at Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and then there’s CNN, which is why they changed their leadership, and they’re rebranding their shows, etc. But CNN is in so many homes, and they have so many very good business deals that they have done over the last decade or so that they still charge quite a bit. They can still command certain prices from advertisers, distributers, etc. So if Al Jazeera really wants to go ahead and change and play on that same level, a couple of things will have to happen. They will have to double the number of homes they are in. …  We inherited the TV platform, so when you do that you also inherit their channels, you inherit the fact that they’re not high definition—that all plays into these deals. So what you want to do is you want to get into more homes, you want to go more high definition, and you want to go lower on the dial.

So if you are somewhere in the 150s, you really want to be somewhere competing in the 70s, the 100s—you know, you kind of want to get down and down and down, because people don’t scroll up that high.

Remember, this is a linear platform. Cable TV is linear. So debates can be had on whether it should have been a digital platform that Al Jazeera went ahead and purchased. But the reality is that it purchased the linear platform and those are the rules we have to play by.


Okay, so if we move to the editorial line again maybe we are still linked to why Al Jazeera America is now setting this operation here, would it be seen as purely American TV, similar to others, CNN, Fox news and others and now you have Al Jazeera. The main focus, the main engagement is local news and maybe to try to offer something slightly different. Or is it focused on foreign affairs? You cover local news but your intention in fact is maybe to bring in more focus on foreign news because you have all this perception on the time. You know the knowledge of ordinary americans about foreign affairs is minimal. So is it purely American or with more focus on international affairs.

Van Meek:

Without contradicting myself, I’ll try to answer that question. Firstly, at Al Jazeera, we are exceedingly proud of our brand. We are exceedingly proud of what we have done to provide better news coverage globally on stories that are vastly underreported everywhere else. And we take that very seriously.

And that was started by our brothers and sisters over at Al Jazeera Arabic. So English, the channel I work for, has taken on that legacy, and we feel a bond there. With Jazeera America, there was a fear, that oh, is it going to fall into the same trap that many cable channels fall into, which is more sensational, not devoting enough time to stories that matter … maybe a bit too much entertainment or maybe just finding a way to make a hard news story more salacious? And of course reporting stories that don’t really matter.

I think I can say that that is a debate that takes place every day in the Al Jazeera newsroom. Hundreds of journalists and the senior executives know that there is a very strong DNA that needs to run through the Al Jazeera brand. I don’t care if it’s in the Balkans; I don’t care if it’s in America or Turkey … because we also have channels there.

There is a certain DNA transfer that’s taking place where they need to understand that it’s not so much about what Miley Cyrus did at the BMA awards, and it’s not so much whether the CEO of Yahoo will pose provocatively on the cover of a magazine and what that means for women. It’s about what’s happening in Syria today.

It’s about, if it’s the shooting that took place the other day in Washington, not just looking at the motives behind why this guy did what he did but really taking on gun regulations in America and looking at that in greater depth and giving it more time.

Far beyond, once the conversation begins to die down keep moving on that story. So to say is it an international story—is it international focused? Is it domestically focused? I would say this: news always wins at Jazeera if they do their job right. Then, the best story of the day is the lead. Be it Syria, be it Egypt, be it a shooting in DC, or be it an exclusive report that they did in Paducah, Kentucky. It’s irrelevant. The best story of the day should be having the most airtime.

How about those stories that nobody else is going to tell? I think that’s really important for Jazeera America. What I love about Jazeera America is that it has bureaus in these weird and wonderful places. I mean we have bureaus in Detroit, we have bureaus in New Orleans, we have bureaus in Denver, where most people are closing. We have bureaus in San Francisco, Seattle … we have Nashville, and of course you have the NY, the LA, the Chicago and the Miami. But you know those [smaller city bureaus] really get you into those hard-to-reach places in America, where stories aren’t being told.

And what’s more, they’re about to get more bureaus, more bodies.

And what’s exciting about that is that you start to own the conversation on certain stories. When you’re telling stories that nobody is telling, that means that you’re actually making news. Breaking news is easy—what happened the other day in DC was a reaction. Making news is hard.

And that takes resources, and it takes time, and it takes effort from your journalists to actually go out and find this stuff and get into these hard-to-reach places. That’s what excites me about Al Jazeera America, the fact that they have Al Jazeera Arabic, Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera Balkans and all these other resources to fall back on. That’s a force enhancer. Nobody can touch Jazeera America if they decide to go international on a story. We’re just untouchable. But when it comes to domestic, I think they’re going to do really interesting things there. And it’s not just about going ahead and being really breathy about a particular story.

I’ll give you a really good example. There was a school … just about six weeks ago, a gunman locked himself in the office of a school. I’m going to brush over the details of this. Nothing happened. But there was a 911 call, by someone who worked in the principal’s office, to the 911 dispatcher, and then it became a breaking story. It was the day we launched, in fact, this story hit. And we thought, “Oh my God, there’s going to be a school shooting. I just want to launch.”

It turns out nothing happened. The guy was a bit mentally unstable; police took care of it at the scene. It’s over. The whole thing took about two hours to resolve. But in those two hours it was quite exciting; things were happening, ect. By the time we launched at three o’clock that story was over. Some of our competitors sat on that story for another three days. There were reunions with the dispatcher who placed the call, with the person at the police department who took the call, there was the gunman’s brother who was on the show after that. There were calculated decisions made in the cable universe that “we’re going to own this story because that’s all people are talking about.” Well, that’s not all people are talking about … that’s what you’re talking about.

There’s a lot going on in different places and in different spaces in America that matter to a lot of Americans. We don’t need to focus on something that doesn’t go anywhere.

But that’s the narrative. So when I go back to the original point—what is it about Al Jazeera America? What is it? Will it be more American? It has the potential to be a really great news channel. It’s going to take time. They need to find their feet a bit. They’re getting off to a positive start. … They’re still recruiting and that takes time, but once they’re fully staffed and they get to know one another and they get everything in order, I think they will begin to seriously own a news agenda in the US.


Let me stay with the branding issue for a bit because you said that with the name of Al Jazeera everybody is really proud of course, and you feel supported, backed up. You have sister channels, the Arabic, the Balkans, which is fine. These could be seen as advantages. However, when it comes to the US, Al Jazeera’s name is somehow loaded with so many negative connotations. This is the channel that’s used to broadcast the Bin Laden tapes and maybe is seen and even perceived to be close to Al Qaeda, and this and that. So you started with this legacy so maybe some people would say why start with a dead body on your shoulders. How do you see or place this kind of name and reputation of Al Jazeera with these two perspectives—powerful on the one hand [while] it could be pulling you back.

Van Meek:

The elephant in the room is the brand in America. I don’t think that’s a secret. I think people know why we couldn’t get wider distribution in America. People were scared; advertisers were scared. People didn’t want to take a risk. And this is after people like Hillary Clinton came out and said what she was saying in the senate, and people like McCain, he said several times, even Rumsfeld has come on and said, I think to David Frost, “you know I think you guys are doing good work.” So that’s all great but that doesn’t solve the problem in middle America, because people can say “well, you’re toxic.”

And if you sit down with certain business people, I respect their positions. Business people they sell stuff, and they don’t want to make waves, and that’s fine. But our job is to go ahead and convince people that we aren’t what they think we are, whatever that may be. … So that’s a difficult exercise to accomplish; it’s very hard to do. So all we could do was tell people as we went through this process … I got there in January, and we went to distributors, and we talked to marketing folks, and branding folks, and PR people, and all of this, and all of this was the elephant in the room. Al Jazeera’s coming to America, would you ever consider changing your name, etc., etc.

And the answer was no. We have a brand, and we’re very proud of that brand, and it’s okay that we don’t have a channel to show for the next several months. So there’s this void, and they can say anything that they want because there’s no product. So they can go ahead and just point to a Jazeera scary thing. There’s a lot of scary information out there as well that’s inaccurate. But in that dead space when we’re not on television and all we have is our word, watch us, watch us, watch us. Because remember this is Al Jazeera America, not Aljazeera English. We’re offering them something else, a different product.

So there was a time when we were a bit concerned that people were going to own this space because we were not on TV. However, what was quite incredible to watch was that they had nothing to say. It was just fears, really, but the press reports, the things that were written about us were incredibly fair and kept giving us the benefit of the doubt: “let’s wait and see.”

And all the press reports, from credible outlets (because we can go on the blogosphere, and you will find anything you want; if you want your opinion validated, go online—okay? Go online and no matter how coo coo the idea may be, you will find someone who agrees with it. We can’t control that. But in the traditional press) I thought they gave us a fair shake they knocked us when we deserved to get knocked, when things weren’t going to speck. But for the most part, when it came to the editorial about what we were as a channel—what the product would be, what the content would be—they gave us a chance. And now that we’re on television, the folks who were hyperventilating—“oh my god they’re coming to America, what does this mean? Islamisation of the US, how scary is that?”—it’s all unfounded.

What they got was a TV news product, with a lead story, and a second story, and a feature, and pacing, and maybe a recognizable face … or not. But a new channel dedicating itself to hard news every, single day and not going overboard on stories that don’t warrant. And so now they’re going to have a harder time.

So, yes, initially the brand was something people were having a hard time accepting, but we stuck to our guns and said “this is our brand and we’re going with it.” We made a conscious decision. And I’m proud of that and proud we did it and now the work will speak for itself.


Opening the floor to questions.

Audience member:

I’m just wondering about the bureaus. Do you have goals or any way of systematically bringing stories in from those places—the Detroits the Nashvilles—have there been unique stories coming out of those bureaus or is that kind of something that is going to develop as the staff increases?

Van Meek:

I think it’s going to develop over time. Right now, launching something this big takes time. And really some would say “just because we launched …,” we’ll say that launch really takes a year. Six months to a year before you settle in. And that’s who you are, and you finally find your feet. So I would say that the bureaus will find their feet. News gatherers will find a way to best use their resources.

If you take for granted when you walk into a newsroom—CNN, NBC, Fox News Channel—you know you just take it for granted that everything’s going to work. You’re going to get your phone on the first day. You’re TV is going to turn on. Your live shots are going to go out. All this stuff that just happens doesn’t happen when you’re launching a channel, because the processes aren’t there. The kinks haven’t been worked out. So I mean that goes from leasing your crew cars to having an Amex that you can travel with, to how do you buy tickets, how do you get reimbursed, all this stuff that goes with news gathering and beyond has been addressed and has come a very, very long way.

And it’s working now. There is a system in place. So say the Detroit folks … or how are you going to best use your resources in Dallas—do you want to use them just in the general vicinity or do you want to go ahead and have them back bill in DC, because that’s where the need is right now. Those conversations are never ending and constant. I see that developing over time. And as they develop you are also going to know who your good storytellers are. You know we hired a lot of people really fast. And most of them are from those markets where they were hired. So take for example the person in San Francisco is from San Francisco, it works like that. Denver is from Denver. Because we felt the same way Jazeera did in that when we want when Arabic launched we wanted people in those countries, in Arabic, so you get people from those countries to report.

It was kind of the same ethic here. Find the people from those areas to tell those stories. And we’re opening more bureaus as well—that was kind of green lighted a few weeks ago. So that’s still in development, but I think that it will work out over time that once they work out a system to best use their resources they’ll do so.

And you’ll start to see … it’s when a report gets quoted in the times and not the other way around. You know, you can read a quote in the New York Times and go “that’s a story I’d love to do that for television.” And you read a story and you go “that’s not for television, we’d never be able to do that but it’s a good story.” You need the Times, you need the Post, you need bloggers to say they made the news today. And when people start talking about you in those terms—you know, even with the guests you pick—you know that’s important.

These are not just guests jabbering on. It happens at cable networks. They just fill time because they have so much time to fill. So you get the same guy who’s going to talk about foreign affairs, and he’s going to talk about being an expert on military spending as well, and he can talk about birth control—it’s the same person. They’re just talking!

Finding the right person to say the right things is very hard to do. Booking is brutal. Okay? And you make news that way too. Getting the right people to say the right thing is when people pay attention and they go “I learned something today. I watched Jazeera and I never knew that until I watched.”

So news gathering and content and all that stuff that you put on the screen, that all matters. … This is the philosophy that we all have. We all believe that over time it’s going to get there. It’s just settling into a groove. And I think everybody’s excited about the potential because the landscape, the TV journalism in America, it’s so down right now, with layoffs and mergers and corporations buying media companies that then become media holding companies. And then they’re not even journalistic enterprises anymore, and you’ve got somebody who’s got more hits on a blog than will ever look at the “xyz website” that’s actually more credible—you know there’s a lot to compete with now.

So it’s a hard time to be an objective journalist anywhere but especially in the United States, because it’s so … it’s such a big, loud market, that I think people who came to Jazeera from different places are very excited about the opportunity that they have just been granted. And it’s an exceedingly exciting time to work for this company in the US.

So I see good things, but it’s not there yet.

Audience member:

It’s very interesting to listen to your description of a marketplace for a channel. And I guess in my mind maybe this has been said already, but I’m trying to understand why America. Also, in line with that, I’m thinking my perception of Al Jazeera English is sort of the exceptional way in which they would address international stories, not just in this region but further on. Because I’m actually from the Balkans, I frequently hear issues from the civil war 10-15 years back that are still being visited. And I guess along the same line I’m wondering is there a focus on an international sort of news telling area of Al Jazeera America or is it specifically targeting American audiences, and are the stories going to be in bulk about American stories?

Carlos Van Meek:

They are targeting an American audience. Let’s be frank. Their viewers are coast to coast. Jazeera English’s agreement is international. Having said that—and I touched on that a bit earlier—yes they will devote a lot of air time to domestic stories. But it’s about how you devote that time to domestic stories, and how you do them intelligently. Also it’s really important for Jazeera to be able to go internationally. Because [with] all the research we did, it was important for the marketplace, the people who watch Jazeera, who care about Jazeera … there was a yearning for that international content.  So the answer is yes, yes and yes: it’s an American audience they will target but that audience is watching Jazeera for a reason, and they’re trying to get stories that are underreported, whether they are somewhere in Ohio, or whether it’s the Gaza strip, that’s the key, Now how is it going to split up in percentages? Is it going to be 60 percent, 40 percent, 70 or 30? You know that’s all. I saw those numbers thrown out there in the piece.

In nine months I never saw a document that said that anywhere. And I spoke to everyone, there was no split, okay? What it is: may the best news story win. May the best show win. Let’s tell the best narrative over a period of 50 minutes, and hopefully sexy enough so that people will stick around and watch after the commercial break. But you know there is a recognition that this is an American audience. So take for example, maybe they won’t take that extra two stories that are international because they feel they have more content in America that they could put in there. They do have that option.

And there’s nobody pressing a gun to their heads and saying it has to be 40 percent international or 60 percent international so you can really be Jazeera. No, what really is Jazeera is the stories you choose to put in your shows and the stories you choose to cover from a news gathering perspective. It’s the content. So if they get the content right, one hopes, people will watch.

And I know the numbers are out there in various places. The numbers are right where they should be for where this channel is in its infancy. If you look back at the channels that launched in 1996, one of them being Fox news and the other being MSNBC, they didn’t release their numbers—I think Fox released their numbers six months after launch, and MSNBC one year after launch. If we were having a talk about MSNBC seven years ago, that channel was on life support. Fox news channel? Remarkable—remarkable what they’ve done. If you look at News Corp and how it’s split, they belong to the entertainment division. They don’t belong to the news division anymore … and bless them, it’s a business model that works for their audience. Exceedingly savvy and bless them. We have a different agreement. Ours is news centric. Yes, ratings will matter in the American market. That is something that the executive committee will have to take on board. But how are they going to take it on board. That needs to develop over time. And how they do that? We’ll see.

Audience member:

To take it back to the nuts and bolts of being on the ground as you are trying to put this thing together. Obviously that hasn’t been done at least recently. So if you can give us some sort of insiders recounting of how the relationship between digital and traditional television production played out as you were putting together this channel. Every existing channel has been grappling with how to adapt and how to tie new media into an existing channel given that you guys are building something from scratch. I’m wondering if you can give us any sort of anecdotes or perspective on how you approach that problem, what might have turned out to be unique about the way Al Jazeera America came together to be or not, and how it might or might not be different than other channels.

Van Meek:

So digital that is a huge discussion. A separate discussion. But I’ll try to be succinct here. Digital is where it’s at. Let’s not pretend. Today is digital, tomorrow is digital; it’s all digital. However, we have certain challenges with the America channel that didn’t allow us to be as digital as we’d like to be. There were certain restrictions placed on us; call it a preexisting condition so to speak. … By the way our HAE website, 40 percent of our global audience was North America, and that stream’s gone now, so we recognized that we alienated the core audience—the people who stuck with us in the toxic years, the ones who really went searching for us, when you couldn’t find us anywhere else, you could find us online. Well Jazeera America is now in X amount of homes in a linear way. The site is up. There are certain restrictions with what we could do on that site. Of course there are discussions about doing other things digitally that we couldn’t get into right now.

So the desire to continue with the digital, to pursue it digitally, exists. There are existing deals in the works that haven’t been announced yet. So we do want to enhance the digital presence of Al Jazeera in the US, and that’s just going to take a little bit of time … because it’s not feasible for launch. It was a robust discussion to say the least, over the last eight months.

Audience member:

Going back to your comments about entertainment vs. actual news journalism and the focus Al Jazeera America is going to take—what do you predict will happen and are any of those politically biased extreme talk shows in the works for Al Jazeera America? Because I think it’s gotten CNN and Fox News great ratings, but I think it’s been terrible for journalism.

Van Meek:

Look. I think I can speak for … since I’ve left, there is nothing like that in the works right now. There is no talk show that kind of pits two people against one another and they fire off and go at each other, ect. etc. Whether that’s a winning formula or not, I don’t know.

If you look at what some channels have done with some success, I don’t know if it was the opinion that was theirs. It was [rather] that they were so loyal to their audience. You know they know exactly to the second their audience—how old they are, how much money they make—and they catered to that. And the audience wants that, and they give it to them. Opinion is great. Provocative opinion adds to the mix. But it can’t just be anybody’s opinion. Anybody can say anything that’s far out there, but Al Jazeera has always taken the tack that if the person is not credible, then that really doesn’t help us. It doesn’t help our brand, because we’re trying to be credible. And when you go ahead and you get a lightening rod out there who’s going to say anything, that’s really dangerous. And if you don’t conduct the interview properly, then you’ve blown it.

There’s nothing wrong … if you had the chance to get Adolf Hitler in a chair and interview him for 15 minutes would you? I would! Okay? However, how you conduct the interview is as important as just getting him out there to just spout off for 15 minutes. That’s what happens at the other channels. They’re allowed to spout off and what’s worse is that you find the anchor agreeing with the guest’s opinions. To me that’s a red flag, when you go “oh, that’s a very good point you make … that’s …” and they … it’s a club! That’s what we have to avoid. So there’s nothing wrong with strong opinions; it’s just how you go around. And now are there going to be interview shows down the line that have those kinds of things? I can tell you as of today, no. Will there be tomorrow? I simply don’t know.

Audience member:

What kind of a credibility blow do you think that Al Jazeera took from the controversy surrounding its coverage in Egypt recently, and how do you think that plays into attitudes in the American audience.

Van Meek:

We take those things seriously—the charges and how we covered Egypt, etc. I work for Jazeera English, and Egypt is our big story. So it matters to me a great deal. There’s a lot of misinformation out there and a lot of hand wringing, and there’s always analysis. … Did it damage the brand in America? The answer is no. And the answer is no because a, the sources weren’t great, and, b, the American audience really doesn’t care about the Egypt story.  You know, they’re not across it. When you are Al Jazeera English, the people who watch Al Jazeera English, they are across the Egypt story, they follow it.

I would say that the folks in the US probably aren’t following Egypt as closely as ours. Our channel just has a completely different audience. You’re looking at expats abroad, ESL types, people who live in the region. The English audience in America was miniscule, except for the onliners that we discussed. And those folks … if you’re going online to try to find us it’s because you’re really interested in stuff outside of your world. And those people tend to follow Egypt. So moving back to our folks in America and the audience there … it didn’t damage us whatsoever.

If it damaged anything, it damaged morale. And the morale was here, not in America. And a lot of soul searching happens on things like that. Are we being fair and balanced? Are we telling it straight? Are we underreporting it? Are we self-censoring? All that. That discussion happens every, single day. And it should happen every day.

So you know I don’t really look at the reports that came out about our coverage. Because it wasn’t just English or America, they were looking at Arabic as well, and Arabic took a shot. Did the brand take a hit? It takes a hit in certain places, but it didn’t take a hit in America. And I would say that if anything it’s the people who work here in Doha who are much more conscious of the Egypt story and much more conscious about what is happening in Syria and everywhere else. That’s where maybe it may have had an effect.

But we deal with it every day and we get up and review it, and we do our best, and you know sometimes we may not get it right. And I think what’s important is when you don’t get something right is looking inside and going “alright where did we go wrong, how could we have done this better?” Posting a big event–a post meeting on it, a debrief afterward. Let’s just take a step back here.

What did we do right and what did we do wrong? Those conversations have to happen. And they do happen … and that’s all part of the process of trying to be better and better and better and better, because nobody always gets it 100 percent right.

If you remember correctly, it was 2003 and the entire American press got it wrong. So you take stock. And you go, “we’re never doing that again.” It’s a lot like life. We’re all going to make mistakes. It’s part of life. But we’re not going to make the same one … you can make a different one but try not to make the same ones. So hopefully if we did make any mistakes along the way, we have addressed them and we try to move on.


Well this is all the time we have. So thank you for coming to speak with us.