“An Unlikely Audience: Al Jazeera’s Struggle in America”


Dr. William Lafi Youmans
Assistant Professor, School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University

*A light lunch is served at 12:30 p.m. Talk begins promptly at 1:00 p.m.

An Unlikely Audience addresses the successes and failures of the decade-long struggle of the Al Jazeera Media Network in the United States – of which its 2016 closure of the $2 billion Al Jazeera America channel was but one of its setbacks – to investigate the inner workings of a complex news organization fighting to overcome deep obstacles, foster strategic alliances and build its identity in the US. Youmans argues that understanding this arc of Al Jazeera’s attempting to establish itself as a national news market, actually requires looking it through the lens of location. He reveals the network’s appeal to American audiences by presenting its three independent US-facing subsidiaries in their primary locales of production: Al Jazeera English (AJE) in Washington, DC, Al Jazeera America (AJAM) in New York, and AJ+ in San Francisco. These cities are centers of vital industries-media-politics, commercial TV news and technology, respectively. As Youmans shows, the success of the outlets hinged on the locations in which they operated because Al Jazeera assimilated aspects of their core industries. An Unlikely Audience proves that place is critical to the formation and evolution of multi-national media organizations, despite the rise of communication technologies that many believe make location less relevant.

William Lafi Youmans is an Assistant Professor at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. His areas of research interest include international broadcasting, Middle East politics, and Arab-American studies. Youmans wrote a regular column for the Gulf News, but has also been published in the Washington Post, Middle East Report, and Nieman Journalism Lab. His scholarly articles have appeared in Presidential Studies Quarterly, Communication Review, Theory & Event, and the International Journal of Communication, among others. In 2013 he received the Best Paper Award in the International Communication Section of the International Studies Association for his research on CIA recruitment in Arab Detroit.

Copies of An Unlikely Audience: Al Jazeera’s Struggle in America will be available for purchase at the event.


Bookings are no longer available for this event.