WASHINGTON, District of Columbia — Today Al Jazeera announced in a press release it will close its Canadian bureaus except for one.
The Qatar-based news network operates bureaus in all 10 provinces and 3 territories. Al Jazeera bureaus in the territories — Yellowknife, Whitehorse, Iqaluit — will close by the end of this week. Bureaus in 9 provinces will close at the end of this month. The Toronto bureau will remain open with responsibilities for covering all of Canada.
Although the network still struggles to increase ratings in America and have implemented several cost-cutting measures this year, Sayyid el-Jafar, COO for network operations, responding by email from the network’s New York City headquarters, said the bureau reductions are unrelated to those issues and are purely operational efficiency and effectiveness moves.
“There’s just not much news happening up there right now,” Mr. el-Jafar said.
“It’s an amazingly quiet, really nice, and peaceful country. Rarely is there crucial breaking news of the caliber our viewers expect from us. Particularly in the territories, news is always desert dry, and I mean really all the time. Every now and then we’ll get a few drunk cowboys or oilfield workers or Eskimos. We could no longer justify costs with such limited results. We really had no choice.”
Personnel from the closed bureaus will relocate to bureaus in Chicago, New Orleans, Baltimore, Detroit, Ferguson, and Oakland.
Al Jazeera has garnered worldwide respectability and critical acclaim for its in-depth, exhaustive coverage of war zones and hotspots, including the Ferguson riots, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, events of the Arab Spring, the Egypt revolution of 2011, the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, and the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
Mr. el-Jafar said the network would consider reopening some of the bureaus as needed.
“If things heat up, such as if Quebec’s secessionist movement turns violent, we’d consider reopening a bureau. But otherwise it’s just boring up there right now.”
Juan N. Uendos covers international news in the Americas.