Al-Jazeera America, the soon-to-be-dead U.S. outpost of the Qatari government’s global television network, published an opinion essay on Thursday morning that satirized—subtly, but not that subtly—a number of new (or newly relaunched) media companies, including Mic, The New Republic, and Al-Jazeera America itself. Hours later, however, the network’s website replaced the entire essay with the following editor’s note:
Al Jazeera America has removed the satirical piece originally posted on this link, which included commentary on our company that we believe was not appropriate given its imminent closure. Our goal in the closing stages of AJAM online and on TV is to honor the exceptional journalism and journalists that distinguished our brand, to maintain the respect that we have always shown to those we have covered since our launch, and to uphold our promise to deliver the highest quality journalism to our readers until the very last. We believe the satirical piece originally at this link failed to live up to these goals. We offer our apologies to our readers and to our staff.
Filed under the topic categories of “humor,” “internet,” “journalist,” and “media,” the essay carried the byline of Prof. Jeff Jarvis—a parody Twitter account run by the developer Rurik Bradbury dedicated to mocking the various absurdities of the tech and media industries in a manner so deadpan that Jarvis’ foils frequently miss the fact that the account is a joke. The published piece, titled “Six hot media startups to watch in 2016,” is very much in the same vein.
It’s not entirely clear who at Al Jazeera America decided to delete the essay—which described the channel as an “innovative mash-up of aging Qataris and US millennials”—or whether the Qatari government, which is known to punish its critics, had any involvement. The essay’s editor, David Johnson, told Gawker that he is “not authorized to talk” and referred us to an Al Jazeera America spokesperson. When reached by telephone, that spokesperson, Jocelyn Austin, referred us to the editor’s note quoted above. She declined to elaborate further. Following that phone call, another spokesperson from the P.R. firm Kekst & Company passed along the following statement:
Keenan, My name is Molly Morse and I work with Al Jazeera America on public relations matters. We are not commenting on the piece you emailed about but I can refer you to the editor’s note that appears on the site and is pasted in below
The essay’s author responded to the deletion and Al Jazeera’s wanting explanation in proper form (on Twitter):
We have self-driving cars. Will we now have self-censoring global news outlets?— Prof. Jeff Jarvis (@ProfJeffJarvis) February 25, 2016