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Former 'Nightline' Reporter Joins English-Language Al Jazeera

THE NATION

January 13, 2006|Johanna Neuman | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The Arab news network Al Jazeera announced Thursday that Dave Marash, an award-winning former correspondent for ABC News' "Nightline," is joining its 24-hour English-language network, to be launched this spring.

In an interview Thursday, Marash, 63, described his new position as "the most interesting job on Earth."

Calling Al Jazeera "a thoroughly respectable news organization," Marash, who will co-anchor the news from the network's Washington studio, said the new show aimed to "win the high end. We want to give the most sophisticated, most nuanced and most global view of the day's events."

Al Jazeera, which is based in -- and financed by -- the Persian Gulf nation Qatar, has been denounced by Bush administration officials for what the State Department characterized as its "inflammatory" reports. On a number of occasions, it has been the first to broadcast communications from leaders of Al Qaeda. Other Arab nations, notably Saudi Arabia, have complained about the independence of its reporting.

Al Jazeera's new English-language network, going head-to-head against CNN International and the BBC World Service, will include four hours of programming from Washington, co-anchored by Marash and an as-yet-unnamed woman.

Riz Khan, a former BBC reporter who most recently was host of the CNN International talk show "Q&A," has also joined the staff, along with his CNN producer, James Wright, and Kieran Baker, a former editor and producer for CNN. Also on board is Josh Rushing, a former Marine Corps information officer in Iraq who was featured in "Control Room," a 2004 documentary focusing on Al Jazeera's coverage of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The network has no distribution arrangements with U.S. cable networks. Al Jazeera's Arabic channel is distributed on the Dish satellite network, which reaches more than 12 million subscribers in the United States.

At "Nightline," Marash won Emmy Awards for his coverage of the war in Bosnia, the Oklahoma City bombing and the explosion of TWA Flight 800. A veteran radio and television reporter, he began contributing reports to the program in 1989. He was among several reporters and producers who left "Nightline" last year, along with Ted Koppel.

"There's a lot of misinformation around about Al Jazeera," said Marash, noting that contrary to a perception held by some, the network has never broadcast a beheading. "I think what irritates the Bush administration is that Al Jazeera is better sourced than anybody among America's adversaries in the Middle East."

As an Arab network, he said, Al Jazeera "has the point of view of that culture."

The English-language Al Jazeera International, he said, will be "specifically global and diverse in its point of view."

Anticipating negative reaction from American critics, Marash said he hoped they would watch the show "and judge what we do rather than what people say we're going to do."

"I am risking my good name, but I don't think it's a serious risk," he said. "Everything I've heard from my employers is that what's important to them is a nuanced, sophisticated version of the news, and that's always what I've tried to do."

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