My acquaintance with Al Jazeera News began several years ago, and it was occasional to say the least. I have never visited it’s website before and I have only seen it on television. When I would travel form Italy to the US, the television in the hotel I stayed in would sometimes offer Al Jazeera among its numerous channels. If I wasn’t in the mood to watch my usual “American Television” selection ( in fact, the TV series were so much ahead in the US compared to Italy, that I would come back as a prophet for all my friends) I would enjoy enriching myself with the news programs. Often, and for no particular reason I would opt for Al Jazeera rather than the more familiar CNN.
My news-track of the Al Jazeera America website is therefore a new introduction to the news service. When I opened the page on my browser I was immediately captured by an unusual coincidence. The story that is being prominently featured on the page is in my home town! Rome, is the backdrop for the Top Story about the crowd that has gathered, with the recently elected Pope Francis, for a peace vigil for Syria. This definitely made me feel at home!
But after a quick glance at the story I went on for a serious look at the website. The Home page is quite organized, and it avoids the general clutter of other online news services. There is a logo for Al Jazeera America on the top and underneath a menu bar offering the option to check out their news, video and TV schedule. The News menu is neatly organized in sections according to the main areas of interest (US, International, Economy, Technology, Science and Environment). There is also a Trending bar showcasing the topics that are the most prominent now, in this case Syria. The same setup is applied for the whole page; with the Top Stories at the, well, top and the daily news divided in sections at the bottom in a neat list.
Overall the site strikes the viewer for it’s glassy look and images. The white background makes the writing clear and legible. The site goes quite far in engaging the reader (and spectator in regard to the video content) allowing him to “join the conversation” by posting a comment using social media. It also discreetly invites the viewers to follow Al Jazeera with Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.
The side bar provides a list of the hot topics and underneath a series of pictures with links to particular issues as well as a Photo section and Longform section. So far, I only spotted two advertisements and for itself, which is understandable since Al Jazeera America is a relatively new enterprise. Overall the website provides an efficient blend of all types of media creating a quick, clean and user-friendly experience. What surprised me the most was the Longformat journalism section, which in my opinion provides something quite unique and different from other types of media coverage.