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21 Views From Inside The Al Jazeera America Launch Party

Al Jazeera America celebrated the network’s one month anniversary with a lavish launch party at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall on Thursday, September 19. Guess who got invited? I did. (BTW: I wrote my TV provider to ask them to add Al Jazeera America to my channel lineup. You should too.) Here are 21 memorable moments from the private party.

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21. This Elegant Invitation Came from Al Jazeera America's CEO. We Actually Shook Hands at the Party.

Qatar is perhaps the most liberal country in the Gulf, more than the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Festivities in this tiny nation have been known to last for days, with businesses closing during this time. Would the Qatar-financed Al Jazeera also throw a wild party to celebrate the launch of its new 24/7/365 cable news channel in the U.S.? I rsvp-ed with a yes to find out.

... When Evening Came, Mrs. Alice Tully's House Was Ready for a Disco!

Via Photo by Peter Wang

Tonight the glass walls were wrapped from the inside. Al Jazeera pulled out all the stops to transform this bright-white cafe into an impressive performance space/party venue. Employees I met had never been inside this space before. I hope they come back to actually see concerts and shows.

18. Bartenders Were Cute and Friendly. They Always Said, "Yes, My Pleasure."

Facebook: jose.fong.10 / Via Jose Fong on Facebook

I don't work for Al Jazeera America; I did not know anyone at the party. Good thing I bumped into a couple of cater-waiters who work out at my gym. They are super-nice and never say no whenever I ask if they could give me a spot.

17. The Burgers Were Fantastic (Though I Was Disappointed That No Middle Eastern Dishes Were Served). / Via Jose Fong on Facebook

Political bias in the U.S. screws up those of us who have adventurous tastes in food. Because American TV viewers have messed up attitudes toward Muslims and Arabs, we were denied the rich tastes of Middle Eastern cuisine. Instead the menu tonight was all American.

Oh well, the food was fantastic! Kudos to New York-based Restaurant Associates for the delicious food. One station served such comfort food as miniature hot dogs, bacon cheeseburgers and lobster rolls. Another station had succotash and shrimp gumbo. Check out the pièce de résistance at the third station in the next photo: pulled beef!

16. Yes, Those Are Pulled Beef and Shrimps on the Warmer. It Was a Good Night for Lovers of Halal Food. / Via via Jose Fong on Facebook

Muslims eat meat that is halal which means "permissible" in Arabic language. This means Muslims can eat pulled beef, shrimps and any vegetable that was served here. (But pork is strictly forbidden as it is haram, prohibited in the Q'uran.) Those carnitas (pulled beef) were so tender they melted in my mouth; I had to return for thirds. And they were halal!

15. Former CNN Anchor Soledad O'Brien Is Now a Special Correspondent for AJA. She Is One of My Heroes.

I ran into former CNN talent Soledad O'Brien while she was snapping photos with her cellphone. Just like the food, AJA adheres to American-centric talents, like former CNN’s Ali Velshi, former NBC News’ Mike Viqueira, and former Current TV’s David Shuster. Soledad and her bestie Kim Bondy are among the 900 new staffers.

14. If You Were Among the 22,000 Jobless People Looking for Work, This Was the Place to Network ...

Al Jazeera America’s interim CEO, Ehab Al Shihabi, said that the network's career site received a stack of 22,000 resumes. Imagine new jobs in journalism! Offering living wages and old-fashioned benefits for grown-ups!

13. This Was the Place to Cheer Your Lucky Colleagues As They Embark on New Jobs ...

Twitter: @AJAmericaPR / Via AJAmericaPR on Twitter

Kate O’Brian, the new President of Al Jazeera America (second from the left), has full responsibility for defining and implementing the editorial strategy and operations across the network. Al Jazeera poached her from ABC News.

12. ... And The Place Where You Can Seize a Second Act in American Life ...

Live @AJAM launch event, anchor John Seigenthaler: "I wanted to be part of this new brand of journalism in #America" / Via @AJAmericaPR

John Seigenthaler had a great run as "NBC Nightly News” weekend anchor. Until he parted with NBC on not-so-good terms. He started a public-relations business. He really did not think he would end up back in television news again. But Al Jazeera America asked him to consider this opportunity. Now he anchors the prime-time news hour for AJA. Talk about the sweet smell of success.

11. Where the Bosses Seem to Respect the Humble Work of Their Less Famous New Hires ...

#AlJazeera DG Dr. Souag: "Thanks to the entire team for the amazing effort that it took to launch #AlJ / Via @AJAmericaPR

I had no idea who Dr. Mostefa Souag was. The Acting Director General of Al Jazeera Media Network, he impressed me when he said: "I am extremely grateful to the media that has covered Al Jazeera America so extensively over the last nine months. Those who have reported and commented on what we have been doing have demanded facts and answers. We respect, appreciate and welcome feedback and hope it will continue. Regardless of how they perceive Al Jazeera, we want you to tell us our good things and our bad things. That's the way we learn. There is still more to do."

10. A Network That Insists It Will Deliver "Objective, Balanced, In-Depth News on Stories That Matter"

Twitter: @AJAmericaPR / Via @AJAmericaPR

"We have an editorial team that demonstrates quality, unbiased journalism" Ehab Al Shihabi, CEO #AlJazeeraAmerica— AJAM PR (@AJAmericaPR) September 20, 2013

Read about the challenges of Al Jazeera America in the past nine months in my news article on The

9. To Prove That Money Is Not Going to Be A Problem for The Arabs, They Showed a Fancy Video ...

A gigantic flat screen emitted that familiar glow of deep blue. Suddenly matrix patterns flowed in. Soon islands of Manhattan skyscrapers filled the earth's horizon. Finally Arabic calligraphy danced into place, forming the decorative logo that represents Al Jazeera's name.

8. The Snazzy Video States Plainly That They Are Not Worried About Ratings -- They Only Want to Deliver Quality TV Programs

View this video on YouTube / Via

... Jennifer Rocked Mrs. Tully's House! My Favorite Was Her Groovy Rendition of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together."

Via @michaeleaves

Unfortunately the acoustics at Mrs. Tully's lobby sucked. But Jennifer made it work.

6. The "American Idol" Alum Brought Along Her Talented Friends to Serenade Us (and to Share the Bounty).

This was no cameo, folks. Al Jazeera paid for Jennifer and her friends to sing an entire set of musical numbers. (Photo by Randy Gener)

5. THE CLIMAX: Jennifer Hudson Danced with ME! (Here is a Tweet by Michael Eaves to Confirm What She Did!) / Via

As Al Jazeera's sports journalist Michael Eaves can testify, Jennifer and I danced the night away.

You can read about it at my blog. Click the link below the photo. Or, visit the

4. Still Not Convinced Al Jazeera is America's New Daddy Warbucks? Check Out the "Magic Doughnut Cart." / Via @paulbeban

As AJA's new hire Paul Beban tweeted, "Behold the MAGIC DOUGHNUT CART. It's like a Christmas tree only waaaay better."

3. After Jennifer and I Danced the Night Away, Al Jazeera Reporters Ran Up to Verify I Wasn't Employed as a Plant from the Audience.

No, no, no, I replied. I was just a random guest off the street; I was loving Jennifer Hudson's great voice and stylish vibes. OMG! These AJA journalists don't know how to relax and take the night off!

1. All Night Long, Al Jazeera America Stressed "America" Down to this Last Morsel.

Basically Al Jazeera threw a lavish cocktail party for their friendly U.S. employees who did not dare go too wild and crazy in front of their new bosses. They were on their best behavior.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera stayed on-message down to this last party favor, which is best served warm and with ice cream. As AJA President Kate O'Brian said, “Al Jazeera America is really trying to tell the story of Americans, stories that affect Americans."

Here is a champagne toast to Al Jazeera America with my fervent hope that its future will never serve vanilla news.

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