Al Jazeera America on Monday announced it has hired ABC News veteran Kate O'Brian to be president of the new channel, which it also confirmed will launch on Aug. 20.
O'Brian will work with Ehab Al-Shihabi, the executive who has been overseeing the transition from Current TV, and who on Monday was named interim CEO. As executive director for international operations, El-Shihabi has been in charge of developing the new network, including hiring anchors Ali Velshi, Soledad O'Brien and Richelle Carey. He has been with Al Jazeera for five years, in that time helping launch its Balkans and Turkish channels.
Al Jazeera America also on Monday appointed three members of its senior editorial staff: former CNN producer David Doss will be senior VP of news programming; former CBS News executive Marcy McGinnis will be senior VP of newsgathering; and former CNN morning show producer Shannon High-Bassalik will be senior VP of documentaries and programs.
A 30-year veteran of ABC News, O'Brian has been senior VP for news at the network since 2007, where she was responsible for all of the network's newsgathering operations, its worldwide bureaus, NewsOne, ABC News Radio and affiliate relations. She will be based at Al Jazeera America's New York headquarters. In a memo to staff on Monday, ABC News president Ben Sherwood said "Kate has been a mentor and role model to scores of young people across the news division. On a personal level, I'm deeply grateful to her for helping steer the division through the complex transitions of the last several years."
At Al Jazeera America she "will have full responsibility for defining and implementing the editorial strategy and operations across the network, including news, documentary and all other programming," according to the announcement.
"We are delighted that Kate O'Brian will be joining Al Jazeera America as president. Kate's arrival speaks volumes about what we intend to do and how we intend to do it," said Dr. Mostefa Souag, acting director general of Al Jazeera Media Network. "She is a highly experienced and award-winning journalist who fully understands what Americans want to see and hear when they watch the news. Kate has the vision, tenacity and integrity to ensure that Al Jazeera America will quickly become the success we expect it to be."
O'Brian added, "Al Jazeera America will demonstrate that quality journalism is alive and well in the United States. Working alongside the talented journalists at ABC News has prepared me to take this step and I am deeply grateful for 30 years at that outstanding organization. As I bring everything I learned to this new role I'm looking forward to showing the Al Jazeera viewers that there is a strong demand for the type of in depth reporting for which Al Jazeera is so well known." At launch, the network's programming will include a flagship nightly broadcast America Tonight, business show Real Money hosted by Velshi, a 9 p.m. newsmagazine, the documentary series Fault Lines, the social media driven talk show The Stream and daily half-hour talk show Inside Story.
Al Jazeera America was scheduled to host the morning session at the Television Critics Association press tour on Wednesday, but it canceled that appearance earlier on Monday.
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