July 24, 2013 7:24am PT by Lacey Rose
Al Jazeera America Taps CNN's Joie Chen To Anchor Nightly News Program
Mere weeks away from its Aug. 20 launch, Al Jazeera America finally has hired an anchor for its signature nightly news program, America Tonight.
CNN veteran Joie Chen has been tapped to host the show, which will include what the forthcoming news channel bills as character-driven stories, groundbreaking investigative pieces and interviews with prominent newsmakers. She will join a growing cadre of recognizable faces, including Soledad O'Brien, Ali Velshi and Sheila MacVicar, on the channel funded by the Bedouin oil billionaires of Qatar.
“Joie is a strong journalist with a natural, warm presence on screen and we’re excited to see her at the heart of our primetime schedule,” said Paul Eedle, Al Jazeera America’s deputy launch manager in charge of programs, in a statement announcing the news Wednesday. “Joie will be a leading member of a wonderful array of anchor and reporter talent at Al Jazeera America reflecting the full diversity of this country today.”
Added Chen, who spent more than a decade at rival CNN, where she worked at both CNN International and at CNN’s domestic operation: “I’m thrilled to create world-class journalism with some of the best in the business. America Tonight will bring together the powerful and diverse voices of Al Jazeera America and stand out from other networks with its fearless, unbiased reporting.”
The news comes as Al Jazeera America is putting its key executive team into place. Earlier this week, the network named former ABC News senior vp Kate O’Brian president, while Ehab Al Shihabi, a five-year veteran of Al Jazeera, was tapped as interim CEO.
During her time at CNN, Chen received an Emmy for her coverage of the bombing at Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Atlanta Games.
As THR has previously reported, Al Jazeera America will enter the crowded news landscape with something that its U.S. competitors lack: benefactors with seemingly bottomless pockets who claim to be unconcerned about turning a profit. Al Jazeera Media Networks already spent more than half a billion dollars -- sources tell THR that the number could be as high as $600 million -- to purchase Current TV from Al Gore and his partners earlier this year. The pricey push continues as the net makes good on its plan to hire some 800 staffers across 12 bureaus in key cities around the country, and puts the finishing touches on a 14,000-square-foot-plus headquarters.