Ray Suarez left the PBS News Hour last year to join Al Jazeera America. He had been with PBS for 14 years.
Previously Suarez was host of NPR's Talk of the Nation and the monthly program America Aboard. Suarez was the speaker for Kalamazoo College's commencement in June. Before that, he spoke with WMUK's Gordon Evans about Al Jazeera America, his books and the state of journalism.
Suarez says he decided to leave the News Hour because he didn't see much of a future remaining with the show. He says he chose Al Jazeera America because he says it's a start up, but he says it's been established over seas.
So Suarez says it has the "juice" of a fledging operation. But he says "the phone on your desk rings, your checks cash." Suarez says Al Jazeera America wants to be a domestic competitor to CNN, MSNBC and the Fox News Channel. Suarez hosts Inside Story for Al Jazeera America.
Asked what people would see on Al Jazeera America they won't see elsewhere, Suarez says "Well if you like real news, you'll like Al Jazeera America." He says it's a serious place with original, in depth reporting. Suarez says it's a straight-ahead objective news organization. He says while Al Jazeera America has more international news coverage than other cable news networks, it's also opening bureaus around the United States to better cover domestic stories.
Suarez says some viewers come to Al Jazeera America with preconceptions. But he says there is market research showing that people who watch the coverage without knowing the source, like what they see. Suarez says those viewers are then surprised to find out the coverage is from Al Jazeera America. But he says that's a strength going forward as the network seeks to compete with other cable news channels.
In addition to his work in broadcast journalism, Suarez is also the author of three books. The most recent is Latino-Americans, the 500 Year Legacy that Shaped a Nation. He is also the author of The Holy Vote and The Old Neighborhood. Suarez says some stories are fascinating to him, and can't be told even in a documentary-length production. Asked if there's another book he wants to write, Suarez says he would like to explore modern-day South Africa. But he says that would require extended travel to explore why there wasn't a civil war in that country.