Ex-CNNer Jon Klein, Ex-NBC News Chief Steve Capus Reportedly Among Finalists to Head Al Jazeera America

May 6th, 2013 12:58 PM

Former CNN president Jon Klein and former NBC News president Steve Capus are reportedly among the finalists to take the helm of Al Jazeera America.

"One of the biggest jobs in media is a new position and a high-risk opportunity: running Al Jazeera America," Sharon Waxman of TheWrap.com reported this morning (emphasis mine):

The job running the Qatar-based network recently bought from Current TV has high visibility and no doubt a high salary attached. But it also bears the burden of building an audience in mainstream American with the name of a Middle Eastern brand unfamiliar to most U.S. viewers and probably off-putting to some.

TheWrap has learned of several of the candidates that Al Jazeera has contacted for a job that needs to start ASAP for the network to get on the air and running this year, as is planned. As it happens, there are a goodly number of experienced TV news professionals available at the moment. But who will it be?

According to those familiar with the recruiting process, the leading candidates include:

>> Former CNN President Jon Klein.... Klein, who was fired in 2010, has the news experience and is believed to want the job. According to an individual with knowledge of his thinking, Klein believes there is a ripe opportunity for a news network to occupy the niche that CNN used to -- in other words, hard-core reporting with serious journalists. (Would it be cool for a Jewish guy to run an Arab-owned news network?)

>> Steve Capus, former NBC News president .... Capus has recently been shown the door by NBCU’s Steve Burke after nearly two decades with the network. He has the stature and the news chops for the job but is known to be skeptical about the opportunity, according to an individual close to him. Capus believes that Al Jazeera's reputation would be tough to overcome with the American public.

>> Mark Whitaker, former managing editor at CNN..... Whitaker, a Harvard and Oxford University graduate and the former editor of Newsweek, has been out of a job since February and has just the kind of pedigree that the Gulf states seem to love. Still, ex-colleagues at CNN could never figure out what Whitaker did exactly, and his reputation on departure was as someone “aloof” and disconnected from the newsroom, according to one network veteran.

No offers have been made to any candidate, according to the knowledgeable individuals. A spokesperson for Al Jazeera America told TheWrap: “We do not comment on personnel rumors.”