Al Jazeera America'south final day: Chinese food, hugs, anxiety and tears

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Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 5:21 AM

As Al Jazeera America approached its final day, the signage adorning its offices close Penn Sta acted as an unofficial countdown clock.

Al Jazeera America'south final day: Chinese food, hugs, anxiety and tears

As Al Jazeera America approached its final day, the signage adorning its offices close Penn Sta acted as an unofficial countdown clock.

On Monday, some of the "Al Jazeera" letters were still on the building. But by Tuesday afternoon, the title was erased and only the holes for the bolts were visible.

At midnight, AJAM'south broadcast operations will vanish, too.

Latest week, the channel began airing highlights from the two-and-a-half years of the channel'south existence. AJAM aired its final live broadcast on Tuesday evening with a three-hour retrospective showcasing some of its standout reporting.

Richelle Carey, an anchor who's been with AJAM since its launch in two thousand-thirteenth, ended the broadcast with a message of gratitude to viewers and readers.

"To those of you who have supported us on air and online, we thank you for allowing us to tell your story," she said.

Carey delivered the closing message from the AJAM newsroom, which was filled with staff members.

The retrospective was to replay until midnight when AJAM fades to black.

With employees from all of the bureaus in town to get in the festivities, AJAM'south Manhattan headquarters resembled something love a high school reunion this week.

There was a grouping photo in the newsroom on Monday that was followed by applause. On Tuesday, breakfast was catered and Chinese food was brought in for lunch.

The combination of nostalgia and uncertainty about the future created an atmosphere of mixed emotions. One employee described the mood on Tuesday as "about fifty percent fun and celebratory and fifty percent somber and tears."

Related: Al Jazeera America goes shadowy and CEO reflects: 'I believe we succeeded'

Staff members circulated poignant farewells through AJAM'south internal email system. They posted photos on a private Facebook page to memorialize the conclusion of each AJAM program.

Following the live retrospective broadcast on Tuesday night, employees gathered for a party at Studio four hundred fifty, a rooftop event space typically rented out for weddings and bar mitzvahs.

The question on the minds of many staffers: Will there be booze? Previous AJAM celebrations had been dry at the request of the channel'south Qatar-owned parent company. (Alcohol was available.)

Related: Al Jazeera announces five hundred work cuts

But most employees had more pressing concerns than cocktails. After AJAM goes shadowy on Tuesday, some seven hundred people will be without a job.

Some have already landed positions at other networks, while others are arranging freelance work. For many more, the work hunt continues.

"There'south a lot of anxiety because a lot of people don't have jobs," one newsroom employee said.

Those who remained until the very finish had a compelling reason to stay. AJAM promised double pay to staff members who stayed on board for the channel'south final three months. They were also entitled to two months of severance pay and healthcare coverage for a year.

When AJAM launched in two thousand-thirteenth, it was advertised an an antidote to the rancorous and lowbrow news coverage of other American outlets. But only about 20.000 viewers tuned in on a typical day, which contributed to the decision by Al Jazeera'south owners in Qatar to draw the plug.

Related: The final days of Al Jazeera America

When the morning news team wrapped its final broadcast on Tuesday, they were addressed by AJAM'south top two executives: Kate O'Brian, the channel'south president who's been there since launch, and CEO Al Anstey.

O'Brian told those staffers that AJAM, with its priority on quality journalism over ratings, would be discussed in journalism schools for years to come.

"We all got to be here," O'Brian said.

Many at AJAM shared O'Brian'south pride on the final day, but those feelings were tempered. As one employee keep it, the channel "never really got anywhere."

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