The world is complicated. The news doesn’t have to be.
Start Here is the flagship online explainer series for Al Jazeera English, hosted by Sandra Gathmann. We help people around the world navigate the vast, fast-paced world of international news by taking the big stories and breaking them down so they’re easy to understand.
Millions of viewers regularly turn to Start Here to help them understand a breaking story or complex issue. We have a loyal, young and international audience, who appreciate Sandra’s clear, calm and neutral presentation of the facts. Start Here is a valuable resource for people who want to know what’s going on with important global stories, but might not be following the daily twists and turns. They rely on us to bring them up to speed.
“My priority with Start Here is to invite you to engage with a news story, to put you at ease, take you through it all step-by-step and leave you with a solid foundation of basic facts. So then, you can go off and read some more and decide what you think about it.” — Sandra Gathmann.
Start Here’s strategy is simple but highly effective. No hype, no agenda, no gimmicks. Just high-quality journalism, engaging storytelling and creative production that give our viewers the information they need to cut through the confusion and form their own opinions on issues that matter.
We won’t just tell you what happened. We unpick the complicated stuff with elegant graphics, give you the backstory, tell you why a story matters and how it affects people — all in around 10 minutes. Our episodes are published on YouTube and Facebook. We also publish shorter, vertical explainers on Instagram and TikTok.
2022 was a huge year for news and for Start Here. We covered topics ranging from the protests in Iran to the threat to peace in Bosnia. But one story dominated the news in the last year and it dominated our coverage too: Ukraine.
Our first episode of 2022 was “Will Russia invade Ukraine?”. We went on to publish nine more episodes linked to the war. We explained the big developments and the human impact; we broke down the political and economic implications in Ukraine, in Russia and globally; and we profiled both Volodymr Zelenskyy and Vladimir Putin.
Start Here was conceived in late 2019 as a studio-based show, but in 2022 we also launched a spinoff series: “Start Here —on the road”, where Sandra takes the show’s audience to new places and elevates our explainer format with on-the-ground reporting. First to Lithuania, where Sandra embedded with a NATO training unit to explain how the war in Ukraine has changed the military alliance; then to Afghanistan, where Sandra met with people adapting to life under Taliban rule — including young girls attending an underground school, aid workers, professors and Taliban officials themselves. And finally to Qatar — where she untangled the excitement and the controversies surrounding the FIFA World Cup.
From Afghanistan’s economy to Artificial Intelligence - we take highly complex stories and simplify them, without any dumbing down. We deliberately adopt a conversational, accessible tone, we don’t assume knowledge and we always keep in mind that for much of our global audience, English may not be their first language. We take care over every word and every shot that goes into each episode. And we don’t tell people what to think – we present the facts in a balanced and nuanced way and give our viewers the information they need to form their own views.
In a world where the news media can be so polarized, and people are increasingly unsure who to trust, what Start Here is doing in the digital media space is more important than ever.
An advantage of publishing content on social media is that there’s direct feedback from viewers. And the comments on our videos clearly show that we are achieving what we set out to do and that there is a strong demand for our balanced, clear and calm approach to issues which are often deeply divisive.
“Great content! Impartial as it should be!”
“As Usual, Outstanding Journalism - Thank you”
“Thanks for the comprehensive and clear explanation. Love this video, Sandra, and the Start Here series.”
“I've been a long fan of the "Start Here" series. Today's global news, even on social media, broadcasters just keep stretching stories so much that the actual news gets watered down. Start Here always takes all the important topics and serves it in a 10 min clip that makes something so complex, easier to digest, not dramatized and packed with just the essentials.”
“This is a great synopsis of the problem”.
“I'm from Sri Lanka and this video perfectly sums up our situation.”
“This is genuinely excellent journalism - explaining the causes and motives behind a story with a balanced contribution of experts from all corners. Thank you!”
Our content garnered 33 million views across platforms in 2022 and our average viewer completion rate on YouTube was 40%. But Start Here’s impact goes beyond clicks and views, university students tell us that it helps them with their studies and high school teachers get in touch to say they use Start Here as a teaching aid.