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Special Project

Special Project
From the 16th Annual Shorty Awards

Start Here

Gold Honor in News & Media


The world is complicated. The news doesn’t have to be. 

Start Here is the flagship explainer strand for Al Jazeera Digital, hosted by Sandra Gathmann. Our objective is to help people around the world navigate the vast, fast-paced world of international news by breaking down big stories in a way that’s easy to understand and engaging to watch.


Strategy and Execution

We produce detailed explainers for YouTube, where we don’t just talk about what happened – we take our viewers step-by-step through the complicated backstory, using elegant graphics and creative video production. We explain why a story matters. And we explain how it affects people — all in around 10-12 minutes.  

We also produce shorter, vertical video content for Instagram and TikTok. Sometimes this content is linked to a YouTube episode, but not always. For example, in May 2023 we successfully experimented with a “vertical-only” deployment to Turkey, to report on the landmark presidential election. Sandra crisscrossed the country for a series of five Instagram reels, explaining the key election issues like the youth vote and the impact of the January earthquake.  

But whatever the platform, Start Here’s strategy remains the same. No hype, no agenda, no gimmicks. Just high-quality journalism, engaging storytelling and creative production to give our viewers the information they need to cut through the confusion and form their own opinions on issues that matter. 

It takes a huge amount of work by a small, but dedicated, production team to make complicated stories simple. We deliberate on every word in the script, we are fastidious about fact checking and we take great effort to seek out a diverse range of guests to provide different viewpoints on a story. 

In a world where the news media is so polarized, and people are unsure who to trust, what Start Here is doing in the digital media space is more important than ever.


In 2023 we refined our publishing strategy to strike a balance between our YouTube series and our vertical content. It paid off with record views and engagement – all organic. 

On YouTube we focused more on deepdive, evergreen explainers. For example, condensing thousands of years of history into 10 minutes to explain the significance of the Al Aqsa Mosque; examining why the US-Israel relationship is so close; and profiling Imran Khan. That strategy brought results. Five out of our 23 episodes exceeded 1M views (Imran Khan passed 2M), and the evergreen topics continue to clock up views. In total, our YouTube episodes garnered more than 14M views with an average retention rate of 51%. It shows that once people click on our content, it engages them and they stick around. 

We complemented this approach with our vertical content strategy – using Instagram Reels and TikTok content to focus more on breaking news. From the Turkey-Syria earthquake in January through to the October 7th attacks and the Israel-Gaza war – when a big story broke, we were there to break it down, with timely, considered content. 

Our metrics show that there is a strong demand for our balanced, clear and calm approach to issues which are often deeply divisive. Across platforms, our content garnered more than 38M views. But our impact is also evident in the response from our audience. As one Instagram viewer put it: #StartHere is quite possibly the best, most accessible and well-crafted current affairs show on any network”.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Al Jazeera Digital


Entry Credits