Start Here
5 min readFeb 9, 2022


[This page was last edited on 13th September 2023]

Start Here

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 and published on YouTube and Facebook.

We help people around the world navigate the complicated world of international news by taking the big stories and breaking them down so they’re easy to understand. It’s a show that millions of viewers regularly turn to, in order to understand a breaking story or complex issue.

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 — usually in around 10 minutes.

Start Here — 2022 highlights

No hype. No agenda. No gimmicks.

Start Here’s strategy is simple but highly effective. 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. In a world where the news media can be so polarised, and people are increasingly unsure about who to trust, what Start Here is doing in the digital media space is more important than ever.

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

Big story? We’ve got it covered…

In the last year we’ve covered topics ranging from the protests in Iran to the perks and pitfalls of AI technology; and from the significance of the Al Aqsa Mosque in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to the threats to peace in Bosnia.

But there’s one story that’s dominated the news in the last year and it’s dominated our coverage too…

🇷🇺 Russia-Ukraine 🇺🇦

Start Here’s first episode in 2022 asked “Will Russia invade Ukraine” ⤵️

Will Russia invade Ukraine? (January 13th, 2022)

Over the course of last year we went on to publish nine more episodes linked to the war. We explained the important developments and the human impact; we broke down the implications for Russia and the world; and we profiled both Volodymr Zelenskyy and Vladimir Putin. Our coverage has been a valuable resource for people who aren’t necessarily following the day-to-day twists and turns but who want to understand the key events and the bigger picture. You can find the full archive of our Ukraine and Russia coverage here.

Start Here — on the road

Start Here was conceived in late 2019 as a studio-based show, but in 2022 we also launched Start Here — on the road, where Sandra takes the show’s audience to new places, elevating our explainer format with on-the-ground reporting.

We went first to Lithuania, where Sandra embedded with a NATO training unit to explain how the military alliance has changed since the war in Ukraine. ⤵️

Has the war in Ukraine given NATO new purpose? (April 19th, 2020)

Then to Afghanistan, where we shot two episodes to examine what life is like after a year under Taliban rule ⤵️

Can the Taliban fix Afghanistan’s economic crisis? (August 15th, 2022)
What women if Afghanistan want you to know (August 30th, 2022)

We also took Start Here to Qatar, where Sandra untangled the excitement and controversies surrounding the 2022 World Cup ⤵️

Qatar and the 2022 World Cup (November 8th, 2022)

Instagram and TikTok

While Start Here’s main home is on YouTube and Facebook — we also make shorter explainers for Instagram and TikTok. Here are some highlights ⤵️

Here’s what 2022 look like in numbers…

📌 28 YouTube explainers
📌 24 reels & TikTok videos
📌 33 million views
📌 40% — average viewer completion rate on YouTube
📌 41% of contributors were people of colour
📌 47% of contributors were women

Our community

We cover global stories for a global audience. The top 10 locations for our viewers are:

  1. United States
  2. India
  3. Philippines
  4. United Kingdom
  5. Canada
  6. Pakistan
  7. Australia
  8. Bangladesh
  9. Malaysia
  10. Kenya

Start Here has an impact well beyond views and engagement on social media — it’s a resource that universities and schools around the world tap into. Students tell us our videos help them with their classes on global politics. Teachers get in touch to say they use Start Here to engage their students and help them tackle difficult subjects. One school in Toronto raised almost $2,000 for a hunger charity after watching our our episode on famine in Madagascar. Our community appreciates the clarity and balance that Start Here brings to difficult subjects. And they let us know…

The team

Sandra Gathmann is the host, lead writer and co-creator of Start Here. She’s an experienced journalist whose conversational tone and calm delivery draws viewers in, holds their attention and generates trust.

But every episode of Start Here is a team effort — the product of a talented and dedicated group of journalists and creatives. Here’s the core team…

Sandra Gathmann — host, lead writer and co-creator

Julia Mills — executive producer

Sophia Ahmadi — producer

Adele-Momoko Fraser — producer

George Skortsis — video editor

Danylo Hawaleshka — script editor

Samer Sobhi Boqailah — graphics/motion design

Yousef Abdel Nabi — creative director

And here are some more of the team’s favourite episodes ⤵️

Why Al-Aqsa is key to understanding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (February 1st, 2022)
What’s changed in Iran? (December 2022)
Why peace in Bosnia is under threat. (January 2022)
The conflict in Ethiopia — who’s fighting who, and why? (December 2021)
How space became a junkyard and why it matters. (October 2021)



Start Here

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