Soledad O'Brien

Journalist and CEO of Soledad O’Brien Productions


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In her three-hour remote TheirStory interview, Soledad O'Brien discusses growing up on Long Island, NY, attending Harvard University, and getting hired for her early jobs in journalism at WBZ in Boston, NBC Nightly News in New York, and KRON-TV in San Francisco. She recalls joining MSNBC as the anchor of The Site, working at MSNBC Morning Blend and Weekend Today, and talks about why she left NBC for CNN in 2003. She then discusses several of the major news stories she's covered throughout her career, including the 2004 tsunami in Thailand, Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and the Sandy Hook school shooting. O'Brien describes how she got into making documentaries at CNN, and talks about the successful documentary series Black in America and Latino in America. She recalls anchoring Starting Point on CNN and covering presidential elections, reveals why she left CNN in 2013, and recounts the creation of her own production company, Soledad O'Brien Productions (formerly titled Starfish Media Group). She outlines what she believes the role of a journalist is, discusses her use of Twitter, and comments on how changes in media consumption have impacted journalism. She describes the format of Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien, shares where she was when the COVID-19 pandemic began, and details what pandemic production has been like. She talks about penning "A MeToo Moment for Journalists of Color" for The New York Times in July 2020 and discusses working on Disrupt & Dismantle, Black and Missing, and the podcast Murder on the Towpath. She offers advice to aspiring journalists and concludes with remarks on the value of mentors and on her greatest achievements and regrets. Jenni Matz conducted the interview on January 14, 2022.

All views expressed by interviewees are theirs alone and not necessarily those of the Television Academy.

"I think a journalist should be informing the public. I think a journalist has a duty to the audience. I think a journalist should be elevating things that are accurate and truthful, and being very careful not to elevate things that are inaccurate and lies. I think journalists should hold people accountable, especially people in power. And I think journalists should be pushing and asking questions for those people who are not able to ask those questions, or be in the room, or who don’t have the political or economic clout to push for answers."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Soledad O'Brien on covering Hurricane Katrina; on her interview with FEMA director Michael Brown
07:43
Soledad O'Brien on moving to the documentary division at CNN and launching the Black in America series
04:23
Soledad O'Brien on covering the 2010 earthquake in Haiti
05:08
Soledad O'Brien on penning "A MeToo Moment for Journalists of Color" for The New York Times in July 2020
04:42
Soledad O'Brien on where she was at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and what pandemic production has been like
06:10
Soledad O'Brien on advice to aspiring journalists
01:35
Full Interview

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Chapter 1

On where she's calling in from; on her childhood in Long Island, New York; on watching television as a kid; on attending Harvard University; on leaving Harvard University to begin an internship at WBZ in Boston; on what she learned at WBZ; on why she was drawn to working in news
On working for Bob Bazell at NBC Nightly News; on enjoying traveling for work; on what's in her go-bag when she travels for work
On working at KRON-TV in San Francisco -- her first time as an on-camera reporter; on the state of journalism in the early 1990s; on joining MSNBC as the anchor of The Site and developing her voice as an anchor; on working on MSNBC Morning Blend, NBC News, and the weekend version of Today; on the role of an anchor and the role of a reporter; on covering breaking news
On where she was on 9/11; on leaving NBC for CNN in 2003; on network notes she received while at NBC and CNN
On some of the major stories she's covered throughout her career: the 2004 tsunami in Thailand and Hurricane Katrina (2005); on her interview with FEMA director Michael Brown

Chapter 2

On her experience flying out of the Baton Rouge airport after covering Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans for several weeks; on covering the 2010 Haiti earthquake; on safety precautions she takes to protect herself and her crew when covering natural and man-made disasters; on first hearing the starfish story in Haiti; on the emotional toll of covering tragedies; on covering the Sandy Hook school shooting
On moving to the documentary division at CNN; on Black in America and Latino in America; on the listening tours for Black in America and Latino in America
On anchoring Starting Point on CNN; on her political coverage while at CNN; on the AC360 special "Kids on Race: The Hidden Picture"
On why she left CNN in 2013; on starting her own production company

Chapter 3

On the role of a journalist in 2022; on the term "both sides-ism"; on objectivity in journalism; on bias in reporting and in hiring; on journalists she grew up watching and journalists she respects
On her news sources in 2022; on how she uses Twitter and Instagram; on how changes in media consumption have impacted journalism; on how she defines good journalism
On the format of Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien; on her criticism of mainstream media's coverage of the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections and of how some journalists deal with fake news and disinformation; on whether or not she would interview Donald Trump; on her thoughts on the coverage of the January 6, 2021 Capitol Insurrection; on where she was at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic; on working on Outbreak: The First Response and Black and Missing in 2020; on the logistical challenges of production during the pandemic
On penning "A MeToo Moment for Journalists of Color" for The New York Times in July 2020; on tracking the demographics of who she hires and who she puts on the air on Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien; on inclusivity in her hiring practices; on Disrupt & Dismantle; on what she hopes audiences take away from Black and Missing; on Murder on the Towpath and what she enjoys about the podcast format; on talent development deals and getting more into scripted programming
On advice to aspiring journalists; on the best advice she's ever received; on the value of oral histories; on the mission of the PowHERful Foundation; on the importance of mentors in her career; on what she looks for in assembling a team; on the game Roses and Thorns; on her greatest career achievement and career regrets; on dream projects that she'd like to do; on how she'd like to be remembered
Shows

American Morning

View Show Page
Soledad O'Brien on co-anchoring American Morning at CNN
00:44

Black and Missing

View Show Page
Soledad O'Brien on working on Black and Missing in 2020
00:21
Soledad O'Brien on what she hopes audiences take away from Black and Missing
02:13

Black in America

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Soledad O'Brien on the team behind Black in America at CNN and on asset and deficit framing and how they impact storytelling
07:17
Soledad O'Brien on how Black in America was received and on becoming more recognizable as a result of the series
03:23
Soledad O'Brien on the listening tours for Black in America and Latino in America
00:41

Black in America: "Eyewitness to Murder: The King Assassination"

View Show Page
Soledad O'Brien on moving to the documentary division at CNN and launching the Black in America series
04:23
Soledad O'Brien on Jesse Jackson's comments to her after Black in America: "Eyewitness to Murder: The King Assassination" aired
02:38

Disrupt & Dismantle

View Show Page
Soledad O'Brien on Disrupt & Dismantle
02:14

Latino in America

View Show Page
Soledad O'Brien on the team behind the Latino in America documentary series
03:42
Soledad O'Brien on controversy surrounding Lou Dobbs and how it impacted Latino in America
02:59
Soledad O'Brien on the listening tours for Black in America and Latino in America
00:41

Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien

View Show Page
Soledad O'Brien on the format of Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien
02:10
Soledad O'Brien on tracking the demographics of who she hires and who she puts on the air on Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien
02:45

NBC Nightly News

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Soledad O'Brien on what she learned working for Bob Bazell as his associate producer at NBC Nightly News
02:40

Outbreak: The First Response

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Soledad O'Brien on where she was at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and on shooting the documentary Outbreak: The First Response
00:59

Site, The

View Show Page
Soledad O'Brien on joining MSNBC as the anchor of The Site and developing her voice as an anchor
07:42

Starting Point

View Show Page
Soledad O'Brien on anchoring Starting Point on CNN
00:27

Today

View Show Page
Soledad O'Brien on leaving NBC in 2003 -- at the time she was co-anchoring the weekend version of Today, Weekend Today
02:02
Topics

9/11

View Topic
Soledad O'Brien on where she was on 9/11
03:35

Advice

View Topic
Soledad O'Brien on advice to aspiring journalists
01:35
Soledad O'Brien on the best advice she's ever received; on the best advice she's ever received
00:56

Creative Influences and Inspiration

View Topic
Soledad O'Brien on learning from her boss, Jeanne Blake, at WBZ
01:30
Soledad O'Brien on the importance of mentors and sponsors in her career
01:13

Donald J. Trump

View Topic
Soledad O'Brien on her criticism of mainstream media's coverage of the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections and of how some journalists deal with fake news and disinformation; on whether or not she would interview Donald Trump
03:44
Soledad O'Brien on her thoughts on the coverage of the January 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection
00:48

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Soledad O'Brien on where she was on 9/11
03:35
Soledad O'Brien on covering the 2004 tsunami in Thailand
03:53
Soledad O'Brien on covering Hurricane Katrina; on her interview with FEMA director Michael Brown
07:43
Soledad O'Brien on the state of journalism in the 1990s, women she worked with at KRON, and whether or not she faced bias and discrimination at that time
04:26
Soledad O'Brien on her experience flying out of the Baton Rouge airport after covering Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans for several weeks
01:42
Soledad O'Brien on covering the 2010 earthquake in Haiti
05:08
Soledad O'Brien on Jesse Jackson's comments to her after Black in America: "Eyewitness to Murder: The King Assassination" aired
02:38
Soledad O'Brien on penning "A MeToo Moment for Journalists of Color" for The New York Times in July 2020
04:42
Soledad O'Brien on where she was at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and what pandemic production has been like
06:10

Memorable Moments on Television

View Topic
Soledad O'Brien on her interview with FEMA director Michael Brown
02:30
Soledad O'Brien on her thoughts on the coverage of the January 6, 2021 Capitol Insurrection
00:48

Natural Disasters

View Topic
Soledad O'Brien on covering the 2004 tsunami in Thailand
03:53
Soledad O'Brien on covering Hurricane Katrina; on her interview with FEMA director Michael Brown
07:43
Soledad O'Brien on her experience flying out of the Baton Rouge airport after covering Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans for several weeks
01:42
Soledad O'Brien on covering the 2010 earthquake in Haiti
05:08
Soledad O'Brien on where she was at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and what pandemic production has been like
06:10

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
Soledad O'Brien on learning from her boss, Jeanne Blake, at WBZ
01:30
Soledad O'Brien on the importance of mentors and sponsors in her career
01:13

Representation on Television

View Topic
Soledad O'Brien on the state of journalism in the 1990s, women she worked with at KRON, and whether or not she faced bias and discrimination at that time
04:26
Soledad O'Brien on penning "A MeToo Moment for Journalists of Color" for The New York Times in July 2020
04:42

Television Industry

View Topic
Soledad O'Brien on advice to aspiring journalists
01:35
Soledad O'Brien on the best advice she's ever received
00:56

Television and the Presidency

View Topic
Soledad O'Brien on her political coverage while anchoring Starting Point at CNN
01:07
Soledad O'Brien on her criticism of mainstream media's coverage of the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections and of how some journalists deal with fake news and disinformation; on whether or not she would interview Donald Trump
03:44
Soledad O'Brien on her thoughts on the coverage of the January 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection
00:48

Underrepresented Voices

View Topic
Soledad O'Brien on the state of journalism in the 1990s, women she worked with at KRON, and whether or not she faced bias and discrimination at that time
04:26
Soledad O'Brien on Jesse Jackson's comments to her after Black in America: "Eyewitness to Murder: The King Assassination" aired
02:38
Soledad O'Brien on penning "A MeToo Moment for Journalists of Color" for The New York Times in July 2020
04:42

Women

View Topic
Soledad O'Brien on the state of journalism in the 1990s, women she worked with at KRON, and whether or not she faced bias and discrimination at that time
04:26
Professions

Anchor

View Profession
Soledad O'Brien on developing her voice as an anchor
03:18
Soledad O'Brien on the role of an anchor and the role of a reporter
00:44

Journalists & News Producers

View Profession
Soledad O'Brien on what she learned working for Bob Bazell as his associate producer at NBC Nightly News; on enjoying traveling for work
03:46
Soledad O'Brien on what's in her go-bag when she travels for work
01:16
Soledad O'Brien on developing her voice as an anchor
03:18
Soledad O'Brien on the role of an anchor and the role of a reporter
00:44
Soledad O'Brien on network notes she received while at NBC and CNN
01:44
Soledad O'Brien on the state of journalism in the 1990s, women she worked with at KRON, and whether or not she faced bias and discrimination at that time
04:26
Soledad O'Brien on how she approaches interviewing people who are in the midst of tragedy
01:05
Soledad O'Brien on the importance of identity, who tells stories, and cultural context
02:39
Soledad O'Brien on what makes a good interview
00:49
Soledad O'Brien on safety precautions she takes to protect herself and her crew when covering natural and man-made disasters
00:54
Soledad O'Brien on how she manages after covering a difficult story
00:46
Soledad O'Brien on asset framing and deficit framing and how they impact storytelling
03:36
Soledad O'Brien on the role of a journalist in 2022
01:55
Soledad O'Brien on the term "both sides-ism"
01:14
Soledad O'Brien on objectivity in journalism
03:31
Soledad O'Brien on bias in reporting and in hiring
04:00
Soledad O'Brien on journalists she grew up respecting and watching
02:17
Soledad O'Brien on how changes in media consumption have impacted journalism
01:21
Soledad O'Brien on how she defines good journalism
04:00
Soledad O'Brien on the logistical challenges of production during the COVID-19 pandemic
03:42
Soledad O'Brien on penning "A MeToo Moment for Journalists of Color" for The New York Times in July 2020
04:42
Soledad O'Brien on inclusivity in her hiring practices
01:24
Soledad O'Brien on advice to aspiring journalists
01:35
Soledad O'Brien on the best advice she's ever received
00:56
Soledad O'Brien on the importance of mentors and sponsors in her career
01:13
Soledad O'Brien on what she looks for in assembling a team
01:08
Soledad O'Brien on her greatest career achievement
00:52
Soledad O'Brien on career regrets
01:08
Soledad O'Brien on dream projects that she'd like to do
00:27

News Producer

View Profession
Soledad O'Brien on what she learned working for Bob Bazell as his associate producer at NBC Nightly News; on enjoying traveling for work
03:46
Genres

News and Documentary

View Genre
Soledad O'Brien on why she was drawn to working in news
00:47
Soledad O'Brien on understanding that being on camera in the news world gives you a certain amount of power
01:03
Soledad O'Brien on working at KRON-TV in San Francisco -- her first time as an on-camera reporter
02:47
Soledad O'Brien on the state of journalism in the early 1990s and whether or not she faced bias and discrimination at that time
04:26
Soledad O'Brien on joining MSNBC as the anchor of The Site and developing her voice as an anchor; on working on MSNBC Morning Blend, NBC News, and the weekend version of Today; on the role of an anchor and the role of a reporter; on covering breaking news
11:16
Soledad O'Brien on leaving NBC for CNN in 2003, network notes she received while at NBC and CNN, and some of the major stories she's covered throughout her career: the 2004 tsunami in Thailand and Hurricane Katrina (2005)
20:01
Soledad O'Brien on moving to the documentary division at CNN and launching the Black in America documentary series
20:53
Soledad O'Brien on the Latino in America documentaries for CNN
08:22
Soledad O'Brien on anchoring Starting Point on CNN
00:27
Soledad O'Brien on the AC360 special "Kids on Race: The Hidden Picture"
03:45
Soledad O'Brien on the format of Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien
02:10
Soledad O'Brien on working on Black and Missing in 2020
00:21
Soledad O'Brien on tracking the demographics of who she hires and who she puts on the air on Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien
02:45
Soledad O'Brien on Disrupt & Dismantle
02:14
Soledad O'Brien on what she hopes audiences take away from Black and Missing
02:13
Soledad O'Brien on where she was at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and on shooting the documentary Outbreak: The First Response
01:00
People

Rose Arce

View Person Page
Soledad O'Brien on the team behind the Latino in America series
03:42

Robert Bazell

View Person Page
Soledad O'Brien on working for Bob Bazell as his associate producer at NBC Nightly News
02:07

Jeanne Blake

View Person Page
Soledad O'Brien on learning from her boss, Jeanne Blake, at WBZ, and on the responsibilities at her first job at WBZ
01:29

David Bloom

View Person Page
Soledad O'Brien on the death of her Weekend Today co-anchor David Bloom
00:38

Kim Bondy

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Soledad O'Brien on the valuable perspective that Executive Producer Kim Bondy brought to Black in America
01:47

Michael Brown

View Person Page
Soledad O'Brien on her interview with FEMA director Michael Brown
02:30

Katie Couric

View Interview Page
Soledad O'Brien on journalists she grew up watching and journalists she respects
00:09

Lou Dobbs

View Person Page
Soledad O'Brien on controversy surrounding Lou Dobbs and how it impacted Latino in America
03:42

Bryant Gumbel

View Person Page
Soledad O'Brien on journalists she grew up watching and journalists she respects
00:38

Kamala Harris

View Person Page
Soledad O'Brien on interviewing Vice President Kamala Harris during the COVID-19 pandemic
01:18

Bill Hemmer

View Person Page
Soledad O'Brien on co-anchoring American Morning with Bill Hemmer at CNN
00:44

Jesse Jackson

View Person Page
Soledad O'Brien on Jesse Jackson's comments to her after Black in America: "Eyewitness to Murder: The King Assassination" aired
02:38

Jim Lehrer

View Interview Page
Soledad O'Brien on journalists she grew up watching and journalists she respects
00:34

Robert MacNeil

View Interview Page
Soledad O'Brien on journalists she grew up watching and journalists she respects
00:34

Gloria Rojas

View Person Page
Soledad O'Brien on journalists she grew up watching and journalists she respects
00:18

John H. Sununu

View Person Page
Soledad O'Brien on interviewing John Sununu and how she navigates interviews with people who spread misinformation and disinformation
02:00

All Interviews

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