Hi! I'm Soledad O'Brien - journalist, CEO of Starfish Media Group, and philanthropist. I’m here at CNN in NYC with Victoria today today to talk about my doc, The War Comes Home that premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT. I would love to answer your questions, so go ahead and ask me anything.


Update well that's it for my AMA. Thanks for the questions. I hope you watch my doc, The War Comes Home, tonight at 9 PM. And join me on Twitter during and after to discuss it - hashtag is "WarComesHome."

Comments: 198 • Responses: 73  • Date: 

lavslovesthenews16 karma

What do you think was the biggest media reporting blunder of the year thus far?

soledadobrien4 karma

I can't think of any big one that wasn't a misreported prank - what are you guys thinking of?

RoswellSpaceman19 karma

The wild, unchecked speculation surrounding MH370 immediately comes to mind.

soledadobrien24 karma

Yeah... once we got to the aliens, I just kind of lost interest.

bachelor_of_farts14 karma


soledadobrien17 karma

Only 6 people watched The Site - you and 5 other people in my family.

Lessons i took for my career was that it's really hard to live in San Francisco on $30,000 a year (just kidding!).

That was a fun show, but way ahead of its time. We reported on the internet every night. Who would have thought there would be enough to talk about on the internet, about the internet? It was the first show that was an anchor job for me, and I think the main thing that I took away from it was how the people around you can create a really good ecosystem. People were incredibly kind to me for this being my first anchoring gig, and I've tried to repay that kindness when I've had the chance to be the veteran and someone else was the newbie.

This was 1996. It was a show that launched with MSNBC when the network launched. And we did "Do you wanna search for your adopted child? HTML will show you how to do it!"

Here's an old example of devnull: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuRPNs3jTJ8

Robseth3 karma

I also was a big fan of The Site. I was quite upset when you were pre-empted and then cancelled in favor of incessant Princess Diana deathwatch coverage. Her death was tragic, but the constant blitz became morbid and excessive.

soledadobrien6 karma

It was the first time in my reporting experience where rolling coverage of a breaking news story removed the taped show that we were doing. It was a year into MSNBC, and they knew that cable was going to be breaking news, and that a taped show was never going to be as relevant as something that was unfolding at that moment. And it really changed how I felt about reporting - as much as I love doing documentaries, I'd love to get back to a show at some point, maybe for the 2016 election, because to really have a voice in the conversation, it helps to have a daily show, because that conversation is shifting all the time.

svel2 karma

viewer #7 reporting in! I loved that show :) you were a great host.

soledadobrien6 karma

My mother appreciates you.

Im_at_work_now_yo2 karma

Viewer #8 reporting. Do you ever keep in contact with Cliff Stoll?

On a side note, I actually kind of miss the show MSNBC used to have that showed the archived news broadcasts and clips.

soledadobrien4 karma

No I don't keep in contact with Cliff Stoll at all!

Clearly, we need to do a crowd funding to underwrite a new pilot for The Site: 2.

what_would_yeezus_do10 karma

If there was a brawl between news teams like in the movie "Anchorman", which channel would win?

Teams are as follows:

  • CNN: You, Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper

  • MSNBC: Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz

  • Fox News: Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Megyn Kelly

  • HLN: Nancy Grace

Remember, Churchill once said "history is written by the victors."

soledadobrien16 karma

Every experience I've had where Anderson Cooper was also there reporting meant you got THE BEST PERKS. i.e. Heaters during the inauguration, food and water during Hurricane Katrina, so obviously I am going to pick any side that Anderson is on.

So we would win.

Megyn Kelly's team would come in second place. I don't know her at all, but new moms (for the most part) have very little tolerance for time wasting and bullshit, so I think she would just kick some ass and move on to the next thing.

Nancy Grace has twins, and I'm a mom of twins. So she too clearly has high pain tolerance, and would take third place easily.

Much love to Chris, and Rachel, and Ed. But seriously?

what_would_yeezus_do3 karma

TIL (Today I Learned): Nancy Grace can single-handedly take on three MSNBC hosts and win. Thanks Soledad!

soledadobrien5 karma

Having twins makes you a very angry and focused person (at times). Haha.

GomorrahSkipper7 karma

Soledad, Much has been made about the "state of journalism" regarding its partisan nature, or the death of print journalism and even the decline of real and unbiased journalism. What do you feel is the greatest challenge to journalism? Thanks in advance.

soledadobrien5 karma

I feel very optimistic about journalism. The technology has gotten much cheaper and the quality is much higher, so individuals can grab a camera and shoot stories without being sent by a major corporation. There are many more organizations that are paying journalists today than when I started 26 years ago. The biggest challenge, I think is what I hear some younger colleagues of mine say, which is - where do they go to GROW? My path was to start in local news, eventually become a producer, go to network news, eventually go to a local station to start reporting, go to a network to start anchoring - many younger colleagues of mine say that path doesn't seem to exist for them.

dogzombie7 karma

What do you think about being referenced in 30 Rock?? My favorite show :)

soledadobrien6 karma

Pretty freaking awesome!

jesserperez6 karma

Would you fight a horse sized duck or 100 duck sized horse's?

soledadobrien13 karma

So obviously, a horse-sized duck.

I'm actually quite a talented equestrian, and could probably easily manage anything the size of a horse. 100 ducks would scare the crap out of me.

orangejulius6 karma

What's your favorite story that you've ever reported on?

What's the most difficult part of your job?

soledadobrien8 karma

Asking favorite story is like asking favorite child, if you're asking what was one of the meaningful stories for me to report, I'd say Hurricane Katrina. Most difficult, Haiti Earthquake. Most intellectually challenging, the 2012 election. But favorite is not descriptive enough.

I think it's honestly how do you get something exactly right. There's so much nuance in good coverage, how do you tell a story about people that are nuanced and get it right? That's why I love documentaries, they give you the time to flesh it out, versus 1:30. Not enough time.

skinsballr6 karma

What is your favorite fruit?

soledadobrien5 karma

Favorite fruit is mango, I'm a diabetic so I rarely eat it.

dcb19866 karma


soledadobrien6 karma

I think that's an incredibly complicated question about privatization. And we clearly know that the VA is a hot mess. The veterans I've spoken to have said is let's focus on things that work, and funding things that seem to work, like the project I report on in my documentary The War Comes Home, about Save A Warrior project - that that's sort of a more pragmatic use of our time than BS'ing about all the ways the VA is falling veterans, which, by the way, we already know.

BDL19945 karma

Hi Soledad! Big fan. Yesterday while I was waiting for your segment on CNN I saw coverage of the Mount Sinjar helicopter rescue mission. I understand that it's important to have news coverage of issues like this for the world to see, but as I watched the helicopter take off and leave people behind, I couldn't help but wonder, is it worth it to have a reporter and a cameraman on board if it means two civilians will be left in danger? Where do you draw the line when it comes to reporting and, for lack of a better term, getting in the way?

soledadobrien5 karma

Interesting version of this happened when I was covering Hurricane Katrina. When you're reporting a story, and let's say you're on a boat, and you're not in a position to rescue people, what you can do is use the fact that you're reporting the story to go and bring back help. But of course, to the people who see you pulling away, it is devastating. This never specifically happened to me, but I had lots of friends who would talk about how hard that was. But they could not physically take passengers on, and rescue them.

I like to think that the act of telling a story, in and of itself, helps save lives. I think that in reporting the story, CNN brought so much attention to Mount Sinjar, that in fact, they used their opportunity to be on that chopper well.

waylaidbyjackassery5 karma

Dish the dirt on Dev Null?

soledadobrien7 karma

COMPLETE UTTER PERVERT. Used to say disgusting things in my ear, to the point where i had to rip out my earpiece! My boss at the time was a guy named David Bohrman, and he swore to me that if talking to an animated character on TV was crazy, that he'd kill the segment. It just never occurred to me that Leo Laporte, aka De Null, would be such a disgusting little creep in character.

Robseth1 karma

That's a little disturbing and kinda puts Mr. Laporte in a different light for me.

soledadobrien5 karma

Remember - he was in character! The actual Leo Laporte is QUITE a lovely man!

DFTBAWildcat5 karma

What's it like hosting the National Geographic Bee?

Also, how hard are some of those place names to pronounce?

soledadobrien6 karma

Actually it was incredibly stressful! First of all, the geography questions are ridiculously challenging, and I really don't want to be called out by some 12 year old for not knowing what I talk about. Also, Alex Trebek - kind of big shoes to fill! And the show moves very quickly. So it was actually pretty stressful.

Hard, but believe it or not, there's an entire team of people who meet over several days to make sure you nail the pronunciations.

DFTBAWildcat1 karma

What would you say was the hardest-to-pronounce word you said last year?

soledadobrien10 karma

I can't recall. But when I filled in on the Today show with Matt Lauer, he used to sit next to me and whisper mispronunciations of complicated names like "Ahmadinejad"...

and then if i got it right, I would take a pencil and dig it into his hand to get back at him! (Little known fact)

Mutt12235 karma

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

soledadobrien4 karma

Pralines & cream at Baskin Robbins.

kunomchu5 karma

What was the feedback from the black community on your black in america series?

soledadobrien9 karma

I think we sparked a very intense debate. Some people loved the stories. Other people took exception to some of the stories. We're now on our SEVENTH Black in America, and I think that people know that we are committed to reporting on all the nuance and complexities that any community has. Black people stop me all the time in airports and say "Hey girl, you should tell MY Black in America story!" and I'm like "hey, i'm on vacation."

mgrunner5 karma

What type of philanthropy are you involved in? How did you get started and what motivated you?

soledadobrien3 karma

I run, and founded, the Soledad O'Brien and Brad Raymond Starfish Foundation (http://www.obrienraymondfoundation.com). We send young women to and through college. What motivated me was the frustration I felt in the wake of Hurricane Katrina that there were so many practical things we could do to help young people get ahead, and many things in New Orleans were just mired in red tape. We started in New Orleans, and today our 25 scholars are in colleges around the country, and we are on track to host several thousand young women at our daily empowerment summit for girls in 2015. If you want to check out the website, you can learn more.

TuckRaker4 karma

I spent 10 years as a journalist. Journalism is editorialized now more than ever before. Do you agree with that and, if so, why do you think that is?

soledadobrien3 karma

I think point of view journalism has sort of morphed into the "single perspective" journalism. But I got to tell you, it was never what i was interested in, either as a reporter or as a viewer.

jamhamram4 karma

Do you think Olivia Munn's character on the Newsroom is based off of you?

soledadobrien14 karma

I believe that not based off of me, but that's what i look like when I roll out of bed- just. like. her.

arich84 karma

I'm a white man in an interracial relationship with a mixed race woman. It's difficult for me to understand the value she has for her culture, since I've never cared much about my roots. What does being mixed race mean to you?

soledadobrien4 karma

I think it's less about valuing her culture - which is, as you put it, a mix of cultures - and more about valuing her conversation as she navigates her way between these cultures. Being mixed race never meant a specific thing to me. Often it was a feeling of being an outsider even in your hometown, of not necessarily feeling like you belonged in a certain place, of having people say rude & inappropriate things to you without even realizing they were particularly hurtful. That said, I think ultimately it's helpful for a journalist to be an outsider. My guess is your significant other wants you to HEAR what she's saying about trying to navigate something that in America, actually, still carries a tremendous amount of weight, even as we like to pretend to be post-racial.

arich81 karma

Thanks so much for your response. I look forward to watching your documentary.

soledadobrien1 karma

Thank you, and if you want to talk to the 3 veterans who are featured in the piece, they will be tweeting live at 9 PM and will be happy to answer your questions.

fisch094 karma

If cheese were to replace current currency which cheese do you think would be the 1 dollar bill?

soledadobrien6 karma

Pecorino is the greatest thing ever is all I wanna say.

CSGprChicago4 karma

It is increasingly difficult to find news sources and journalists who aren't biased in their reporting. This compounded by the fact that people can get the news they want to hear from specific news sites or blogs will make it even less likely that people are hearing all views and getting all the facts. What does this mean for our society?

soledadobrien5 karma

I think this is kind of a big question, about impact on society. Ultimately I think there are opportunities to get access to lots of information. And I think that's a good thing. I truly believe that my kids have so much more access because of technology than I ever had.

broncosfan1503 karma

What do you make of the Israel conflict? Should America get involved?

soledadobrien7 karma

America is already involved. The most interesting thing to me about the Israel conflict is the degree to which I've covered some iteration of the story several times. It's a tragedy, on all fronts. And the number of people caught in the crossfire is just horrific.

forwardseat3 karma

Do you have a favorite bourbon?

soledadobrien10 karma

Maker's Mark. By the way, Mitch mixed with diet Orange Dry is pretty freaking great. Discovered that on my family vacation 2 weeks ago!

candleboy953 karma

I'm starting at the University of Missouri's journalism school next week and wondered if you had any advice to give a very very green journalist?

soledadobrien6 karma

Be open to criticism. And be open to growing. BUT at the same time, don't internalize every shitty thing someone tells you. Focus on getting better every day, finding your own voice, and getting a gig in what's one of the best jobs in the whole world.

labodega3 karma

What other journalists do you feel are doing a good job with breaking news? Also, who is your guilty twitter follow?

soledadobrien6 karma

I'll start with guilty twitter follow, which is @Maxwell - the only man I really love outside of my husband, whose anniversary with me is today. 19 years! But even he knows that I love Maxwell, and was even pretty cool when we ran into him at the U.S. Open.

The other journalists I think are doing a good job - I love Anderson, of course. I think Sanjay's terrific. I love David Muir, I think it's great he's just gotten promoted. Candy Croley is absolutely terrific. Norah O'Donnell has a killer instinct I admire very much.

Terranoso3 karma

Thanks for doing this.

What story from history would you have loved the most to cover as a journalist?

soledadobrien2 karma

You know, I'd be very interested in covering the Pedro Pans leaving Cuba, the Cuban children who were flown to the United States in order to leave the dictatorship behind. Especially if you could compare and contrast that with how we think of current-day immigration, I think it would be fascinating.

black_flag_4ever3 karma

How do you handle story ideas, or reports that are rejected?

soledadobrien5 karma

Do you mean ones that I've pitched that are rejected? God, happens every day. Obviously I get over it very fast. The fun about working for a production company where you have many clients is you try to find the best fit for a pitch for each client.

black_flag_4ever0 karma

I asked about both, because I don't know much about the business. But you answered my questions. Edit: It seems that you roll with the punches and move on.

soledadobrien3 karma

My mother used to say: Take 24 hours to sit in bed and be miserable and eat Haagen-Dazs, then pull your shit together and get to work. And yes, she did curse like a sailor.

srgtslam3 karma

What does the changing nature of news aggregation mean for journalists and major news sources?

soledadobrien2 karma

I think that those aggregation sites are incredibly helpful for reporters. I read Buzzfeed lists absolutely obsessively when I was working on political reporting, and it was very helpful. I think the more context you can get, the better. I think that the original reporters need to be compensated and valued.

mysfaith3 karma

Who were your mentors? Do you mentor anyone?

soledadobrien2 karma

Yeah, I mentor a lot of people. I enjoy it, actually. I think I mentored more before I had 4 kids, and now i don't have a ton of time. I'm pretty demanding of my mentees, I expect them to act on the advice I give them, and when people ask me nowadays "Will you be my mentor?" I often tell them "No! I have 4 kids. I'm the last person you want to be your mentor." I often tell them they need to find someone in their industry whom they see on a daily basis, whom they can have a mentor relationship with.

cracka_azz_cracka3 karma

What are your thoughts regarding the increasing sensationalism paired with decreasing journalistic integrity which plagues the media today? Thoughts on the impact of bloggers and social media (which don't require citation or accountability)?

soledadobrien3 karma

I might be contradictory on this but I love social media. And i read all the bloggers. I think it's fantastic for giving perspective on a story that you may not have considered. It does not replace journalism and it certainly does not replace research or interviewing, but what a great way to get many different perspectives. I'm a big fan of social media. And as far as my thoughts on the increasing sensationalism, I guess to me it just is what it is. Find those journalists that you like, find those storytellers that you like, and just support them.

NorbitGorbit3 karma

did working with a CG correspondent prepare you in any unexpected way for future work?

soledadobrien5 karma

Yes, haha. I've had to dodge a few disgusting fellows on the job.

ckk5243 karma

How do you feel about the sensationalization of the 24 hour news. Do you believe this is detrimental to journalism? Thank you

soledadobrien7 karma

Sensationalization in TV news has been around a long time and pre-dates not only TV news, but TV. I mean, print was heavily based on sensationalization, and there are some great books about this very issue. Is it detrimental to journalism? I think the rules of journalism always stay the same.

GROOVE03 karma

Where do you feel you draw most of your passion and inspiration for your work from? What motivates you?

soledadobrien7 karma

I really think it's important to use the platform to tell stories about, and for, people who don't really have the opportunity. You know, I think for this latest project, it's very rare that veterans will tell you with complete honesty and very descriptively what it feels like to want to kill yourself, how desperate you are to end it all, even if you have a beautiful family and a beautiful wife, so my goal has always been to try to figure out how to use my stories to give them the microphone in the most authentic way.

two_off3 karma

What are your favourite areas to be involved in for your philanthropy?

soledadobrien3 karma

I think young women, especially, who I think with an investment of a college education have the ability to affect many other people - i.e. their community, their families, their children (eventually) - I really support anything that supports education.

madsaleswoman3 karma

If this was your last day as a reporter. What story would you want to be remembered for and how would you want to be portrayed?

soledadobrien3 karma

I think you want me to answer with something thoughtful, and self-deprecating.

But obviously, I want Halle Berry to play me. And I should be breaking something like Watergate.

JDB11273 karma

Is StarfishMediaGroup hiring? I've tried reaching out to Robert F. is he still with the company?

soledadobrien4 karma

Robert F. is still with the company, although he's been promoted and is on vacation. And we are a VERY small company, so at this moment we are not hiring, but if you have his information you should make sure you get your resume to him.

airportmanteau3 karma

Hi Soledad, big fan! As a member of an interracial family, I was wondering what would you say is the standard experience as a multiracial American? You've done incredible work profiling the state of race in America, but I'm wondering to what extent a person of mixed ancestry can claim a stake in anyone one cultural experience.

soledadobrien7 karma

I think the cultural experience is in fact, not being of any one cultural experience. I think the dominating experience is around the "hey, can I touch your hair?" kinds of daily interactions, which, some days, I have the patience to discuss with people, and other days, I just want to punch people in the face. It gets exhausting to have to constantly be asked "what are you?"

Today, though, I'm in a patient mood.

mrshatnertoyou3 karma

Which journalist do you respect the most and why?

soledadobrien8 karma

That's a great question. You know who I've been really interested in, is Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, because I think he really does what I hope to do in interviews, right? Which is use statistics and statistical analysis to dig deeper into stories. He literally is, you know, a journalist I would like to know and meet. And be best friends with. Because I'm a little obsessed with him.

footiebuns2 karma

Hi Soledad! Thank you for taking time to answer our questions. I have two for you:

  1. You have a reputation for being a hard-hitting journalist, but do you always truly feel free to ask challenging questions of your guests? Has it ever been discouraged?

  2. Do you find it difficult to move between sports journalism and broadcast/investigative journalism?

soledadobrien2 karma

1) I was always free to ask anything I wanted to. No one ever discouraged me. I'm also one of those people that if you tell me not to do something, you're fanning the flames & likelihood of me doing it.

2) Not at all! They're both storytelling vehicles. And sports is an amazing prism to examine human behavior and values. I love working for HBO Real Sports, it's just such a great opportunity to tell stories that we think of as "sports stories" but really are stories of the human experience.

BigFatBeardo2 karma

Do you have any opinion about the research being done into using ecstasy or LSD as a treatment for post-traumatic stress?

soledadobrien6 karma

I don't, I haven't reported on it. So I really can't speak to it.

improbablity2 karma

Hi, thanks for doing the AMA. I must say I hadn't heard about The War Comes home before this, but from reading the article/ watching the preview it looks very interesting. I have three questions, if you'll indulge me.

  1. The face of journalism has been changing for the past few decades, with information being immediately accessible but often ignored. Do you think that twenty-one year olds today are adequately informed in the goings on of the world, and how would you like to see things change?
  2. What do you think the most pressing issue in the world is today?
  3. What's your favorite book? Thanks!

soledadobrien4 karma

1) It's my experience that 21 year olds today are actually incredibly socially conscious, and extremely interested in the global community, and have the access that technology affords to be able to reach out in ways my generation was never able to when we were their age. So I don't feel that hope is lost for that age group, at all.

2) I think an issue that is underscoring a lot of conflict that we see, both internationally and domestically, is income inequality.

3) Gosh, that's a great question! You know what I really love, that I just started reading, is a book of short stories, called Crash Diet by Jill McCorkle. And of course my OWN book, The Next Big Story, is a brilliant read (hahaha ;).

JHenryishere2 karma

In the trailer posted for The War Comes Home, I see the vets doing therapy with horses. What role do you think animals play in the therapy of people who suffer from PTSD?

soledadobrien5 karma

Our documentary looks at equine therapy, which has been done for quite a while with veterans who have post-traumatic stress. The experts in equine therapy describe the horses as being very similar to the veterans - kind of skittish, not very trusting, and the therapy forces the veterans to figure out how to communicate with a 2000 pound animal that you just can't pick up and move around a ring. It seems to be very effective, and several of the veterans I spoke to described it as their "a-ha" moment - that they realized they had to learn how to communicate more effectively with people, as opposed to just barking orders.

polimodern2 karma

What would be your top 3 to 5 ways the average person can help young women be empowered?

soledadobrien6 karma

Number 1: Support them. Our philosophy is getting girls through college, not just to college, and sometimes through means helping with child care, helping with internships, helping with gas money, helping find a job - there are lots of ways you can help young women with all of those things.

Number 2: advice. Spell out exactly how hard it was for you to get through. Sometimes when people read my resume as they're introducing me, it makes my entire life sound like peaches & cream - it's the highlights of all you've accomplished, and i want to start off by saying "well, here's all the crap that went badly" so you can fully understand where I"m coming from. I think young people need to hear how tough times can be overcome.

Number 3: If you know a young woman who is a mom, babysit for her for free. Just take her kid for the day, give her free baby sitting so she can have a break and a day off. I think that's an amazingly great gift to give someone.

By the way, I have 4 kids, if you want to come babysit for me for free - I'd be grateful ;)


MarijuanaMajority2 karma

Do you think veterans who are suffering from PTSD should be able to use doctor-recommended medical marijuana without being treated like criminals by the federal government?

soledadobrien9 karma

I think you're conflating 2 points:

  • Medical marijuana
  • Treatment of post-traumatic stress

The veterans that I interview for my documentary (which airs tonight at 9 PM) were trying to move away from drugs, and away from alcohol, and away, frankly, from doctors as a whole. That overcoming their post-traumatic stress was figuring out the tools they had within themselves, to navigate their lives without drugs & alcohol.

Setorian2 karma

Soledad I live in Houston, TX the 4th largest city in the United States. I find that people in my community don't keep up with current events and don't have a clue about what's going on in the world even if those things directly affect our way of life. "Tunnel Vision"! Many are only concerned with the here and now. I'd like to make a serious effort to spread awareness but lack experience. Where should I begin?

soledadobrien2 karma

People often tackle this issue from the outside-in - "Here's what i can bring to these people." I would do the reverse. Ask them what they care about, ask them what they want to know, what they are struggling with, what their focuses are. Then you are creating a real service for them, and not just foisting upon them what you think is important.

Setorian1 karma

I totally agree with you on that Soledad. So what I've been doing lately is observing what people in my community's interest are through social media. We have a very large young adult population here that would prefer to spend their time on social media than in front of a television. I try to cater to those interests from an independent point of view while also introducing them to things happening outside of our community. I do most of this through my Facebook page and while I have seen an increase in response from the public, I believe there's more that can be done. My problem is not only lack of experience but lack of resources as well. I have no experience in front of a camera, I don't know what kind of camera to use or how to use it, and of course money is always an issue. I'd like to do something similar to an "I" report. I have a base of followers at the moment but it's very small when compared others. But I am very familiar with Houston, I have a great relationship with many small business owners and leaders in the area but not knowing what it takes to get the job done haunts me. I don't want to start this just to see it fell because I truly believe my community needs this. Any advice you can provide will be greatly appreciated Soledad and please keep up the good work. I'm a huge fan and I appreciate your willingness to go beyond the lines to get the story out. Take care

soledadobrien2 karma

So go to YouTube, and ask the people doing the great shows what cameras they use. They will absolutely be very clear with you what cameras they like to use, see what quality appeals to you, and then ask them.

Number two: draw up a business plan: what are you trying to do, how are you measuring success, what are your deliverables? And treat it like a business. And how long are you willing to give yourself to do it? You're not exactly clear on what you're doing for your community, but make sure that you're clear in your plan.

You can shoot a show on your iPhone very easily, with very few resources. Often it's more about FOCUS, and what you're trying to achieve, than sinking a lot of money into it.

You know, you don't want to start it just to see it fall - but you can't see it succeed either, if you don't start it! So get over yourself, and just start it, and if it fails, it fails - just start something else.

wakeballer392 karma

How could antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria be covered like the ebola virus? What's the big difference?

soledadobrien2 karma

I think what makes a story interesting at times is the sense of hysteria around it, and ebola has a lot of that. But ultimately, the thing that is really critical in prevention of disease is scrubbing your hands with hot water and soap - when was the last time you saw a story on that? Never ever, because it's boring. But research has shown that if you want to cut down on spread of disease, that would be the main thing to do. Ebola - which will affect virtually no one in the United States - will get much more coverage than washing your hands with hot water and soap.

OswegoWriter2 karma

Do you feel that the media industry has as much responsibility to report the after-effects of OEF/OIF as they did the events of the wars as they unfolded? It seems that there's a focus on immediacy in the 24-hour news cycle, more so then there is for depth and continuing coverage on topics; how can that change if news reporting is affected so heavily by ratings and advertising dollars?

soledadobrien4 karma

You knew, news reporting is affected by constantly finding the next new thing, which makes taking a look back & analysis challenging on a daily basis. Again, it's really why I like documentaries - the only way to do an assessment, for example if you wanted to do about OEF or OIF, is a documentary, where you have time and you have this opportunity to be thoughtful about the perspective, as opposed to 8 second sound bytes and trying to cram it into a live hour broke up by commercials.

Huicho42 karma

Hi Soledad. What is the toughest story you've had to cover?

soledadobrien6 karma

The toughest story to cover was probably the Newtown School shooting. It was absolutely the most horrible thing ever.

oldmh2 karma

How did it feel to leave the morning news show at CNN? You were fabulous and I was so disappointed that CNN chose to go fluffy in the morning after you left. (I now watch Al-Jazeera America for my news.) Was it hard for you to go on to other things or were you ready to go?

soledadobrien5 karma

The show was going a different direction.

And they wanted to have a new team in place. And that didn't include me.

But I had really been thinking about running a production company for a couple of years, and I had the financial where-with-all to do it.

I think the hardest thing is to leave colleagues whom you've spent a lot of time working with on some pretty intense stories (10 years really). And to leap to something that was very different than what I'd been doing for most of my life - i.e. being a CEO, running and managing a company, is a little daunting. But now 1 year and 2 months later, it's going really well, and it's exciting. And the things that seem to be big challenges, ended up, some of them, being "growth opportunities" and some of them turned out to be things that were really easy to navigate

oldmh0 karma

I'm glad it worked out for you. But it was a big loss for us viewers! I admired how you would politely but firmly ask difficult questions of your interviewees, both left and right. Thanks!

soledadobrien3 karma

Every time I got really annoyed, I would try to remember to use the word "sir" more. I felt that way I couldn't be accused of being disrespectful.

beernerd2 karma

How do you balance your career with your home life?

soledadobrien5 karma

We don't really aim for balance. I think balance is a false goal. I think you try to get as much done that you care about and that you're passionate about every day. Some days that means the focus is on the kids. Some days that means the focus is on a work project. And if you're lucky - and I think i've been pretty lucky - at the end of your career, it's all worked out. But balance is never gonna happen.

ysimonis2 karma

Where can I view the "Great Expectations – Black In America - The Education Of Black Boys" documentary from last year?

soledadobrien2 karma

It's not online anywhere, yet, but I own the distribution rights for all my documentaries, and I'm going to make them all available at some point.

Kiradragon9112 karma

I don't know if anyone asked this yet, but what is the most difficult story you had to cover? To the point where you felt it deeply touch your heart?

soledadobrien4 karma

I think we kind of did that with the Newtown School story. Also covering the Southeast Asian tsunami in 2004-2005 - I was reporting from Thailand 12 hours ahead, and i would go to bed every night at 10 PM, but I couldn't sleep because i was crying so hard, so I would call my husband (for whom it was 10 AM), and tell him about all the bodies of small children I had seen in the wats, and the grieving parents. It was truly horrific.

StormyJMaster2 karma

Hello Soledad, thanks for doing this AMA. My question is: what's the most humorous story you've covered?

soledadobrien5 karma

I interviewed Jim Carrey for the Today show once. He walked around the entire interview, and just chatted with people inside the studio and outside the main Today show window, to the point where i had completely lost control of the interview. It was pretty funny. I can't remember anything he actually said, so I'm not sure what was accomplished, but I do remember laughing through the whole thing.

kinvore2 karma

Hi Soledad, long-time fan! My question is: do you think the profit motive in media has affected journalistic integrity?

soledadobrien1 karma

I'm asked this fairly often. I've never had an experience working for any of the major companies that i worked with - the Chronicle Company that owned KRON TV, or Time-Warner that owned CNN, or GE when it owned NBC - I never had any of corporate bosses give me any feedback at all about anything I was working on, ever. In fact, somewhat jokingly, we occasionally wished Bill Gates WOULD call us on The Site (which was on MSNBC) - we couldn't get him to return our calls!

Alywebb2 karma

Hello Soledad,

First of all, thank you for being such a positive role model for women of color. In an age of twerking and YouTube, I don't know where I'd be without you. ;)

Question: What advice would you give recent college graduates (who can no longer apply for non credit internships) that want to pursue a news production career? -I've worked with magazines and newspapers for several years but can't seem to get any bites when applying for PA jobs.

soledadobrien2 karma

I think it is truly a game of volume. For my first job as a PA, I sent out 187 resumes and cover letters. I literally would work for anyone. I picked 10 states that I wouldn't hate living in, and through the Broadcast Yearbook which I read at the library, I tracked down which TV stations existed in those 10 states - the ABC Affiliate, the NBC affiliate, the Christian station...

And I reached out to all of them, and would say "I"m going to be in town anyway, can I swing by for an interview?"

That trick usually worked. Truly, the hardest gig is the first one.

10thMountain2 karma

Hi Ms. O'Brien. I was a fan of your morning show on CNN, Starting Point. What are your thoughts on CNN ending it so soon?

I'm looking forward to your program tonight, I am a veteran of Afghanistan myself so the issues are very close to home, thanks for covering it.

soledadobrien3 karma

We'll be tweeting live with the veterans who are featured in the documentary, so I hope you'll join me for that. The hashtag will be "Warcomeshome."

I was disappointed that Starting Point didn't get a lot of support from the management that was in place at the time. But they've moved on, and I've moved on to bigger and better things, and I think it's all worked out really nicely.

crocajun10031 karma

What story should the national consciousness be paying more attention to at the moment?

soledadobrien7 karma

I think a great example is this Michael Brown situation - we often cover stories about young men being shot, like the shooting of Michael Brown, as a "story of the day," and I think stories like that need to be looked at in the greater context of the value of the life of young African-Americans. So to me, an interesting story would be examining - not just through that one story, but the way in which it seems that the value of the human life, when we're talking about a young black man, is low.

I think that would be interesting to explore.

Also, I have lots of friends who are journalists last night reporting that the media was being told they had to leave Ferguson, or be arrested, and I haven't really seen that on-air today. So that said, I'm not covering that story live, so my perspective is a little bit from a distance, but I think that that's an important story.

broncosfan1501 karma

What do you think of Fox News?

soledadobrien17 karma

Never watch it. Literally, I don't think I've ever watched it for 5 minutes.

karmanaut0 karma

Who is the world's sexiest dictator, in your opinion?

Current or former.

Edit: can also name a time period. For example, "Fidel in the 60s" is acceptable, because now he's old and dying.

soledadobrien7 karma

Gotta tell you... as the child of a Cuban, I find "sexy" and "dictator" oxymoronic. Truly, I literally cannot think of one handsome despot. And by being a despot, that pretty much removes all the handsomeness. But I'm more than happy to comment on Hollywood hotties. Idris Elba, absolutely.

karmanaut-1 karma


Who is the sexiest, pre-20th century US president? And what attributes earn him that title?

soledadobrien11 karma

President Harding - that macho glare, the smoldering look. Either he's thinking "passion" or his stomach's upset.

karmanaut1 karma

Good choice. Easy to make a dirty nickname for him, too.

soledadobrien3 karma

That's my secret, and I'll never tell.

I_Lase_You0 karma

Hello Dr. O'Brien! Here's a Welcome to reddit lase I made for you! [Link] Now the question: You get to choose one last gig that will last until you retire: News or Sports?

soledadobrien5 karma

I love news. Breaking news. So news specifically, breaking news.

And I love the lase! I'd like to get a copy of it so I can show my kids how cool I am.

blueknight73-1 karma

hi soledad, what is your opinion of fox news and the way they " stretch" the truth?

soledadobrien3 karma

Literally never watch Fox News.