Soledad O’Brien continues to blaze a trail for what she sees as a new news model — where journalists produce stories for any number of outlets, reporting on things they are passionate about, while immersing themselves in the communities they cover.
Today, along with actor Hill Harper, O’Brien will host the “Let Freedom Ring” 50th anniversary commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. O’Brien, who left CNN earlier this year, will end up appearing on all the networks at some point during today’s ceremony.
Tomorrow, O’Brien premieres her sixth installment of “Black in America” at Bishop T.D. Jakes’ Megafest in Dallas. On Friday, O’Brien will return to CNN to promote “Black in America” on “New Day” — a show which replaced her morning program “Starting Point” a few months ago. She’ll then hit to road again for the People en Espanol festival in San Antonio.
All the while, two of her four children will be in tow. O’Brien phoned in from the top of Toronto’s CN Tower Tuesday — hours before a flight would take her to Washington — part of a 9th birthday trip for twins Charlie and Jackson, which included a Yankees-Blue Jays game (with Derek Jeter keepsakes), and visits with the Toronto Police marine and mounted units.
“What I have really enjoyed is I get to concentrate on the things I am passionate about,” says O’Brien who spent 10 years at CNN and, before that, 7 years at NBC. “The challenge now is to say ‘no.’ You could book yourself constantly.”
Upon leaving CNN, O’Brien created Starfish Media Group. CNN is now one of her clients. She’s also putting together three stories following a recent trip to Haiti for another client, Al Jazeera America, (O’Brien will also be live on AJAM this morning from Washington) and she’s got two stories in the can for HBO’s “Real Sports.”
In traditional news, O’Brien says, “You end up traveling, a lot, for a story that is not your passion.” And in the process, she says, sacrificing time that could be spent, say, giving your sons a memorable 9th birthday experience.
This new model is drawing a lot of attention from O’Brien’s cable colleagues. She says “at least a dozen” have reached out to find out how she pulls it off, “and some who want to work for Starfish, which is great.”
Starfish is building out a studio and offices and is looking to hire. “We’re going to be needing more people. To make this work, it has to be more than me.”