As TVNewser first reported was in the works last week, Al Jazeera America has signed former CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien to a development deal, and will feature her as a “special correspondent” for its primetime newsmagazine, “America Tonight.”
O’Brien’s company, Starfish Media Group, will produce longform documentary specials for AJAM when the channel launches in August, with O’Brien appearing on-air for shorter-form reports on AJAM’s newsmagazine.
“I look forward to beginning a relationship with Al Jazeera America, which has made a commitment to producing quality programming and pursuing underreported stories,” O’Brien said in a statement. “I am thrilled to be back in business with Kim Bondy, who is a long-time friend and among the finest journalists in the broadcast news business today. With this agreement, Starfish continues its expansion as a cross-platform media company dedicated to compelling storytelling and enterprise journalism.”
The deal with AJAM gives O’Brien three development deals since she signed off from CNN’s “Starting Point” at the end of March. She has a “first-look” deal with CNN (ncluding for the “In America” series) and HBO (which includes scripted fare), and appears on-air for HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”
AJAM continues to staff up with talent even as it lacks a chief executive to run the day-to-day operations of the channel. We hear that a decision on who that person may be is imminent, and could happen as soon as this week.
AL JAZEERA AMERICA SIGNS SOLEDAD O’BRIEN AS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
O’Brien’s Production Company Will Also Provide Documentary Specials For New Channel
NEW YORK – (July 1, 2013) – Al Jazeera America, the new American news channel that will launch in August, today announced that it has signed an agreement with Emmy Award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien’s production company, Starfish Media Group. O’Brien will contribute short-form segments as Special Correspondent to Al Jazeera America’s primetime current affairs magazine program “America Tonight,” and Starfish will produce hour-long documentary specials.
“O’Brien’s career producing and reporting on the human side of many of the most important stories of the past decade will fit in perfectly with what Al Jazeera America will be covering every day,” said Ehab Al Shihabi, executive director of Al Jazeera’s international operations and the senior executive developing the new channel. “Her dedication to that type of journalism is what makes it so exciting to announce that she and her production company are joining the Al Jazeera America team.”
“I look forward to beginning a relationship with Al Jazeera America, which has made a commitment to producing quality programming and pursuing underreported stories,” O’Brien said. “I am thrilled to be back in business with Kim Bondy, who is a long-time friend and among the finest journalists in the broadcast news business today. With this agreement, Starfish continues its expansion as a cross-platform media company dedicated to compelling storytelling and enterprise journalism.”
Kim Bondy, “America Tonight’s” senior executive producer, said she was delighted to have a world-class journalist like Soledad as part of the show. “Soledad and I have worked together since 1997, so I know she cares deeply about covering the human side of a story based solely on the facts,” she said. “That’s a perfect fit for ‘America Tonight,’ which will go beyond statistics and headlines to provide an in-depth, unbiased look at the events of the day and how they affect our viewers.”
O’Brien most recently served as an anchor and special correspondent for CNN, where she was the co-anchor of its CNN’s flagship morning program, “American Morning,” and the anchor of “Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien.”
O’Brien distinguished herself at CNN by reporting from the scene of such stories as the London terrorism attacks in 2005, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011. In December 2004, O’Brien was among a handful of CNN anchors sent to Thailand to cover the disaster and aftermath of the tsunami. O’Brien also produced and hosted the widely acclaimed “In America” documentary series, including “Black in America” and “Latino in America.”
O’Brien came to CNN from NBC News, where she was anchor of “Weekend Today.” She began her career as an associate producer and news writer at the then-NBC affiliate WBZ-TV in Boston and served three years as a local reporter and bureau chief for NBC affiliate KRON in San Francisco.
In 2011, O’Brien won her first Emmy Award for “Crisis in Haiti” (on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360) in the category of Outstanding Live Coverage of a Current News Story – Long Form. She was also a member of the teams that earned CNN a George Foster Peabody award for coverage of the British Petroleum oil spill and of Katrina, and an Alfred I. du Pont Award for its reporting on the Southeast Asia tsunami. In 2010, the National Association of Black Journalists named O’Brien its Journalist of the Year, and the Edward R. Murrow Awards recognized her with the RTDNA/UNITY award for “Latino in America.” She received the 2009 Medallion of Excellence for Leadership and Community Service Award from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
In 2008, O’Brien was the first recipient of the Soledad O’Brien Freedom’s Voice Award from the Morehouse School of Medicine. That year she also received the Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Goodermote Humanitarian Award for her reporting on Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami. The NAACP honored her with its President’s Award in 2007 for her humanitarian efforts and journalistic excellence.
O’Brien is a member of the board of directors of the Foundation for the National Archives. She recently was named by Harvard University as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow for the 2013-2014 academic year.