Is Social Media Good for Democracy?

Soledad O'Brien uses social media every day. It has become essential to the fields of news and journalism, both as a way to gather information and also as a way to publish information. She has examined how social media is impacting democracy on her program Matter of Fact.  

For example, Facebook has had to look at its impact it has on the democratic process after receiving much criticism for content on the platform during the Clinton/Trump campaigns. Facebook actually said it could no longer guarantee that social media is beneficial to democracy. That is a surprising admission.

One critique of social media is the ability to create echo chambers -- online spaces that only surround users with like-minded people and ideas.

There’s another phenomenon at work: “group polarization” which says that when you are in an echo chamber, you can become more extreme and intolerant.

Harvard professor Cass Sunstein studies this effect in his new book Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media. He talked with O’Brien to discuss the pros and cons of social media and why the ability to filter out opposing views is a threat to our democracy.


Journalist To CEO: Soledad O'Brien

Soledad O'Brien handles many roles and responsibilities – CEO, wife, caregiver, mother of four children and the roles she is probably best known for - journalist. Lauren Wesley Wilson interviewed O'Brien for Forbes about her transition from journalist to CEO of her multi-platform media production and distribution company, Starfish Media Group.

Here are a few excerpts:

I start each morning attending a yoga class... I follow up Yoga with a 30-minute treadmill workout. I try to get my workout routine all done before 8:30 am.

Most recently I’ve taken on the role of Caregiver for my aging parents. My dad is sick and I’ve spent recent mornings having breakfast and attending to him.

I also run the PowHERful Foundation, focused on getting women of color from low income backgrounds the financial resources and training necessary to attend and graduate college. We just sent 4,000 girls to a series of PowHERful conferences across the country (seven conferences in seven cities). One of our graduates just got her PhD in nursing, which I’m really proud of.

Women, particularly women of color, need to leverage their network. Who will be your accountant? Lawyer? Your IT person? You want to get these items set up before you jump into running your company because it will be hard to balance the work while looking for the items that keep your business structured. Network in advance of your leap. ColorComm Network is a good example of teaching this.

There are so many people who are willing to be helpful in developing your career. When I was younger I was more afraid to ask for guidance. I would encourage young people to speak up and ask for help when you need it.

In my personal life I would tell my 30-year-old self to not stress over the stuff that worry won’t fix. Sometimes you just have to let things work themselves out. And most importantly, I would tell my younger self to stop stressing.

Horseback riding. It’s one of the very few times through my day where I have to be disconnected from my day-to-day tasks and solely focus on riding.

Wesley Wilson: How do you conclude each day?
O’Brien: With a big glass of red wine.


“Mysteries & Scandals” Premieres

When it comes to infamous true crime cases, OJ Simpson’s arrest and subsequent acquittal in the 1994 murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman tops the list.

The former professional athlete escaped conviction in 1996, was later sued by the victims’ families, and ended up arrested for a 2007 armed robbery and kidnapping. His alleged involvement in the first crime was the subject of quite a few TV programs in 2016 — including the Academy Award-winning documentary “OJ: Made in America” and the Emmy Award-winning scripted limited series “The People v. OJ Simpson.”

“I spent a lot of time as a reporter covering OJ Simpson. One of my jobs was to literally sit on the steps of OJ’s mother’s house and see if I could get her to comment — for weeks at a time,” says Soledad O’Brien, host and executive producer of “Mysteries & Scandals.”

Last year, OJ was granted parole and released after serving nine years for armed robbery and kidnapping and Soledad O'Brien's true crime docu-series “Mysteries & Scandals” debuted this month with a story about OJ and the time he spent in prison.

Subsequent episodes include the death Bobbi Kristina Brown with connections to her mother Whitney Houston’s death a few years earlier), and the very public deaths of Michael Jackson and Anna Nicole Smith, as well as studies of serial killers such as Richard Ramirez and Aileen Wuornos.

“Mysteries & Scandals” premiered January 5 at 9pm on Oxygen.


Mysteries & Scandals With Soledad O'Brien

Mysteries & Scandals, hosted and executive produced by Emmy® and Peabody Award winner Soledad O'Brien, will premiere January 5 at 9pm ET/PT. The 13 episode, hour-long series investigates some of the most legendary and intriguing crimes, murders, and scandals that shook the nation and impacted pop culture through vivid first-hand accounts, re-enactments and archival footage.

The series comes from Oxygen Media and Wilshire Studios and will feature notorious true crime stories. O'Brien will give viewers exclusive access to family members, friends, witnesses, detectives and jury members directly impacted and involved in each circumstance.

The series explores celebrity tragedies such as Bobbi Kristina Brown and Whitney Houston's disturbing parallel deaths, the mysterious demise of both Michael Jackson and Anna Nicole Smith and the crimes and punishment of O.J. Simpson. Additionally, Soledad will take a deep dive into the Wonderland Murders, notorious serial killers of the '80s such as Richard Ramirez and Aileen Wuornos, the odd and captivating Slenderman Attacks, and more.

Soledad O'Brien is an award-winning journalist, speaker, author and philanthropist. O'Brien's coverage of race issues won her two Emmy awards and she earned a third for her reporting on the 2012 presidential election. Her coverage of Hurricane Katrina for CNN earned her and the network a George Foster Peabody Award. She also won the Peabody for her coverage of the BP Gulf Coast Oil Spill, and her reporting on the Southeast Asia tsunami garnered CNN an Alfred I. DuPont Award.

View a video preview


Who Could Replace Charlie Rose?

Mother Jones Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffrey tweeted that it would be "a great idea to offer the spot to one of the many competent, successful female journalists working today. ELLE suggested 10 Women Who Could Replace Charlie Rose.

One of their nominations is Soledad O’Brien who they describe as "a seasoned anchor and correspondent, having appeared on MSNBC, CNN, HBO, and NBC, as well as her current show, Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien. She also serves as the CEO of Starfish Media Group, a media production and distribution company."