Soledad O'Brien Speaks at UNITY 2008 Conference

The 2008 UNITY: Journalists of Color conference held in Chicago at the end of July gathered six thousand student and professional journalists. Most attendees were members of NABJ (National Association of Black Journalists), NAHJ (National Association of Hispanic Journalists), AAJA (Asian American Journalists Association) or NAJA (Native American Journalists Association).

At the event, former television anchor Carole Simpson was honored by the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) for her pioneering career and support of women journalists worldwide. Simpson spent her broadcast career breaking down both racial and gender barriers in the industry. When she took over hosting duties on the Sunday edition of ABC’s “World News Tonight” in 1988, she became the first black woman to anchor a national news program.

Simpson currently teaches journalism at Emerson College. She also runs the Carole Simpson Leadership Institute at the African Women’s Media Center in Senegal which was created in 1998 to help African women journalists gain the skills to be competitive in the media world. Simpson has also set up several high school and college scholarships for women and minorities pursuing careers in broadcast journalism.

CNN journalist Soledad O’Brien was also present at the ceremony and spoke about her personal efforts to bring more diverse programming to CNN. She noted that she was disturbed that a diversity workshop for CNN employees last year had a panel made up entirely of white men.

Her dissatisfaction led to discussions with CNN executives that in turn led to the recent four-hour documentary series Black in America on CNN. That series is now the highest-rated documentary series in CNN’s history.
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