Monday, January 26, 2009

Soledad Talks To Students About Change

After covering the presidential inauguration earlier in the week, Soledad O’Brien shared her experiences to a full house at Duke University as part of the university's Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration.

“When you grow up named Maria de la Soledad Teresa O’Brien you can’t help but talk about diversity,” she told the students.

She related stories about the making of the 6 hours CNN documentary series, Black in America and said she plans to complete a follow-up series next summer focusing on solutions to many of the problems the first six hours confronted.

“Diversity is not easy. Even in our editorial meetings there were unpleasant conversations. With a diverse group, there’s yelling and arguing. It’s not a comfortable tight box, but the end result will have multiple visions.”


As a young journalist, O’Brien encountered several obstacles like a television station manager who asked her to consider changing her name and one who told her there was only one spot for a black journalist at the station and was concerned that she wasn’t “dark enough” to pass. (She is the daughter of a black Cuban mother and a white Australian father.)

“When people put up obstacles, you go around them,” said the Harvard graduate. “It’s not easy to be judged in one glance.”

She said that “change is in the wind,” and not just because the country elected the first black president.

“Nothing changed on Wednesday [the day after the inauguration]. What changed was the way to access hope. Our problems won’t be solved by one guy. It takes all of us. Both Obama and King operated under the notion that our nation has the ability to change. It’s an amazing thing to be able to course correct. To make real change, you have to confront the truth. I’m more concerned about being real” and doing nuanced, smart, good journalism that’s thought-provoking and represents a wide-range of viewpoints. It never really occurred to me that I was doing journalism for a certain group of people … I’m just trying to do really good stories that make us all human.”
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