Soledad O'Brien was featured at the national Excellence in Journalism 2011 conference on Sept. 25 in New Orleans.
According to a press release, O’Brien spoke with retired ABC News senior Washington correspondent John
Cochran, who asked questions about her career as a reporter and her
thoughts on the journalism industry.
Cochran said of O’Brien’s newest book, The Next Big Story: My Journey Through the Land of Possibilities,
“It’s an autobiography, so it’s about her, but mostly it’s about other
As a documentary reporter, O’Brien works on long-term projects
that require her to spend time with her subjects and work to understand
them on a deep level.
When questioned about the distinction between advocacy and objective
reporting, O’Brien explained she does not think of herself as an
advocate for any issue, although she does have her own opinions on
issues she sometimes covers.
She recalled interviewing serial killer Wayne Williams, explaining that
her take on the issue was less important than understanding
Williams—what makes him tick and what he is about. “My goal would be to
flesh out really interesting, complex characters, who are going into the
gray areas, the nuances, the complexities,” she said.
The ability to tap into subjects’ complex personalities is in part a
result of being multiracial, she said. She asserted that her multiracial
heritage makes interview subjects more willing to talk openly about
their own race. However, she noted that talking candidly about race is
not always an easy task, although it arises frequently when reporting on
The three-day conference offers professional development sessions, networking and awards recognition for journalists in all forms of media. The conference is covered by the Working Press, a daily tabloid newspaper and news site from SPJ student intern journalists, and at rtdna.org.