Soledad O'Brien at Excellence in Journalism Conference

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 people.”

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 underreported communities.

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.
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