What’s Wrong and Right With the Media

In a wide-ranging and detailed interview, Soledad O'Brien spoke with nymag.com about the state of the media in America.

One Q&A exchange:

Just because you’re a black person in the newsroom doesn’t mean you want to single-handedly wage battle against white America’s preconceptions. So just hiring black people in itself isn’t even enough. There’s only so far you can push without risking your job.
And it’s also exhausting. By the way, you take your career in your hands every time you do it. I get it. I really understand why people don’t want to fight the narrative. Your career will end. I am telling you. You become a pain in the ass. Because you’re the one who says, “So, I just want to say …” And listen, I believe this happens in corporate America all the time. I’m sure there are a million executives who will tell you, right, you suck it up, and you suck it up, and then one day see something, and you’re like, “Okay, I’ve got to say something now,” and then you couch it very carefully. “So, I’m not criticizing anybody, and I’m sure this is just completely an oversight, I just might want to go back and maybe …” That’s what it’s about, and it’s exhausting to operate like that. And listen, the more that you have power — certainly I did when I was anchoring a show — you can say, “No, I’m not doing that. I’m not reading this.” But most people don’t have that opportunity. And even I don’t have that opportunity to a certain degree. I can do it to a certain level, but I certainly can’t do it all the time. You’re just always very careful. A person who pushes back against the narrative is a pain. That person is annoying. That person slows down the meeting. Even bosses who say, “I really want to make sure that there’s someone who’s comfortable telling me ‘No,’ ” they’re usually not. They usually do not like that person. Nobody likes that person. That person is a pain, I am telling you. So if you do that, you absolutely take your life and your career in your hands.

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