María de la Soledad Teresa O'Brien
September 19, 1966
María de la Soledad Teresa O'Brien (born September 19, 1966) is an American broadcast journalist and executive producer. Since 2016, O'Brien has been the host for Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien, a nationally syndicated weekly talk show produced by Hearst Television. She is chairwoman of Starfish Media Group, a multiplatform media production company and distributor that she founded in 2013. She is also a member of the Peabody Awards board of directors, which is presented by the University of Georgia's Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
O'Brien co-anchored CNN's American Morning from 2003 to 2007, and was the anchor of CNN's morning news program Starting Point from 2012 to 2013. In 2013, O'Brien became special correspondent on the Al Jazeera America news program America Tonight, and is also a correspondent on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
Early life and education
O'Brien was born and raised in St. James, New York, on the North Shore of Long Island to Edward Ephrem O'Brien (d. 2019), a mechanical engineering professor at Stony Brook University, and Estela O'Brien (née Marquetti y Mendieta) (d. 2019), a French and English teacher at Smithtown High School West. Her parents were both immigrants and met while they were students at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Her father is from Toowoomba, Queensland, in Australia and is of three quarters Irish and one quarter Scottish descent. O'Brien's mother is from Havana, Cuba, and is of Afro-Cuban descent. When she was 14 years old, she came to the United States, sponsored by Oblate Sisters of Providence of Maryland.
Interracial marriage was illegal in Maryland before 1967, so in 1958 O'Brien's parents married in Washington, D.C., where marriage laws were less restrictive. The newly wedded O'Briens then moved to Long Island, to the town of St. James. O'Brien is the fifth of six children, all graduates of Harvard College. Her siblings are law professor Maria Hylton (born 1960), GE corporate lawyer Cecilia Vega (born 1961), businessman Tony O'Brien (born 1962), who heads a documents company, eye surgeon Estela Ogiste (born 1964), and anesthesiologist Orestes O'Brien (born 1967).
O'Brien graduated from Smithtown High School East in 1984. She attended Radcliffe College from 1984 to 1988, starting as pre-med and English and American literature, but left to take a job at WBZ-TV. O'Brien went back to school while pregnant with her first child and received her degree from Harvard in English and American Literature in 2000.
NBC and MSNBC (1991–2003)
O'Brien began her career as an associate producer and news writer at WBZ-TV, then the NBC affiliate in Boston. She joined NBC News in 1991 and was based in New York as a field producer for the Nightly News and Weekend Today. She then worked for three years as a local reporter and bureau chief for San Francisco NBC affiliate KRON. At KRON she was a reporter on "The Know Zone."
Starting in 1996 and during the dot-com boom, O'Brien anchored MSNBC's weekend morning show and the cable network's technology program The Site, which aired weeknights from the spring of 1996 to November 1997. The show was unique in that she interacted with a virtual character named Dev Null, played by Leo Laporte in a motion-capture suit.
From July 1999 to July 2003, O'Brien was co-anchor of the NBC News program, Weekend Today with David Bloom. During that time she contributed reports for the weekday Today Show and for weekend editions of NBC Nightly News. She also covered such notable stories as John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane crash and the 1990s school shootings in Colorado and Oregon.
American Morning (2003–2007)
In 2004, at the age of 38, she was named to Crain's New York Business "40 Under 40" list.
Starting Point (2012–2013)
From January 2012 to March 2013, O'Brien was anchor of the CNN program, Starting Point. After CNN canceled American Morning and replaced it with two new programs, Early Start and Starting Point in 2011, O'Brien began anchoring Starting Point on January 2, 2012. It was announced on February 21, 2013, that O'Brien had reached an agreement with CNN to leave Starting Point for the new Starfish Media Group production company. CNN would provide funding in return for non-exclusive rights to its documentaries. March 29, 2013, was her last day on air at CNN as an anchor.
In 2009, O'Brien completed a documentary titled Latino In America, documenting the lives of Latinos living in America. She continued working as a reporter for CNN, mainly hosting "In America" documentaries, and occasionally filled in for Anderson Cooper on Anderson Cooper 360. She also anchored exit poll coverage during CNN's coverage of the primaries and caucuses in the 2008 United States presidential race, and filled in for Paula Zahn on Paula Zahn Now before Zahn left CNN in 2007.
O'Brien anchored a CNN special, Black in America, in July 2007. The program documented the successes, struggles, and complex issues faced by black men, women and families 40 years after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. In the first installment, O'Brien investigated how James Earl Ray, an armed robber and escaped convict, had already spent a year on the run a month before his path collided with that of Dr. King in Memphis, Tennessee. In "The Black Woman & Family", O'Brien explored the varied experiences of black women and families and investigated the disturbing statistics of single parenthood, racial disparities between students, and the devastating toll of HIV/AIDS. The fifth installment of the Black in America series aired in December 2012. Her report on children and race featured the work of Margaret Spencer, based on the Doll Tests of the 1940s, polling children on their general color preferences: "white children have an overwhelming white bias, and black children also have a bias toward white, according to a new study.."
Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (2013–present)
On February 24, 2021, during a House Subcommittee hearing on "disinformation and extremism in the media", O'Brien called out her former employer, CNN, for airing a piece on Lou Dobbs Tonight, where Lou Dobbs attributed "7,000 new cases of leprosy" to undocumented immigrants. In addition to calling out Dobbs and Tucker Carlson for hyperpartisan disinformation, she also called out MSNBC anchors Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell for pushing "Russian conspiracy theories".
Starfish Media Group
In June 2013, O'Brien formed the production and distribution company Starfish Media Group. Starfish Media Group signed a deal to produce a series of hour-long documentary specials for Al Jazeera America.
In September 2016, O'Brien became a host of the Hearst Television show, Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien; in addition to its broadcast availability, it is carried by FYI (American TV channel) on Sunday mornings (a network Hearst partly owns).
In 1995, O'Brien married Bradford "Brad" Raymond, co-head of investment banking at Stifel. They have four children: two daughters, Sofia (October 2000) and Cecilia (March 2002), and twin sons Charles and Jackson (August 2004).
On the NPR quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, O'Brien explained that in Spanish her full name means "The Blessed Virgin Mary of Solitude". When she started working in TV, many people recommended that she change her name, but she refused.
O'Brien has said she does not speak Spanish fluently.
O'Brien has been riding horses since she was 13 years old, a hobby which she now enjoys with her family. She and her husband run a foundation called PowHERful Foundation (formerly called the Starfish Foundation, and before that the Soledad O'Brien & Brad Raymond Foundation), which mentors women to send them to college. The foundation began in 2011.
On February 7, 2011, O'Brien was inducted as an Honorary Member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
- 1995: Local Emmy, Co-Host Discovery Channel's The Know Zone
- 1997: Hispanic Achievement Award in Communications
- 2000: Newsweek, Critical Más: 20 for 2000
- 2000: People, 50 Most Beautiful
- 2004 Crain's New York Business "40 Under 40" honoree 
- 2004: People en Español, 50 Most Beautiful
- 2005: Black Enterprise, Hot List
- 2005: Catalina magazine, Groundbreaking Latina of the Year
- 2005: Peabody Award, CNN coverage of Hurricane Katrina
- 2006: Newsweek, "15 People Who Make America Great"
- 2007: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), President's Award
- 2007: Gracie Allen Award
- 2008: Morehouse School of Medicine, Soledad O'Brien Freedom's Voice Award, first recipient
- 2008: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Goodermote Humanitarian Award for Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami
- 2009: Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Medallion of Excellence for Leadership and Community Service Award
- 2010: National Association of Black Journalists, Journalist of the Year
- 2010: Edward R. Murrow Award, RTDNA/UNITY Award for Latino in America
- 2010: Peabody Award, CNN coverage of BP oil spill
- 2011: Emmy, Outstanding Live Coverage of a Current News Story Long Form for Crisis in Haiti on the 2010 Haiti earthquake
- 2016: Vanderbilt University, The Nichols-Chancellor's Medal
- Irish American Magazine, Top 100 Irish Americans" (twice)
- Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award, 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami
- Emmy, 2012 election
- Emmy, "Kids on Race"
Leadership and membership
- 2007: Bryant University, Doctor of Humane Letters
- 2011: Delta Sigma Theta, Honorary Member
- 2013: Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Distinguished Visiting Fellow
- 2013: Foundation for the National Archives (Washington, DC), Board of Directors
- 2014: Spelman College (Atlanta, GA), Doctor of Humane Letters
- 2016: Stony Brook University, Honorary Doctorate of Letters
- ExpandED Schools, formerly The After School Corp (TASC), Leadership Council
- National Association of Black Journalists, Member
- National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Member
- The Harlem School of the Arts, Board Member
- 1989: Second Opinion, WXKS-FM (Boston) – Host
- 1989: Health Week in Review, WXKS-FM (Boston) – Host
- 1989: Eyewitness News First Edition, WBZ-TV (Boston) – Associate producer, Writer
- 1991–1993: NBC Nightly News – Producer
- 1991–1993: Today – Producer
- 1993: KRON-TV (San Francisco) – Reporter
- 1993–1996: The Know Zone (TV Series) – Co-host
- 1996–1997: The Site, MSNBC (TV Series) – Host
- 1997: Imaging America, WNET (New York) – Host
- 1997–1999: Morning Blend, MSNBC (TV Series) – Host
- 1997–2003: Today, NBC (New York) – Host
- 1997–2003: Weekend Today, NBC (New York) – Host
- 2003–2007: American Morning, CNN (TV Series) – Co-Host (Producer, 1 episode: "Microsoft Security Suit")
- 2007–2011: Special Investigations Unit, CNN – Host
- 2007–2011: AC360, CNN – Host
- 2007–2011: In America, CNN – Host
- 2012–2013: Starting Point, CNN – Host
- 2013: America Tonight, Al Jazeera America – Host
- 2013–2015: Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel – Correspondent (10 episodes)
- 2013: Black in America: Black & Blue – Soledad O'Brien Reports (TV Movie documentary) – Executive producer, Producer, Director, Writer
- 2014: Da Sweet Blood of Jesus – Associate producer
- 2014: The War Comes Home: Soledad O'Brien Reports (TV Movie documentary) – Executive producer, Producer, Director, Writer
- 2015: Kids Behind Bars: A Soledad O'Brien Special Report (TV Movie documentary) – Producer, Director
- 2015: Shining a Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America (TV Movie – Executive producer
- 2015: Billboard Women in Music 2015 (TV Movie) – Executive producer
- 2015: Babies Behind Bars (Documentary) – Executive producer, Co-director, Writer
- 2016: Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien, Hearst Television – Host
- 2016: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Herself
- 2019: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Herself
Works and publications
- O'Brien, Soledad; Arce, Rose Marie (with) (2009). Latino in America. New York: Celebra. ISBN 978-1-101-14961-4. OCLC 760072829.
- O'Brien, Soledad; Arce, Rose Marie (with) (2011). The Next Big Story: My Journey Through the Land of Possibilities. New York: New American Library. ISBN 978-0-451-23284-7. OCLC 706018286.
- Selected works
- 2008: Black in America (CNN)
- 2009: Latino in America (CNN and CNN en Español)
- 2009: Black in America 2 (CNN)
- 2010: The Atlanta Child Murders (CNN)
- 2011: Don't Fail Me: Education in America (CNN)
- 2011: The Women Who Would be Queen (CNN)
- 2012: Who Is Black in America? (CNN)
- Almighty Debt (Black in America) (CNN)
- Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11
- Children of the Storm
- Crisis in Haiti (Anderson Cooper 360, CNN)
- Don't Fail Me: Education in America (CNN)
- Eyewitness to Murder: The King Assassination (CNN)
- Gary and Tony Have a Baby (CNN)
- Her Children of the Storm
- Latino in America: Courting Their Vote
- Latino in America 2: In Her Corner
- One Crime at a Time
- Pictures Don't Lie
- The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley (Black in America) (CNN)
- The Women Who Would be Queen
- Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door (CNN)
- Words That Changed a Nation (CNN)
- Edelhart, Courtenay (October 24, 2005). "Conversations: CNN's O'Brien embraces her own diversity". The Indianapolis Star. Archived from the original on December 24, 2005.
- "Soledad O Obrien – United States Public Records". FamilySearch. June 1, 2001.
- Bryant, Adam (June 10, 2016). "Soledad O'Brien: Seek Out the Curious and the Fastidious". The New York Times.
- "Starfish Media Group Story". Starfish Media Group. Archived from the original on March 12, 2016.
- "Who We Are". Grady College and University of Georgia. Retrieved November 22, 2019.
- "Anchors & Reporters: Soledad O'Brien". CNN. Archived from the original on August 28, 2013.
- Ariens, Chris (December 29, 2011). "New CNN Morning Show to Launch Monday". Adweek.
- "CNN O'Brien leaving morning show, starting Starfish Media Group production company". Times Colonist. The Associated Press. February 21, 2013.
- McCarthy, Tom (July 1, 2013). "Former CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien to join Al Jazeera America". The Guardian.
- Watson, Sheridan (July 1, 2013). "Soledad O'Brien on move to Al Jazeera". Entertainment Weekly.
- "Soledad O'Brien joining HBO's 'Real Sports'". USA Today. The Associated Press. June 12, 2013.
- O'Brien, Soledad (April 2004). "The Church Across the Street". Guideposts. Archived from the original on August 22, 2004.
- O'Brien, Soledad (October 17, 2010). "Survival of the Fittest" (Book excerpt). Parade.
- O'Brien, Soledad; Sun, Rebecca (as told to) (October 19, 2016). "Soledad O'Brien On Her Parents' Struggles as an Interracial Couple: "People Spit on Them in the Street"". The Hollywood Reporter.
- "Soledad 1966–1995". SoledadObrien.info. October 8, 2007.
- Anders, Gigi (June 2005). "Running with the News: Soledad O'Brien is authoritative, credible, engaging and intelligent. And she's a great mom, too". Hispanic. Archived from the original on April 25, 2008.
- Gates, Jr., Henry Louis (January 12, 2016). "The Irish Factor: Soledad O'Brien". Finding Your Roots.
- "Soledad O'Brien's Interactive Family Tree". Finding Your Roots. January 13, 2016.
- O'Brien, Soledad (December 19, 2014). "Soledad O'Brien: What my mother left behind". CNN.
- O'Brien, Soledad (July 24, 2008). "Behind the Scenes: Black and shopping in America". Black in America 2, CNN.
- "Soledad O'Brien: Pride of Smithtown 2002 Recipient". Smithtown Alumni Association. April 2002. Archived from the original on December 10, 2010.
- "Soledad O'Brien Harvard Commencement Speech – Harvard University Commencement 2013" (Video). Harvard University. May 29, 2013.
- "Harvard Alumni Directory 2000". Cambridge, MA: President and Fellows of Harvard College. 2000: 1038 (Vol. I) and 300 (Vol II). Cite journal requires
- Lieberman, Jonathan (May 1, 2007). "Convocation 2007 Preview". The Cornell Daily Sun.
- Carlson, Eryn (January 17, 2014). "Soledad O'Brien returns to Harvard to teach where she learned". The Boston Globe.
- Finn, Robin (June 26, 2003). "Public Lives; Interview With the Interviewer (Hands to Yourself)". The New York Times.
- "CNN's New Morning Show Gets Name And Debut Date". The Huffington Post. December 29, 2011.
- "Study: White and black children biased toward lighter skin - CNN.com". www.cnn.com.
- "HBO: Real Sports: Soledad O'Brien: Bio". HBO.
- Keveney, Bill. "'Don't book liars': Soledad O'Brien challenges media at House hearing on disinformation". USA TODAY. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
- Idliby, Lea (February 24, 2021). "Soledad O'Brien Calls Out Cable Networks for Overdramatizing News During Disinformation Hearing: 'Don't Book Liars'". Mediaite. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
- Johnson, Ted (February 25, 2021). "A Takeaway From House Hearing On Media Disinformation: Networks Have To Stop Feeding Viewers A News Diet Of "Rage"". Deadline. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
- "Soledad O'Brien Biography – May, 2015" (PDF). Starfish Media Group. May 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 2, 2017.
- Stelter, Brian (February 21, 2013). "Soledad O'Brien to Take on New Role at CNN". Media Decoder Blog, The New York Times.
- "Al Jazeera America signs Soledad O'Brien as special correspondent". Al Jazeera America. July 1, 2013. Archived from the original (Press release) on July 2, 2013.
- "About Soledad". Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien.
- Flora, Kelsey (May 22, 2013). "Soledad O'Brien Named New Moderator of National Geographic Bee – National Geographic Society Press Room" (Press release). National Geographic.
- Dizdar, Petra (February 12, 2016). "Nation's Top Hispanic Influencers and Business Leaders Coalesce Around New Digital Platform MOSH" (Press release). MOSH.
- "Stifel Senior Management: Brad Raymond". Stifel.
- Leland, John (October 19, 2012). "Sunday Routine: On Sundays, Soledad O'Brien Rides a Racehorse and Preps for Her TV Show". The New York Times.
- "CNN 2003–2007". SoledadObrien.info.
- Sagal, Peter (August 19, 2006). "Not My Job: CNN Anchor Soledad O'Brien". Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me. NPR.
- "PowHERful Board". PowHERful Foundation.
- "Soledad O'Brien: "They Call Me Auntie Sole"". Global Grind. August 12, 2011.
- "CNN hires Soledad O'Brien for morning show". CNN. June 12, 2003.
- "Critical Más: 20 for 2000". Newsweek. July 11, 1999.
- "Soledad O'Brien: TV Anchor". People. 53 (18). May 8, 2000.
- "40 Under 40 - Soledad O'Brien". Crain's New York Business. January 1, 2004. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
- "CNN: Coverage of Hurricane Katrina". Peabody Award. 2005.
- "Soledad O'Brien Freedom's Voice Awards Gala". Morehouse School of Medicine. 2008. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013.
- Parsons, Tim (November 18, 2008). "Bloomberg School Awards Goodermote Humanitarian Award to Soledad O'Brien" (Press release). Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
- Williams, Ryan (April 22, 2010). "CNN's Soledad O'Brien Named Journalist of the Year by Black Journalists Group – National Association of Black Journalists" (Press release). National Association of Black Journalists.
- Green, Ashlee (2010). "Soledad O'Brien, Journalist of the Year". National Association of Black Journalists.
- "Coverage of the Gulf Oil Spill (CNN)". Peabody Award. 2010.
- Patterson, Jim (May 12, 2016). "Soledad O'Brien to seniors: Finding your passion can take time" (Includes video). Vanderbilt University.
- Harris, Janelle (October 15, 2015). "So What Do You Do, Soledad O'Brien, Journalist and CEO of Starfish Media Group?". Mediabistro.
- "Bryant University Commencement 2007. Soledad O'Brien: Doctor of Humane Letters". Bryant University. 2007. Archived from the original on November 18, 2007.
- Chaney, Ashley (February 7, 2011). "Delta Sigma Theta Welcomes New Honorary Members, Gwen Ifill and Soledad O'Brien" (Press release). Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.
- "Soledad O'Brien Named Distinguished Visiting Fellow". Harvard University Graduate School of Education. April 24, 2013.
- "Board of Directors: Soledad O'Brien". National Archives Foundation. September 4, 2013.
- "Leadership Council: Soledad O'Brien". ExpandED Schools.
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