María de la Soledad Teresa O'Brien (born September 19, 1966) is an American broadcast journalist and executive producer. Currently, O'Brien is the anchor for Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien, a nationally syndicated weekly political show owned by Hearst Television. She is chairwoman of Starfish Media Group, a multi-platform media production company and distributor that she founded in 2013.
O'Brien has appeared as a television anchor and correspondent on MSNBC, CNN, Al Jazeera America, and HBO. From 2003 to 2007, O'Brien co-anchored CNN's American Morning. From 2012 to 2013, O'Brien was the anchor of CNN's morning news program, Starting Point.
Early life and education
O'Brien was born and raised in St. James, New York, on the North Shore of Long Island to Edward O'Brien, a mechanical engineering professor at SUNY Stony Brook, and Estela O'Brien (née Marquetti y Mendieta), 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 until 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 University. 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 Harvard-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 University in 2000.
NBC News (1991-1999)
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)
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 February 21, 2013, that O'Brien was leaving Starting Point to start Starfish Media Group production company. March 29, 2013, was her last day on air at CNN as an anchor.
In 2009, O'Brien completed a documentary entitled 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 just a month before his path collided with 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.
O'Brien's Starfish Media Group signed a deal granting HBO first look rights for new programs or concepts it develops.
Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (2013-present)
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 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 states that 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 then 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.
- 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: 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 (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 (TV Series) – 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
Works and publications
- O'Brien, Soledad; Arce, Rose Marie (with) (2009). . New York: Celebra. ISBN 978-1-101-14961-4. OCLC .
- O'Brien, Soledad; Arce, Rose Marie (with) (2011). . New York: New American Library. ISBN 978-0-451-23284-7. OCLC .
- 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)