Since leaving her gig as anchor of CNN’s Starting Point in February, news veteran Soledad O’Brien has been on quest to redefine what it means to be a high-quality journalist in the modern age of media. In addition to her recently announced role as a Special Correspondent on Al Jazeera America’s America Tonight, 2013 has O’Brien working on documentaries with CNN, producing content for National Geographic, continuing work on her groundbreaking Black in America series and finding a home for Latinos in America. This is all while appearing on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, looking into developing scripted projects, and working with HBO.
O’Brien’s career move didn’t come out of nowhere. After years of life as a one-network anchor; Whether it was NBC, MSNBC, CNN or more, O’Brien decided to create the production and distribution house Starfish Media Group and begin producing stories that she was fully passionate about.
“I guess [the freedom] kind of allows you to say yes to the things that you like to do and for me, that’s good journalism and thoughtful conversations and say no to the things that you don’t want to do, which for me are the stories that I’m not that passionate about,” O’Brien tells EW. “I could have done without covering Jodi Arias.”
The 46-year-old began her journalism career over two decades ago, building a highly covetable resume. So covetable, in fact, that anchor positions began pouring in after her February announcement.
“I had a lot of anchoring offers,” O’Brien says. “If people wanted to do high-quality, daily journalism, then I was in. HBO Real Sports? They have a reputation for really doing just the best storytelling but framed around sports.”
Inspired by an Evangelical oral story of a boy throwing millions of starfish back in the water one by one, O’Brien hopes that Starfish’s new projects will be able to make a change.
“It sort of made sense of why you tell the story of one person, or one community or that individual story that’s moving because that really is a story,” O’Brien says. “If you tell enough of them, it makes up the fabric that is the story of our country, of our world.”
Possessing ownership of her series Black in America is a new feeling for O’Brien, and she has been relishing the freedom that comes with working on different platforms.
“I want to own my own material,” O’Brien says. “With a production and distribution company you get to create what you want and have partners that you want to partner with and do the stories that you want to do.”
O’Brien is excited about working with Al Jazeera America, which will launch in August.
“If you look at what they’re doing at Al Jazeera English: High quality journalism,” O’Brien says.
In the end, O’Brien realizes that the Starfish business model might just be the future of journalism.
“I think this is a new model of how journalism at a high level, a high quality level can operate,” O’Brien says. “The game’s changing and this is a new model for journalism and if I can have partnership with high-quality partners who want to do great work then Starfish Media Group is excited to be a part of it.”
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