Soledad O'Brien

Soledad O'Brien

O'Brien at Marquette University, February 7, 2008
Born María de la Soledad Teresa O'Brien
(1966-09-19) September 19, 1966
St. James, New York, United States
Education Harvard University (B.A.)
Occupation Broadcast journalist
Notable credit(s) Anchor of CNN In America
Author of Latino in America (2009)
Spouse(s) Bradley Raymond (1995–present)
Children 2 daughters, 2 sons
Awards Local Emmy Award

María de la Soledad Teresa O'Brien[1] (born September 19, 1966) is an American broadcast journalist and executive producer. She is the chairman of Starfish Media Group, a multi-platform media production company and distributor.[2] O'Brien continues to be a television anchor and correspondent and lists CNN, HBO and their sports news program Real Sports[3] and the Al Jazeera America news program America Tonight,[4] among a growing list of networks she is working with through her Starfish Media Group. She also served as executive producer and moderator of the National Geographic Bee, replacing Alex Trebek who moderated for 25+ years, until 2016, when Mo Rocca succeeded her. [5] In addition to her production and journalism pedigree, O'Brien in 2013 was named a Distinguished Visiting Fellow by Harvard Graduate School of Education and was appointed to the board of directors for the Foundation for the National Archives in Washington, DC.[6] She also serves on the board of directors of ExpandED Schools, formerly The After School Corp (TASC).[7]

She was the anchor of CNN's morning news program Starting Point, which premiered on January 2, 2012,[8] until it was announced on February 21, 2013, that she would end that post to start the Starfish Media Group production company.[9]

Along with Early Start, Starting Point replaced American Morning, which aired from 2001 to 2011. O'Brien co-anchored American Morning from July 2003[10] to April 2007, with Miles O'Brien (no relation).

Personal life

O'Brien's parents, both immigrants, met at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

My parents were both immigrants—my mother from Cuba, my father from Australia. Both attended daily Mass at the church near campus. Every day my father would offer my mother a ride. Every day, she declined. Finally, she said yes. One year later, the day after Christmas, the two of them were married.[11]

O'Brien's parents married in 1958 in Washington, D.C. Her father, Edward Ephram O'Brien, an Australian (from Toowoomba, Queensland),[12] was a mechanical engineering professor, and was of three quarters Irish and one quarter Scottish descent.[13][14][15] Her mother, Estela Lucrecia (Marquetti y Mendieta), a Cuban from Havana, who is Afro-Cuban, was a French and English teacher.[13] O'Brien is the fifth of six children, all graduates of Harvard University; O'Brien attended Harvard-Radcliffe College from 1984 to 1988, but did not obtain a degree until she returned in 2000.[16] 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,[12] eye surgeon Estela Ogiste (born 1964), and anesthesiologist Orestes O'Brien (born 1967).[13][17]

Interracial marriage in Maryland was illegal until 1967, so O'Brien's parents married in Washington, D.C., where marriage laws were less restrictive. The newly wedded O'Briens then moved to the Long Island community of St. James, where Soledad O'Brien was born and raised. She graduated from Smithtown High School East in 1984.[18] 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.[19]

O'Brien states that she does not speak Spanish fluently and that has sometimes resulted in some awkward exchanges with people who assume she does, including former U.S. vice president Al Gore.[20] Since 1995, O'Brien has been married to Bradley Raymond, co-head of investment banking at Stifel.[21] Together they have two daughters, Sofia (October 2000) and Cecilia (March 2002), and twin sons Charles and Jackson (August 2004).[22]

Television career

Soledad 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". The program later moved to CNET without O'Brien.

O'Brien was featured on a regular segment of the Discovery Channel program The Next Step, holding the position of "Sun Microsystems Infogal".

NBC News

Starting in 1996 and during the dot-com boom, O'Brien anchored MSNBC's weekend morning show and the cable network's award-winning 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 Dev Null, played by Leo Laporte in a motion capture suit.

O'Brien co-anchored Weekend Today with David Bloom beginning July 1999. 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

O'Brien moved to CNN, where she joined Miles O'Brien to co-anchor CNN's flagship morning program American Morning from New York City in July 2003. In 2005 she covered the Hurricane Katrina aftermath in New Orleans, where she interviewed then head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Michael Brown. On April 16, 2007, reportedly owing to lagging ratings, O'Brien was replaced by former Fox News anchor Kiran Chetry (O'Brien's co-host at the time, Miles O'Brien, was replaced as well; former co-host Bill Hemmer had previously moved to Fox News).

Post-American Morning

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.

On September 8, 2008, said that O'Brien had inaccurately asserted during an interview with a McCain campaign spokesman that vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, as governor of Alaska, had slashed the special education budget by 62 percent when in fact she had increased it.[23]

She has been accused numerous times of liberal bias by conservative guests, such as former White House Chief of Staff John Sununu.[24]

On May 1, 2016 Soledad O'Brien hosted PBS Newshour Weekend, filling in for Alison Stewart.

Starting Point

In 2011 CNN canceled American Morning and replaced it with two new programs, Early Start and Starting Point. O'Brien began anchoring Starting Point on January 2, 2012.[25]

It was announced February 21, 2013, that O'Brien was leaving Starting Point and starting the Starfish Media Group production company.[9]

March 29, 2013, was her last day on air at CNN as an anchor.


Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel

It was announced on June 12, 2013, that O'Brien was joining HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel sports newsmagazine. In addition, O'Brien's Starfish Media Group signed a deal granting HBO "first look" rights for new programs or concepts it develops.[26]

Television documentaries

On July 1, 2013, it was announced that Soledad O'Brien's Starfish Media Group would produce a series of hour-long documentary specials for Al Jazeera America.[27]


O'Brien presented the 'I AM LATINO IN AMERICA' tour, with nationwide stops across the United States during 2016. The tour was streamed live globally on Mosh.[28]

Honors and recognition

O'Brien received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Stony Brook University in 2016.

O'Brien won Peabody Awards for the coverage of Hurricane Katrina and BP oil spill and an Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award for her coverage of the South Asian tsunami.[29]

In April 2008 O'Brien became the first recipient of the Soledad O'Brien Freedom's Voice Award, an award created in her name by Morehouse School of Medicine "to recognize outstanding catalysts for social change".[30]

O'Brien has won an Emmy award for co-hosting the Discovery Channel's The Know Zone. She won several Emmys for her coverage of Haiti earthquake, 2012 election, and "Kids on Race".[29] In 2007 she was honored with the NAACP President's Award.[31]

O'Brien won the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Goodermote Humanitarian Award in 2008 for her reporting of Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami[32] "Ms. O'Brien has shown the world tragedies of human conflict, natural disasters, chronic and infectious diseases", said Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH, dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

She is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, which named her the Journalist of the Year 2010[33] and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. O'Brien is also a member of the board of directors of The After-School Corporation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding educational opportunities for all students. She also serves on the board of directors of The Harlem School of the Arts. O'Brien was inducted as an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority in February 2011.[34]

O'Brien has given several keynote speeches over the years, including the undergraduate commencement at Bryant University in May 2007, where she was presented with a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree,[35] the convocation speech at Cornell University's Commencement in May 2007, a speech at Binghamton University commencement in December 2007, and the keynote speech at the 2008 annual National Association of Student Personnel Administrators conference in Boston, Mass., in March 2008. She gave a keynote address at the 2016 conference of the National Association of Social Workers in June 2016.

In 2006 she was featured in the Newsweek cover story "15 People Who Make America Great".[31] She has been named in People's 50 Most Beautiful in 2001 and in People en Español′s 50 Most Beautiful in 2004. She was named to Irish American Magazine′s "Top 100 Irish Americans" on two occasions. She is also on Black Enterprise magazine's 2005 Hot List. Also in 2005, she was awarded Groundbreaking Latina of the Year award by Catalina magazine.

On May 18, 2014, she was the Commencement speaker at Spelman College (Atlanta, GA), and was awarded the honorary degree, Doctor of Human letters.

She was selected as the 2016 recipient of The Nichols-Chancellor's Medal at Vanderbilt University.[36]

Career timeline


  1. Edelhart, Courtenay (2005-10-24). "CNN's O'Brien embraces her own diversity". Indianapolis Star. Archived from the original on 2005-12-24. Retrieved April 2, 2006.
  2. Starfish Media Group web site Retrieved 12 March 2016. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. "Soledad O'Brien joining HBO's 'Real Sports'", USA Today.
  4. "Soledad O'Brien on her move to Al Jazeera network, other upcoming projects", Entertainment Weekly.
  5. National Geographic Press Room. ""Soledad O'Brien Named New Moderator of National Geographic Bee", ''National Geographic'', May 22, 2013". Retrieved 2016-06-10.
  6. "Foundation for the National Archives Board of Directors". Retrieved 25 September 2013.
  7. "Board of Directors". ExpandED Schools. ExpandED Schools. Retrieved 12 March 2016.
  8. Ariens, Chris (2011-12-29). "New CNN Morning Show to Launch Monday". TV Newser. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
  9. 1 2 "CNN O'Brien leaving morning show, starting Starfish Media Group production company". Times Colonist. Associated Press. 21 February 2013. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
  10. "Anchors & Reporters Soledad O'Brien". Retrieved April 22, 2007.
  11. "The Church Across the Street" Guideposts, April 2004.
  12. 1 2 Soledad 1966 – 1995. Retrieved on 2012-06-30.
  13. 1 2 3 Gigi Anders. Hispanic – June/July 2005 – Cover Story. Retrieved on 2012-06-30.
  14. Stated on Finding Your Roots, January 12, 2016, PBS
  15. "Soledad O'Brien's Interactive Family Tree | Finding Your Roots". 2016-01-13. Retrieved 2016-06-10.
  16. Harvard Alumni Directory 2000 - Cambridge: President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2000, vol. I, p. 1038, vol. II, p. 300.
  17. "Behind the Scenes: Black and shopping in America". CNN. July 24, 2008. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  18. "Soledad O'Brien – Pride of Smithtown". Smithtown Alumni Association. Retrieved March 13, 2011.
  19. "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me". NPR. August 19, 2006. Retrieved August 19, 2006.
  20. O’Brien encourages diversity in journalism Butler University Dawgnet (2005-10-30).
  21. "Senior Management - Investment Banking - Institutions". Stifel. 2005-12-01. Retrieved 2016-06-10.
  22. CNN 2003-2007. Retrieved on 2013-02-06.
  23. Sliming Palin, False Internet claims and rumors fly about McCain's running mate, Newsweek (2008-09-08).
  24. Lowry, Rich (2015-06-14). "Dylan Byers and Mackenzie Weinger, "Soledad O'Brien puts guests on the griddle", Politico". Retrieved 2016-06-10.
  25. Shapiro, Rebecca (2011-12-29). "CNN Morning Show Gets Name And Debut Date". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
  26. Suratt, Billy (2013-06-18). "Soledad O'Brien joins HBO's "Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel"". Apex MediaWire. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
  27. "Al Jazeera America signs Soledad O'Brien as special correspondent", Al Jazeera America.
  28. MOSH. "Nation's Top Hispanic Influencers and Business Leaders Coalesce Around New Digital Platform MOSH.".
  29. 1 2 Harris, Janelle (October 23, 2013). "SO WHAT DO YOU DO, SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CEO OF STARFISH MEDIA GROUP?". Mediabistro. Retrieved October 15, 2014.
  30. Morehouse School of Medicine Archived December 3, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  31. 1 2 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 22, 2010. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  32. Bloomberg School Awards Goodermote Humanitarian Award to Soledad O’Brien, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, November 18, 2008
  33. "CNN's Soledad O'Brien Named Journalist of the Year by Black Journalists Group".
  34. "Delta Sigma Theta Welcomes New Honorary Members, Gwen Ifill and Soledad O’Brien", February 7, 2011.
  35. Sweeney, Tracie (August 16, 2007). "Bryant University Commencement 2007". Bryant University. Archived from the original on November 18, 2007. Retrieved January 2, 2008. Soledad O'Brien will deliver the ceremony's keynote address.
  36. "Soledad O'Brien to seniors: Finding your passion can take time".
  37. 1 2 "Anchors/Reporters: Soledad O'Brien". CNN. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
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