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The Statesman

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The Statesman

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    Renowned Anchor, Soledad O’Brien Speaks to Students

    Speaking with students as part of the School of Journalism’s ‘My Life as’hellip;’ series, Soledad O’Brien implored students to do what they want to do in life, regardless of others’ expectations. ‘You’re not going to listen to other people’hellip; decide what life you want to live and just go do it,’ O’Brien said.

    Such was the advice that students and faculty alike acknowledged. ‘Soledad made it clear that you must be in control of your own destiny’hellip; clearly someone with strong drive and ambition,’ said Marcy McGinnis, director of the Broadcast Journalism program.

    O’Brien is widely known for anchoring CNN’s ‘American Morning,’ but left the show in April 2007. She is also known for her coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath in New Orleans as well as the tsunami devastation in Thailand. O’Brien also received an Emmy Award for her role as host of the Discovery Channel’s ‘The Know Zone’ and has recently received an award named after herself.

    Currently, she hosts CNN’s ‘CNN Special Investigations Unit.’
    During her presentation, O’Brien spoke with a certain level of candidness and energy. She highlighted many of the steps she had to take to get to where she is today. She began her career as an associate producer and news writer at WBZ-TV in Boston. Afterwards, she joined NBC News in 1991 and worked as a field producer.

    Later, O’Brien went to San Francisco to work at KRON as a reporter and bureau chief. O’Brien said she took this job for just $30,000 per year even though the average reporters pay was more than twice that amount. It was at KRON that she said she had her worst live TV experience. In her words, it was ‘a bad, bad, bad experience’
    When she left KRON, she went on to work for MSNBC for one year then went to NBC where she anchored Weekend Today in 1999.

    On anchoring Weekend Today, O’Brien said she was ‘troubled’ that people were viewing her as ‘cute’ instead of ‘intelligent.’ This was one reason she preferred anchoring American Morning, because she could do her ‘homework.’
    This one of the problems that she had finding jobs as a journalist: being a woman. She recalled trying to get one job where the chief shouted, ‘we have too many women’hellip; get me a man!’

    Sex was only one issue.

    O’Brien also faced some obstacles that were based on her being biracial. O’Brien’s father was a white, Irish man and her mother was a black woman from Cuba. She told the audience that once when she was applying for another job, the chief told her that she was ‘not black enough’ to be hired. She did not let this deter her however.

    These things only motivated her to do better and she advised any woman who wanted to be a journalist ‘to take control, because people will tell you what and what not to do.’
    At the end of the presentation O’Brien took questions from the audience. One student asked how she felt about the news media being trusted less. O’Brien replied, ‘I don’t think it’s a bad thing’hellip; it’s a good thing that they ask questions.’ She explained that this kind of thing made people better news consumers.

    When asked about her self-titled award, O’Brien said it was really flattering. She explained that it is presented to professional journalists who have spent a long time in the field and who have done really exceptional work. She also commented however, ‘who has a sculpture of their own head in their apartment? It’s kinda’ freakish, kinda’.’
    All in all, Soledad O’Brien’s lecture was ‘inspiring,’ as Barbara Selvin, an associate professor of Journalism put it. ‘She worked her way up’hellip; even though she’s so beautiful and so smart’hellip; she really paid her dues.’

    Emmanuella Duroska, a journalism student, said, ‘Tonight was a complete shocker. I thought that this thing would put me right to sleep’hellip; surprising enough I was wrong about both.’

    The ‘My Life as’hellip;’ series is expected to continue with more renowned, professional journalists coming to speak with students from Stony Brook. Elizabeth Bass, a journalism instructor, said that the series ‘provides a window into the thinking of journalists who range widely in their experiences, interests and points of view’hellip; having access to such an array of distinguished journalists is a rare opportunity.’

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