Soledad O’Brien participated in a Q&A with The Daily Beast (via j$p). It covered a few topics, including her documentary that just aired Tuesday on CNN, The War Comes Home; also her canned morning show on CNN, Starting Point; and her reports for Al Jazeera America’s flagship show, America Tonight, hosted by Joie Chen.
Here are the bits pertaining to CNN…
Why did you decide to leave CNN?
Because they decided to go in a different direction with their morning show. They made it really clear that they wanted other people to anchor it. They wanted me to stay, but I’d already been thinking it was kind of time for me to go. I’d been thinking about starting a production company for a couple of years.
You can’t blame her for leaving. They may have wanted her to stay, but if she wanted to keep her dignity and not look like a totally demoted employee, leaving was probably the best thing to do. (Though I wish Starting Point was CNN’s morning show still, instead of the failed New Day).
So it didn’t have to do with the regime change with Jeff Zucker?
No. Jeff had been my boss at NBC, and we got along fine, so there was no sense of, “Oh, Jeff’s coming in.” And I still work with him at CNN. I just felt that if I wasn’t anchoring a show, I wouldn’t have the ability to do the things I want to do. Being an anchor is kind of like being a CEO—it’s your questions, your answers, and you have a big say in the tone and vibe of the show. Also, I have four kids and didn’t want to do things in the middle of the night. The mornings were great with the kids. You’d miss the mornings, but be home for them in the afternoons.
I don’t know if I believe that, but moving on…
I’m a longtime CNN watcher, but their coverage recently has gotten a bit insane—the around-the-clock coverage of the missing Malaysia plane, the fumbling of the Boston bombing coverage, that every single item is categorized as “Breaking News.” Is this the Zucker-ization of CNN?
The Boston bombing was the first live breaking news story I didn’t cover, so it was very hard to watch because I wasn’t there. It was very hard to see all my friends be dispatched to cover this breaking news story. But, I realized this wasn’t my gig anymore, so I didn’t see any of that coverage. And with the plane, I mean it was great ratings, so what are you going to do? I’ve been there. You need great ratings.
It’s interesting (though not terribly surprising) that she semi-defended CNN’s coverage. Then again, what was she to do? Lambast them? She’s still producing documentaries for them, after all.