Soledad O’Brien Makes Deal With CNN

The anchor will leave her morning show to produce documentaries for the network.


“Soledad O’Brien will leave CNN’s morning show in the spring, but she won’t be leaving the cable news channel altogether,” as Brian Stelter put it Thursday for the New York Times.

“Ms. O’Brien, who is well-known for CNN documentaries like ‘Black in America,’ said Thursday that she would form a production company and continue to supply documentaries to CNN on a nonexclusive basis. She’ll also make them for other television channels and for the Web.”

The removal of O’Brien from the anchor desk appeared to leave the main CNN U.S. network with no anchors of color during the week.

O’Brien, daughter of a white Australian father and a black Cuban mother, was named “Journalist of the Year” by the National Association of Black Journalists in 2010. NABJ called her “the impetus of CNN’s acclaimed ‘In America’ franchise, which began with CNN’s ‘Black [in] America’ in 2008, a groundbreaking documentary, which took an in-depth look at the challenges confronting blacks in America.” Later, the series took on “Latino in America” and “Gay in America.”

Stelter’s story continued, ” ‘There’s so many great stories to tell,’ said Ms. O’Brien, who is preparing two new installments of the ‘Black in America’ franchise for CNN.

“The deal is an unusual one for CNN. In effect, Ms. O’Brien will go from being an anchor to an outside producer. She may have had little choice in the matter: the new head of CNN Worldwide, Jeff Zucker, decided even before he started the job in January that he wanted to replace Ms. O’Brien’s morning show, ‘Starting Point,’ with a brand new one.”

The “In America” franchise is expected to continue after those two installments.

In its official announcement, CNN said, “. . . O’Brien’s company, which will launch in June, will produce three long-form programming specials for CNN in 2014. Those specials will include one of the network’s most successful franchises, Black in America. O’Brien’s new production company, Starfish Media Group, in conjunction with CNN, will act as the exclusive worldwide distributor of previous documentaries featuring O’Brien. She will also host the 2013 CNN Black in America documentary, which will air later this year.”

” ‘We greatly value Soledad’s experience, and her first-rate storytelling will continue to be an asset to CNN,’ said Zucker. ‘Documentaries and long-form story telling are important to our brand and we’re anticipating more of what we’ve come to expect from her‹ riveting content.’ “