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I had the wonderful opportunity to listen to and meet one of the most powerful women in media – Soledad O’Brien.

 

O’Brien started off her speech at Texas State by introducing herself as a person, not a journalist. It was amazing how relatable she is and how normal she is. She told us she was born to a black, Cuban mother and a white, Australian father who went against segregation laws and got married in Washington D.C. (They lived in Maryland.)

 

The story she told us about how her parents met was funny, but as she continued, the story got a little bit somber. O’Brien talked about the first time she experienced racism. Since her raced was mixed, people weren’t sure whether she was black or white. One day, her and her sister went to take a photograph for their parents as a gift. The photographer asked something along the lines of, “No offense, but are you two black?”

As an eleven year old, O’Brien could not understand why being black would be offensive.

 

O’Brien’s speech progressed and told us about how she started off her career as a journalist by working at a local tv station as a staple remover. (She would literally go around the building and remove staples off the wall, all day.) Then, she was telling us about all the amazing people and stories she’s covered, and in my head I’m just thinking, “WOW. How does she do all this?! How does she get these amazing stories from ordinary people?”

 

She later answered my question. She said that she is the journalist she is today because of what she had experienced in her past. She is black, Hispanic, and white, all at the same time. She was even asked by a news director to change her name because people wouldn’t “understand” it and it would alienate viewers. (Her full name is Maria de la Soledad Teresa O’Brien, in case you were wondering.) Of course she experienced racism. But being three ethnicities at once, it allowed her to see racism from different perspectives.

 

One of the things O’Brien said was important to do as a person was to be a witness when there is injustice. It is much worse to not do anything and walk away when something wrong is being done than it is to just be a witness. This is obviously applied through her news segments and documentaries. She is a witness and she is showing the people what she has witnessed. It is important to show people only what happened and not deceive anyone, because in the long run, people can realize what’s wrong and what’s right on their own.

 

O’Brien finally ended her notes with some advice to aspiring journalists – firstly, be persistent and don’t give up. That piece of advice can basically be applied to anyone wanting to do anything. So do it! Secondly, when deciding what to cover, ask yourself, “how is this going to benefit society?” Is your story useful? Are you teaching anyone anything new? Can this help anyone become a better person?

 

If you haven’t seen any of O’Brien’s documentaries, I strongly suggest you do! She has made documentaries about education, racism, and even natural disasters in other countries. They’re really interesting and you may be surprised about how much you actually relate to these stories and how accurate they are. 

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Comment by Laura Donnelly on October 7, 2011 at 9:07am
Thank you Taty for this personal response to her presentation!


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