Soledad O’Brien: The Atlanta Interview
“I’ve moderated a lot of crazy in my day!”
You’ve seen anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien on CNN hosting series like ‘Black in America‘ and ‘Latino in America.’ Now Soledad comes to Atlanta on December 14th to moderate ‘CNN Dialogues Presents: LGBT.’
The forum’s topic is ‘Has More Openness Led to More Acceptance?’, and will be held at the Grady High School Theater in partnership with Emory University, the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
Panelists will include US Champion figure skater , ESPN writer and CNN contributor Liz Granderson, transgender speaker and author Donna Rose, and Deputy Director of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund Robin Brand (click here for tickets).
We caught up with Soledad O’Brien to ask about the ‘CNN Dialogues: LGBT’ forum, her new morning show, and moderating Johnny Weir…
Why did you decide to moderate CNN Dialogues: LGBT?
I thought it was a really interesting topic, and a continuation of what I’ve done at CNN – having conversations and putting them on TV in the form of documentaries. We did one the other day about working women at CNN on our staff.
The LGBT topic fits under the umbrella of conversations not usually had, and I don’t think it can be done in two minutes. There is a lot of research and nuances surrounding this topic – it needs a moderator so we can talk about change.
Does being of mixed race help you relate to LGBT people?
I just did a special for CNN called ‘Gary and Tony Have a Baby‘ and I got asked that question a lot. I always find it a very interesting question, because I do find value as a reporter having grown up an outsider.
I grew up of mixed race in Long Island – my mother used to say ‘we do not blend!’ I mean we had afros and a VW van.
As a journalist, we have our perspective, but we’re always looking for another voice. I’m always looking for another take on a subject.
I would never say that growing up of mixed race in Long Island that I know what it’s like to be gay. But I get your question – there is a value in reporting.
Are you worried about moderating Johnny Weir? He can get a little crazy!
I’m actually not. I’ve moderated a lot of crazy in my day! He’s crazy and talented, which puts him ahead of being crazy and mean like some people I’ve moderated.
He is on the panel and it’s a high school environment where there is an audience. So my job is to moderate!
Tell me about your new morning show.
We don’t have a title yet. I’m thinking about going on Twitter and asking people for suggestions! We’ll be on the air in January, so the show will launch in the first quarter.
Will it be mostly interviews or conversations with the other hosts?
It will be conversations with people in the news. Not just the big news makers, but people who are actually living the news that we don’t normally get to hear from.
Ashleigh Banfield and Zoraida Sambolin will host the first two hours, then I’ll have a bunch of people on the next two hours. It will be a diverse mix of everything from every which way.
I’ll cover topics I’m interested in, so I can say ‘all next week will be devoted to this topic.’ Then we’ll cover it every which way Monday through Friday. I can say ‘this is a really important issue so we’re going to cover it five times this year.’
That’s why I was so excited about doing this show, because we can cover a topic in-depth for an entire week if we want.
As a mom, will you still have time to do your documentaries and specials like CNN Dialogues?
I’ll probably do a couple of documentaries next year because it will be a political year. I won’t do as many. I traveled a lot last year – so much that my children called me by my sitter’s name instead of mommy! So I won’t be traveling as much.
Yesterday was World AIDS Day. You host the series Black in America - I saw on your blog that African Americans are eight times more likely to contract AIDS than white people.
It’s terrible. The people on twitter were great talking about that, although sometimes the story would shift to Africa. This is happening in the United States. It’s a huge problem that’s worthy of having a documentary.
The upside of me having a new daily morning show is that I can cover topics like this.
In your book ‘The Next Big Story‘ you talk about the importance of telling stories. What do you think is LGBT people’s most important story right now?
That’s a great question. It’s going to be a political year, so I think it will be a political story. ‘The power of politics.’ In a minority community we have a head count, but who is really in a position to make change?
- ‘CNN Dialogues Presents: LGBT‘ will be held on Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Grady High School Theater (929 Charles Allen Drive, Atlanta). Tickets are $25 for the public, $15 for students with valid ID.
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