María de la Soledad Teresa O'Brien, born September 19, 1966, is an American broadcast journalist. O'Brien's parents, both immigrants, met at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Her mother, Estella, is from Cuba and her father, Edward, is from Australia and of Irish descent. Both attended daily Mass at the church near campus. Every day her father would offer her mother a ride. Every day, she declined. Finally she said yes. One year later, the day after Christmas in 1958, the two of them were married in Washington, DC.
At the time, interracial marriage in Maryland was illegal, so O'Brien's parents married in Washington, D.C. where marriage laws were less restrictive. The newlyweds moved to the Long Island community of St. James, on the affluent North Shore, where Soledad O'Brien was born and raised.
Soledad O'Brien grew up in a family that valued education. Her father was a professor of mechanical engineering at Stony Brook University and her mother taught Spanish and French in the Smithtown high schools. Her father had a very immigrant mentality: No matter what happens, no one can take away your education.
Like her older siblings, O’Brien was accepted into Harvard University. She attended Harvard from 1984 to 1988, but did not obtain a degree until she returned in 2000. She left Harvard where she took pre-med courses while majoring in English during her senior year to take a production assistant job at WBZ-TV in Boston.
Soledad O'Brien began her career as an associate producer and news writer at WBZ-TV, then the NBC affiliate in Boston. She joined NBC News in 1991, and was based in New York as a field producer for the Nightly News and Today. She worked for three years as a local reporter and bureau chief for San Francisco NBC affiliate KRON. At KRON she was a reporter on "The Know Zone." The program later moved to CNET without O'Brien.
O'Brien then anchored MSNBC's weekend morning show and the cable network's award-winning technology program The Site, which aired weeknights from the Spring of 1996 to November 1997.
She co-anchored Weekend Today with David Bloom beginning July 1999. During that time, she contributed reports for the weekday Today Show and for weekend editions of NBC Nightly News, and covered such notable stories as John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane crash and the 1990s school shootings in Colorado and Oregon.
O'Brien moved to CNN where she joined Miles O'Brien (no relation) to co-anchor CNN's flagship morning program, American Morning, in July 2003. In 2005, she covered the Hurricane Katrina aftermath in New Orleans, where she interviewed then head of FEMA Michael Brown.
O'Brien anchored a CNN special, Black in America, in July 2007. The program documented the successes, struggles and complex issues faced by black men, women and families forty years after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. In the first installment, O'Brien investigated how James Earl Ray, an armed robber and escaped convict, had already spent a year on the run just a month before his path collided with Dr. King in Memphis, Tennessee. In "The Black Woman & Family," O'Brien explored the varied experiences of black women and families and investigated the disturbing statistics of single parenthood, racial disparities between students and the devastating toll of HIV/AIDS.
O'Brien completed a documentary entitled Latino In America that documented the lives of Latinos living in America. She continues to work as a reporter for CNN, mainly hosting "In America" documentaries and occasionally filling in for Anderson Cooper on Anderson Cooper 360. She also anchored exit poll coverage during CNN's coverage of the primaries and caucuses in the 2008 United States presidential race.
Soledad O'Brien has received numerous awards for her work including a local Emmy and the NAACP President’s award. She is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, which named her the Journalist of the Year 2010 and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
In April 2008, she became the first recipient of the Soledad O’Brien Freedom’s Voice Award, an award created in her name by Morehouse School of Medicine. "The award was created to recognize her accomplishments and willingness to be a voice for the voiceless in our society, and her determination to cover stories that might otherwise go untold. It will be given annually to mid-career professionals who serve as catalysts for social change in their given fields."
During a panel discussion for the 50th National Convention for Delta Sigma Theta sorority in New Orleans, LA, O'Brien announced that she would be inducted as an honorary member of the sorority in February 2011. She was inducted on February 7, 2011 during the Sorority's 22nd Annual Delta Days in the Nation’s Capital.