Soledad O’Brien is everywhere, you ain’t never there. That’s a Jay-Z lyric, but it seems appropriate for the enterprising reporter who manages to be everywhere the news is made. So the on-air murders of a Virginia news reporter and her cameraman truly hit home.
“This was just a horrific case of a guy who was armed and had a terrible history of HR,” O’Brien says. “I don’t know if that’s something you can protect against. They were so young. They were really just ambushed by a deranged and awful person. It’s just terrible.”
This year’s 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which she covered for CNN at the time, is another reminder that life is precious and it can be changed in seconds. O’Brien covered much of the storm in knee-boots, telling the stories of a flooded city and the devastation the storm left behind.
“Personally it made me realize what the actual roots of what reporting was. I felt like we were really providing a service for the people of New Orleans, for the people in the rest of the country, for CNN globally. I felt like this is exactly what reporters are supposed to be. You’re supposed to be grilling people, pushing them, holding people accountable, connecting families that are lost,” O’Brien said. “It helped me realize that reporting can be all of those things. Did I help humanity, if even for a moment.”
While it was a banner moment for O’Brien’s career, she found a kinship with the people of New Orleans. The Long Island native says that people think she’s now from the city.
‘I grew up in a place where people said ‘Who are you’ and ‘You’re not really from here, are you’ to a place where people wanted to make you a part of their family and embrace you was a very different experience. I just loved the city, anyway.”
O’Brien says that her interview with the FEMA head at the time was one of her most memorable in New Orleans.
“My production assistant at the time, was pulling up better research and better information than you could get from FEMA,” O’Brien says.
She says the enduring legacy of Katrina is that it remains a tale of two cities. She is reporting on the divide for Al-Jezeera, one of the places where she has done specials and stories since her departure from CNN.
“Communities that were poorer and Blacker are still struggling. Communities that had more political resources have really bounced back and are doing really well.”
Click the link above to hear the entire interview.