EXCLUSIVE: Soledad O'Brien On New CNN Show, Social Media, & Latinas in Morning News

Last week, we reported the exciting news that Soledad O’Brien is headed back to CNN to anchor a morning news show next year. The award-winning journalist, who is half Cuban, is expected to lead a show at 7 a.m. – and Ashleigh Banfield and Zoraida Sambolin, according to TVNewser, will co-anchor an earlier show at 5 a.m. As of yet, the show is untitled, but has been described as a "conversational ensemble show" with people from all walks of life.

Is Soledad O’Brien CNN’s New Morning Anchor?

Morning news is familiar territory for O’Brien. The 45-year-old journalist, who is the lead correspondent on the CNN specials Black in America and Latino in America, says she “grew up” in morning news. O’Brien co-anchored CNN’s American Morning for four years before being replaced.

Latina.com got the chance to chat exclusively with the friendly and articulate O’Brien yesterday about her new morning gig and the importance of having another Latina in morning news. She also dished to us about social media, and how her new job will not mess up her morning routine. Check out our interview with O’Brien below:

Congratulations on your new show! How do you feel about returning to morning news after several years?

I love it! First of all, I grew up in morning news. I did morning news in local (WBZ-TV). I started in TV in 1987 and then, of course, the Today Show… so it’s very much a home for me. I think that we’re going to be able to take a lot of the things that I think we did really successfully in the documentaries, mainly opening up the show to a lot of voices – a wide range of voices – and also focusing in on individual stories and bring all those things to morning television.

How do you plan on bringing the perspective, heart and storytelling of documentaries into morning news?

I think when you look at morning television right now, you don’t necessarily hear voices of real people. When you’re talking about the education debate, you don’t really hear from parents – you don’t hear from kids. You don’t even necessarily hear from teachers! You hear from pundits and experts – and you hear from what we call “35,000 feet above the issue.”

I want to hear from people who are in overcrowded classrooms, from parents who are dealing with challenges in the classroom, and from teachers who deal with these issues every day. I would like to hear from people who are experts and knowledgeable and can provide context, but I don’t think they’re the only ones you hear from.

Being partly of Latin descent, how does it make you feel that another Latina is a face and voice in morning news?

I think its great! Hopefully what it will be able to do is open up the conversation… so that we are having conservations all the time that involve our voices. And by our, I mean people of color – so that we’re also not only commenting when the issue is immigration, which is sort of how it often is:  ‘Oh, immigration – oh, let’s go to the Latina!” [Laughs] Why are we not commenting on Iraq, and why are we not commenting on the debt ceiling? I feel like we have this opportunity to really bring new voices and fresh faces to morning television.

You’re going to be on air at 7a.m. Does that change your morning routine at all?

Not at all! It’s so funny; so many people have said ‘Oh, you’re going to have to get up early.’ I’m like, ‘I have four kids – I get up early every day. Are you kidding me??’ My life is in getting up early – the only way I have peace in my head is at 5 a.m. in the morning when I’m getting out of bed! One of the things that I think will be a huge advantage because I travel so much is that the travel will be a little bit less and I’ll be able to do things that require routine like go to the gym. My daughter’s in fifth grade, and I have another one in fourth grade and sitting around doing fourth and fifth grade homework is challenging – for me, not for them. I think all those things will be a big plus because I will have the routine of being around.

We noticed that you often respond to your Twitter followers’ praise and criticisms. How has social media changed your relationship with your audience?

I love it, its great! Right now we have this unofficial contest going to name our show, which is fantastic! We haven’t figured out what the name is going to be yet and so many people just started emailing suggestions. I thought we really should make this official!

We saw someone tweeted the suggestion, Wake Up Soledad.

All the Latinos are like, “Something El Sol!” and someone said Despierta América, which I thought was hysterical. [Laughs] I was like, ‘Yea, I think that one’s taken already, thanks!’ But I love it; it’s a great way to connect with people and answer questions. Its an opportunity to have a culture connection with your audience and certainly when our show launches, we’ll be doing much more of that.