Soledad O'Brien Leaving CNN's 'Starting Point,' Returning to Documentary Reporting

High-profile and award-winning CNN journalist, Soledad O’Brien, has been ousted from her morning program slot as anchor of Starting Point after less than two years of production and will no longer have a daily presence on the network starting this spring. O’Brien has been with CNN since 2003.

Apparently, O’Brien is not a part of newly appointed CNN President, Jeff Zucker’s vision for the 24-hour cable news channel. Before Zucker took over in January, he expressed that he had plans to cancel O’Brien’s show.

O’Brien was vocal about the lack of support Starting Point received from CNN. "We did not get a lot of promotion. We did not get a lot of marketing. We weren't fully staffed," she has said.

In her stead, it is speculated among many network sources that, Erin Burnett, CNN prime-time host, will likely be paired alongside Chris Cuomo, who recently left ABC and joined CNN last month, in a new morning show. CNN hasn’t officially announced the details of the new morning show, although it has been formally announced that the new show will be built around Chris Cuomo.

However, fans of O’Brien, who is well known for her CNN documentaries like "Black in America," shouldn’t fret. According to the New York Times, O’Brien isn’t slated to leave CNN altogether, but will return to her pre-CNN days as a roving documentary reporter, supplying at least three documentaries to CNN on a non-exclusive basis through her own production company, Starfish Media Group. She will be able to distribute her past documentaries such as “Gary and Tony Have a Baby,” “Unwelcome: the Muslims Next Door” and “Don’t Fail Me: Education in America” as well as shop around her new programs, including theatrical and scripted television projects to other networks as well as post them online. In fact, Zucker reached a deal to help fund Starfish.

O’Brien said the deal is a win-win for her because she will be able to do what she likes most, confront difficult issues and focus on under-reported stories.

“The new partnership opportunity allows me to focus on what I love to do the most, and to focus on the next stage of my career, owning my own work,” she said, continuing, “At CNN, I am grateful to have been able to tell often under-reported stories and confront difficult topics. In the new production venture, I will continue to shine a light on what we all find most interesting about America,” O’Brien said according to a statement on CNN’s website.

CNN’s move to scale back O’Brien’s role with the network has stirred up a bit of controversy. Media critic, Jay Rosen said via Twitter that demoting O’Brien from the morning anchor seat in favor of Burnett was “journalistically insane,” and represents future that may lie ahead for Zucker’s CNN. In the Daily Caller, Jim Treacher alluded to the half Afro-Cuban O’Brien’s fixation with race in a “post-racial America” with a black president contributed to her getting let go by the cable network.

On the other hand, the New York Times suggests that Zucker’s decision to have O’Brien supply documentaries for CNN makes sense for the network because it has been moving from an in-house production model to an outside acquisition model. The channel is also working with several outside production companies on weekend programming, and is in the process of purchasing the rights to documentaries.

“We greatly value Soledad’s experience, and her first-rate storytelling will continue to be an asset to CNN. Documentaries and long-form story telling are important to our brand and we’re anticipating more of what we’ve come to expect from her — riveting content,” said Zucker in a statement Thursday. 

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Erin C.J. Robertson

Recently, she earned her master's degree in international communication and lives in the D.C. metro area. In addition to .Mic she has written for USA TODAY and The Root. Prior to pursuing her advanced degree, she lived in northern Japan for two years as an Assistant Language Teacher with the Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. She is a University of Notre Dame graduate. Go Irish! She is interested in topics related to the intersection of arts and culture and popular culture, including fashion and beauty. She can't live without purple, desserts, and music.

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