María de la Soledad Teresa O’Brien is an American broadcast journalist and executive producer. She is a member of the Peabody Awards board of directors, which is presented by the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
O’Brien was born and raised in St. James, New York, on the North Shore of Long Island on September 19, 1966. Her father, from Toowoomba, Queensland, in Australia (three-quarters Irish and one-quarter Scottish descent) is a mechanical engineering professor at Stony Brook University. Her mother, from Havana, Cuba, is a French and English teacher at Smithtown High School West. In 1958 O’Brien’s parents married in Washington, D.C., where marriage laws were less restrictive (illegal in Maryland before 1967).
Soledad is the fifth of six children. Her siblings are law professor Maria Hylton (born 1960), GE corporate lawyer Cecilia Vega (born 1961), businessman Tony O’Brien (born 1962), who heads a documents company, eye surgeon Estela Ogiste (born 1964), and anesthesiologist Orestes O’Brien (born 1967). Soledad graduated from Smithtown High School East in 1984.
She attended Radcliffe College from 1984 to 1988, starting in pre-med and English and American literature, but left to take a job at WBZ-TV. O’Brien went back to school while pregnant with her first child and received her degree from Harvard in English and American Literature in 2000.
Her first job in journalism was as a medical reporter on WXKS-FM in Boston because of her background as a pre-med student in college. She then became an associate producer and news writer at WBZ-TV, then the NBC affiliate in Boston. Then in 1991 she joined NBC News in New York as a field producer for the “Nightly News” and “Weekend Today“. She would then spend three years working as a local reporter and bureau chief for San Francisco NBC affiliate KRON. At KRON she was a reporter on “The Know Zone.”
In 1996 she anchored MSNBC’s weekend morning show and the cable network’s technology program “The Site’. The show was unique in that she interacted with a virtual character named Dev Null, played by Leo Laporte in a motion-capture suit. From July 1999 to July 2003, O’Brien was co-anchor of the NBC News program, “Weekend Today with David Bloom”.
From July 2003 to April 2007 she was co-anchor for “American Morning”, CNN’s flagship morning program that aired live from New York City. From January 2012 to March 2013 she anchored the CNN program “Starting Point”.
Soledad O’Brien would start working for HBO in 2013 joining “HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” sports news magazine as a correspondent. In 2022 she would start podcasting with personal financial journalist, Jean Chatzky on “Everyday Wealth” covering personal finance, the economy, wealth management, and other financial topics. It is sponsored by Edelman Financial Engines. I hear that show every Sunday, at noon, on WSB radio. In June of 2013, she formed the production and distribution company Starfish Media Group.
From 2013 to 2016, O’Brien was moderator of “National Geographic Bee”, replacing Alex Trebek who moderated for 25-plus years. In 2014, O’Brien co-taught a Harvard University Graduate School of Education class with Professor Joe Blatt on “Advancing the Public Understanding of Education”.
Soledad has been in many films since 1989 as either the host, reporter or herself. They include “Today” (1997-2003), “Special Investigations Unit” (2007-2011), House of Cards (2013), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Zoolander 2 (2016), Mr. Robot (2017), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2019), and Power Book II: Ghost (2021). Soledad O’Brien is married to Brad Raymond, co-head of investment banking at Stifel, and has four children, two daughters, Sofia (October 2000) and Cecilia (March 2002), and twin sons Charles and Jackson (August 2004).
O’Brien has been riding horses since she was 13 years old, a hobby that she now enjoys with her family. She has written two books, “Latino in America” (2009) and “The Next Big Story: My Journey Through the Land of Possibilities” (2011).
- The National Geographic GeoBee was an annual geography contest sponsored by the National Geographic Society. The bee, held annually since 1989, is open to students in the fourth through eighth grades in participating schools in the United States. The entities represented at the national level came from all fifty U.S. states, all the territories, the Department of Defense Dependents Schools, and the District of Columbia. The National Geographic Bee Finals were moderated by Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek for its first 25 years (1989-2013). At the 2013 National Geographic Bee, Trebek announced that 2013 would be his last year hosting the Finals. Newscaster Soledad O’Brien took his place the following year, moderating the bee in 2014 and 2015. O’Brien was then replaced by Mo Rocca in 2016 and Rocca moderated the Bee until its permanent cancellation in 2021. [Back]