CNN’s O’Brien on what’s different for today’s journalists

When Soledad O’Brien joined NBC in 1991, she says the woman training her gave her some bad news.

“She said that the evening news was dead,” laughed O’Brien.  “Now, I just avoid the naysayers.”

Twenty years later, the evening news is still on the air and so is O’Brien.  Now working as a reporter and anchor for CNN, she spoke to the SPJ/RTDNA convention in New Orleans about how the job of a journalist has changed.

“People have to have more skills,” O’Brien says.  ” Now, everyone on my team both shoots and edits.  Journalists need to say, ‘It’s changing, how can I move with that change?'”

For young journalists, O’Brien suggests they can stand out by taking every job seriously.  She described how she called on a production assistant (PA) to start looking through wire copy for new details the day that John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s plane crashed.  Hour after hour, O’Brien says, the PA provided new information for O’Brien to use while anchoring.  At the end of the day, that PA got a promotion to associate producer.

“Whatever opportunity you have, you have to do it well,” she says.

O’Brien remains optimistic about the future of broadcast journalism.

“I’m judged on three things:   ratings, reputation and revenue.  Those are important to the company, so they’re important to me, and I believe great journalism can get ratings, can win awards and make money.”