Soledad O’Brien has been given what some might think is an unenviable task: making mornings work on CNN.
On Thursday, the network announced that, starting in early 2012, O’Brien would be taking the helm of a new 7-9 AM show. The show will replace “American Morning,” which O’Brien formerly co-hosted from 2003-2007. That show has been floundering at the bottom of the morning show ratings pile, and CNN has apparently decided to tear up the format and try something new. The moves had been widely trailed in the press.
The upcoming program will be, in CNN’s words, a “conversational ensemble” show, with O’Brien at its center. The show will be complemented by a 5-7 AM program, hosted by former MSNBC anchor Ashleigh Banfield and local Chicago newscaster Zoraida Sambolin.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, O’Brien said that the decision to sign on to the new show was a no-brainer. While she has carved out a new niche for herself through her “In America” documentary series, she said that the exposure she got from those specials was nothing compared to a daily show.
“The only way to really have a platform where you have the stories you want to tell is to have a show,” she said. She cast the new program as an extension of her documentary work for CNN, saying there were a “million” stories she wanted to cover that she wasn’t seeing on daily television.
The new show, she said, was going to be “very different” from “American Morning.” She declined to say where she thought that show had gone wrong. “I don’t really know,” she said. “It’s hard to comment on a show when you’re not inside of it.” She did, however, stress that she wanted the new show to be “smarter” than her old show.
“I think I do conversation well,” she said. “I think I can do context well…and I think that, if I can bring that to a morning show, we can be very successful.”