In Washington, Sundays aren’t so much for football as they are for that other contact sport: political talk shows — and the fall lineup will include a new entry, a weekly magazine-style show hosted by former CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien and aired by Hearst TV.
“Matter of Fact With Soledad O’Brien,” a re-launch of Hearst’s one-season-old Sunday show, marks O’Brien’s next chapter after the shuttering of Al Jazeera America, where she had been a special correspondent after leaving CNN in 2013. O’Brien’s production company, Starfish Media, also will be producing specials for Hearst.
O’Brien insists in an interview that the new half-hour show, to be produced at the Newseum, won’t be just the typical formula of dueling talking heads spouting talking points. She wants to look beyond the go-to list of political analysts and surrogates (the ones who are “on bookers’ speed dial”) to find guests whose perspectives aren’t typically sought.
For a story about education, for example, she says, she’d be interested in hearing from someone who might never have done a TV interview before. “I’m guessing that a 20-year-old in Baltimore has a lot to say about education in America that’s probably more relevant than … the owner of a charter-school conglomerate,” she says. For a segment on police violence, she wonders, why not go to a black officer instead of a police commissioner?
The show, which premieres Sept. 10, is being distributed across Heart’s local stations and in a new syndication arrangement that Hearst says will reach 75 percent of the country (in Washington, it will be carried by WDCW, Tribune Broadcasting’s CW affiliate).
The challenge of making good TV without relying on shouty partisan squabbles and sound-bite-spouting pundits isn’t lost on O’Brien. It’s her job, she says, to make substance watchable: “The onus is on the interviewer.”