Entertainment

Soledad O’Brien’s show impresses in the out-of-hours time slot

NEW YORK – You have to wake up early one weekend to catch Soledad O’Brien.

Let’s say at 4:30 a.m. Saturday in Chicago. Or at 5 a.m. Sunday in New York and Houston. It’s 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning in Washington, DC, a territory almost for sleeping.

Those are some of the time slots of “Matter of Fact,” the news program she presents that has surpassed those hours over seven years to establish itself in the syndicated market. Produced by Hearst Television, “Matter of Fact” is available in 181 markets covering 95 percent of the country.

“People will find you if you do a good job,” O’Brien said, “and they’ll jump on you if you’re not doing a good job.”

“Matter of Fact” has an average of about 1.08 million viewers every weekend, about half the audience of broadcast network panel programs like “Meet the Press” or “This Week,” according to the company Nielsen, who measures ratings. That’s less than a peak of 1.2 million helped by the pandemic and elections in 2020, but double what it was at the start of the program in 2015.

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This is remarkable given that the program does not have a consistent time slot across the country, and in some places it is broadcast literally in the middle of the night.

O’Brien, formerly of CNN, also contributes to HBO’s “Real Sports,” but most of his time now is spent directing his own production company. Her HBO documentary series “Black and Missing” won an Independent Spirit Film Award and a paper on Rosa Parks was recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

O’Brien wanted to keep a hand in on-screen TV work, and when he approached her for “Matter of Fact,” he met with executive producer Rita Aleman and found that they had similar ideas.

“The mission of the program has always been to share voices as diverse as America, parts of life that people should see to understand how problems develop across the country,” Aleman said.

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Hearst was looking to design a program that includes voices not normally heard on network panel programs, where occasionally the same government official will appear two or three times the same weekend, said Emerson Coleman, senior vice president of programming for Hearst. who developed the program. .

There was also the desire to turn down the volume. The inherent conflict of political programs “makes good television, but we have a different approach,” Coleman said.

“I found that I was very disappointed with the interviews we were getting,” O’Brien said. “People were talking about politics but not really talking about human beings. So we decided to eliminate the middleman.”

To a large extent, “Matter of Fact” is an informed program. Reporter Jessica Gomez visited a Texas Titus County hospital for a story about rural health care. The program introduced Emmanuel Pratt, a fellow at the MacArthur Foundation who runs an urban redevelopment agency that uses agriculture and carpentry to stimulate revitalization.

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O’Brien refers to the program as a news “teaching hospital.”

“I don’t know you can go wrong in elevating people who have done a good job in difficult circumstances and giving them a platform,” he said. “I don’t think we do it enough.”

The effort to reach out to the communities where “Matter of Fact” is broadcast is reflected in a project that has just been completed that has become more involved as it was underway.

Like many news organizations, “Matter of Fact” and the Hearst-owned television networks, owned by 33, have been under investigation following the assassination of George Floyd two years ago. They wanted to raise the concerns of communities that often lacked media attention.

His idea of ​​doing a “listening tour” became an extensive series of four-part programs, each lasting 90 minutes that is shown online and edited for up to an hour for television media that included the A&E network. The first gave a platform to citizens to talk about prejudice, the second reflected the views of people in the arts and academia. The third, which featured O’Brien’s interview with Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor on hate speech, illustrated grassroots efforts to improve relations.

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The latest program, launched for the Juneteenth holiday last month, focused on outlining a new generation of activists. Among the highlights were Tarana Burke of the #MeToo movement, Parkland school shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez and gymnast Simone Biles.

“It’s easy to go over history books and just say,‘ Oh, there are people here that everyone already knows, ’” O’Brien said. “It was also very important to find people working in a modern context, so it wasn’t just a historical look at civil rights in the 1960s.”

In addition to television and online, including weekly episodes of “Matter of Fact,” material collected from the “audition tour” was used in Hearst magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, and Oprah.

Therefore, it is not mainly the sleepless who see the work.

Hearst executives are always on the lookout for updates, TV stations that may want to feature “Matter of Fact” more into the daylight. O’Brien lets the “suits” worry about that.

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“I wouldn’t call them very lousy time slots because we have spectators there,” he said. “We would call it challenges we would love to overcome.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Soledad O’Brien’s show impresses in the out-of-hours time slot

Source link Soledad O’Brien’s show impresses in the out-of-hours time slot

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