The Next Big Story
My Journey Through the Land of Possibilities
From top CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O'Brien comes a highly personal look at her biggest reporting moments from Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Southeast Asia, the devastating Haiti earthquake, and to the historic 2008 U.S. elections and high profile interviews with everyday Americans. Drawing on her own unique background as well as her experiences at the front lines of the most provocative issues in today's society, and from her work on the acclaimed documentaries Black in America and Latino in America, O'Brien offers her candid, clear-eyed take on where we are as a country and where we're going.
What emerges is both an inspiring message of hope and a glimpse into the heart and soul of one of America's most straight-talking reporters.
I am crammed in an uncomfortable little stick-shift car climbing over the edge of the Patagonia region of Argentina into Chile. It is the middle of the night and these huge bare trees with peeling white bark stand out against the sky like creepy phantoms. We swing left and right, zigging and zagging, up, up, up, past a forest of ghosts.
I've been diverted by CNN from reporting in Haiti to cover an earthquake in Chile. I have flown through Miami, Panama, Lima, São Paulo, Buenos Aires and Bariloche in twenty-four hours to end up on this mountain road. The plan is to enter the disaster zone by land because the Chilean airports are closed. We finally hang a hard left turn and climb over the top of the last big mountain. A huge white ball rises above the landscape and lights up the night. I have never seen a moon so large, so round and so close, floating in vast black space like a beacon for travelers.
My journey as a journalist takes me to places of great beauty and deep sorrow. I never know what or who will emerge past the next turn. I just know that being a reporter has given me a unique opportunity to bear witness to the humanity of another moment, to follow the magnetic pull of a bright moon into uncharted territory. In a few hours, I will walk the streets of Concepción, Chile, and see looters thrown down by water cannons. I will sleep stranded by a roadside as the earth rocks from aftershocks. I will tell the world via satellite that help needs to be on the way. I will once again see people rescued from disaster, not by nations or organizations, but by the kindness of a stranger who decides to reach out beyond themselves. I will record the latest opportunity in life to do right by each other during the worst of times. I have told this story in places as far-flung as Thailand, New Orleans, and Port-au-Prince. Bad things happen until good people get in the way. I learned this life lesson growing up in Smithtown, Long Island, and I see it almost everywhere I go in pursuit of the next big story of the moment. People have an incredible potential to do good and make good and seize good from bad if they will only make the choice to do it.
I have had that same chance many times over and I am so thankful for the opportunity. I began life as the child of a mixed-race marriage growing up in a white suburb, treated sometimes as a creature of bad circumstance. My immigrant parents made sure I had the potential to capture my American dream anyway. I was handed a life of possibilities. That experience left me with the urge to chart how those around us get their chance at life and whether they go on to share their good fortune with others when the time comes.
So often I am disappointed one minute only to be elated the next. In Concepción, I see adults whose homes and lives were spared by an earthquake trolling a shopping mall to steal cell phones. Then, a block away, a line of volunteers work all night to clear the way for rescuers to pull total strangers from the rubble of a building. You can be a looter or you can be a lifeline. The choice is yours. That is often what I report.
I am lucky. I get to leave Chile in its crisis. I return home by barreling through the chilly skies above the Andes on a Peruvian police transport plane. I ache from the bitter cold and loud buzz that shakes my senses. But the pretty moon shines slices of light through the windows. There is always good with bad. It's all in how your mind wraps around the moment. I think of the people lifting those heavy blocks of rock to help out no one in particular. I look to the part of the journey that reveals the best in us. I always try to remember the beautiful moon and how it draws me back home and then out again on the next assignment."The Next Big Story is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at reporting and an intimate account of Soledad O'Brien's personal journey. It's a terrific read that is both inspiring and thought-provoking."
"Soledad is a living example of achieving the American dream. Because a door opened to her family, she has been able to accomplish so many things. Her life story shows that opportunity can create success...and success can create a sense of responsibility that can create opportunities for others. Soledad has paid it forward, cares deeply about the disenfranchised, and brings her unique personal experience to whatever story she may be covering."
"A moving memoir which does justice to the effervescent spirit and unbridled intellectual curiosity of a truly empathetic soul my faithful readers already know just might be the brightest person I've had the privilege of interviewing."
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