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O'Brien Addresses `Black In America' Critics

While full ratings are not in yet CNN’s executives deemed its ambitious Black In America 2 documentary series a success during the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena.

But that doesn’t mean the series, hosted by Soledad O’Brien didn’t have its detractors.

The multi-racial O’Brien addressed how she personally dealt with some of the Black In America 2 criticisms – including those directed at her and her handling of the docu series – in an informative talk with Multichannel News Tuesday (July 28)  after her CNN panel appearance at the Television Critics Association Tour to discuss her upcoming Latino In America documentary.

On dealing personally with the criticisms of the show:

“I actually don’t internalize any criticisms… you really can’t. After Black in America 1,  my mother even said to me  `Oh, no Afro-Caribbeans in your piece … your own family doesn’t matter?’  So I get it … you can’t do a story about millions of people and expect to please everybody. I know people who loved it but hated one particular thing. So I’m fine with that. Part of the agenda was to have a conversation.

On how she dealt with criticisms of her:

“The difficult part for me was that there were people who said ‘Is she black enough to do these stories?’  When (CNN chief international correspondent) Christiane Amanpour goes to Bejing, nobody says she’s not Chinese enough to do those stories.

That’s an interesting element of our community, but on the other hand they’re valid questions.

The second difficult thing for me was when people put my kids’ pictures up on the Internet and circled the ones that they thought were black. But you can’t ask for conversation and then say `W ell,  ya’ll go at it and I’ll step out.’ It kinda freaked me out for about a day, but then I thought, its part of the conversation.

Her take on how she approached the documentaries:

“Part of what I try to do is be transparent with everything. You don’t want to do documentaries that please everybody; I want to do documentaries that please me. If I run around and listen to everyone including my own parents’ take on what they like,  it still would not be a documentary that pleased everybody. So you have to say it’s got to be really good journalism; it has to be smart; it has to have a good narrative and an interesting plot. Obviously people want to see themselves reflected in the documentary, but that’s not doable and it’s sort of not my goal to reflect millions of individual stories. It’s to tell different stories and to spur a conversation and dialogue. Even those who are somewhat critical watched it and debated it, and that’s the ultimate goal. “