Entertainment Weekend: Soledad O’Brien’s show makes an impression after hours | Newstalk Florida

NEW YORK (AP) — You have to be up early on weekends to catch Soledad O’Brien.

Say 4:30 a.m. Saturday in Chicago. Or 5 a.m. on Sundays in New York and Houston. It’s 6:30 a.m. Saturday in Washington, DC — nearly sleepy territory.

These are some of the timeslots of “Matter of Fact,” the current affairs show she presents that has overcome 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% of the country.

“People will find you if you do a good job,” O’Brien said, “and they’ll jump you if you don’t do a good job.”

“Matter of Fact” averages about 1.08 million viewers each weekend, about half the viewership of broadcast network panel shows like “Meet the Press” or “This Week,” according to the report. Nielsen company, which measures television ratings. That’s down from the peak of 1.2 million people helped by the pandemic and the election in 2020, but double what it was when the show started in 2015.

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

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

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

“The show’s mission has always been to share voices as diverse as America, slices of life that people should see in order to understand how issues play out across the country,” Aleman said.

Hearst was looking to design a show that would include voices not normally heard on network shows, where sometimes the same government official will appear on two or three on the same weekend, said Emerson Coleman, senior vice president of programming from Hearst, who developed the show. .

There was also a desire to lower the volume. The conflict inherent in political shows “makes good television, but we have a different approach,” Coleman said.

“I found 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 cut out the middleman.

To a large extent, “Matter of Fact” is a reported show. Journalist Jessica Gomez visited a hospital in Titus County, Texas for a story about rural health care. The show featured Emmanuel Pratt, a MacArthur Foundation Fellow who runs an urban redevelopment agency that uses farming and carpentry to spur rebirths.

O’Brien refers to the show as a “university hospital” news.

“I don’t know if you can go wrong lifting up people who have done a good job in difficult circumstances and giving them a platform,” she said. “I think we’re not doing it enough.”

The effort to get closer to the communities where “Matter of Fact” airs is reflected in a project that just wrapped up and became more involved as it was underway.

Like many news outlets, “Matter of Fact” and the 33 Hearst-owned television stations have undergone soul-searching following the murder of George Floyd two years ago. They wanted to raise the concerns of communities that often lacked media attention.

Their idea for a “listening tour” turned into an extensive four-part program series, each 90 minutes long, streamed online and edited for up to an hour for TV channels that included the A&E network. The former gave a platform for citizens to talk about prejudice, the latter reflected the opinions of people in the arts and academia. The third, which featured O’Brien’s interview with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on hate speech, illustrated grassroots efforts to improve relations.

The latest programme, released for the June 19 holiday last month, focused on profiling a new generation of activists. Among those featured were Tarana Burke of the #MeToo movement, Parkland school shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez and gymnast Simone Biles.

“It’s easy to skim through the history books and be like, ‘Oh, here are some people everyone already knows,'” O’Brien said. “It was also really important to find people working in a modern context, so it wasn’t just a historical look at civil rights in the 1960s.”

Besides TV and online, including the weekly “Matter of Fact” episodes, material gathered from the “listening tour” has been used in Hearst magazines like Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping and Oprah.

So it’s not primarily insomniacs who see the work.

Hearst executives are always on the lookout for upgrades, TV stations that might want to bring “Matter of Fact” more to the light of day. O’Brien lets the “costumes” worry about that.

“I wouldn’t call them ugly enough slots because we have viewers there,” she said. “We would call them challenges that we would like to overcome.”

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