Today, O’Brien discussed the documentary and the broader issues it raised while onstage as part of TechCrunch Disrupt NY. She said she’s encouraged by the way the conversation has changed in the years since Black in America: The New Promised Land — Silicon Valley first aired, particularly the fact that tech companies are now releasing diversity reports revealing details about the race and gender breakdowns of their workforces.
“I think that in-and-of-itself is a massive step,” O’Brien said. “You only measure the things that you really care about.”
She didn’t offer too many details about what the new documentary will cover, except that it offers an opportunity to “revisit” Silicon Valley and see “what’s changed and what’s different.”
“Technology isn’t only this area in Silicon Valley [that only affects] computer science majors,” O’Brien added. “It’s really everything, it’s everywhere and the workforce has to be able to benefit.”
(Full disclosure: TechCrunch founder and former editor Michael Arrington participated, controversially, in the previous film, though he said he was ambushed by the questions about black entrepreneurs and that his more nuanced comments were cut from the interview.)
O’Brien also discussed her decision to leave CNN and start her own media production company, Starfish Media Group. She explained that when the network wanted to go in “a different direction” with her morning show Starting Point, she decided it was time to start her own company.
That didn’t end her relationship with CNN, which became Starfish’s first client. But by producing the content within her company, O’Brien said she can create documentaries around important-but-unsexy issues like poverty in America and post-traumatic stress disorder without having to deal with executives who say, “Ugh, who wants to see that?”
O’Brien isn’t necessarily encouraging every journalist to follow her path — for some, a regular nine-to-five job at an existing media organization makes more sense.
“But journalism has shifted a lot,” she said. “Having a lot of skills and more opportunities to be flexible with your content … to people who are willing to be entrepreneurial, has a possibility for a bigger payoff.”