AJR  The Beat
From AJR,   December 1997

The Goddess of Geeks' New Gig   

By Janelle Erlichman

The Goddess of Geeks is hoping to become the Queen of General Assignment.

Soledad O'Brien , who got noticed by Netheads and newsies as host of "The Site," MSNBC 's recently killed show about the technological revolution, says she hopes her nerdy know-how will come in handy while she show-surfs in her new slot as a correspondent for NBC and MSNBC.

Quickly snapped up when MSNBC canceled "The Site" in favor of more news, the 31-year-old O'Brien will contribute a hodgepodge of coverage to "NBC Nightly News" and "Dateline NBC" and substitute anchor for the weekend editions of the "Nightly News" and "Today." At MSNBC, she will host the three-hour Saturday and Sunday news show "Morning Blend" and will write a column for its Web site ( www.msnbc.com ).

Dubbed "television's first cyberbabe" by the Washington Post 's Lloyd Grove , Maria de la Soledad O'Brien started out, post pre-med at Harvard, as a producer for a medical radio talk show on Boston's KISS-FM . She then bounced to TV as a newswriter for Beantown's WBZ-TV and later for NBC in New York.

O'Brien didn't dive into the cyberworld until mid-1996, when she debuted on "The Site." On the daily, hour-long show she doled out tips on hardware and Netiquette and earned a mini-cult following as she untied the Web's intricacies for viewers and for herself. Her crash course on computers and the Internet as resources, she says, "without a doubt" will help in her return to the newsroom.

In fact, the Net is still her main info-gathering tool, O'Brien says. At 5:30 a.m., to prepare for "Morning Blend," she logs onto resdesk.com and browses newspaper sites , which tell her what happened overnight. Once she settles in, O'Brien says, she's less likely to need background from producers or researchers.

Judge Hiller B. Zobel 's unconventional attempt in November to post his ruling in the "Nanny Trial" on the Net first rather than distributing it on paper, she says, is a good example of how the Internet is creeping into facets of life beyond megabytes and Zip drives. "People are going to start doing this kind of stuff all the time," she says. Soon, she predicts, everyone will say "it is time for me to understand and know this."