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Bringing the Matter of Fact Listening Tour to Life

Meet the diverse Hearst team behind the first livestream event addressing race and bias, featuring Soledad O’Brien in conversation with guests, including Jemele Hill, Genesis Be, Alicia Garza and … you.


Matter of Fact Listening Tour | Premieres Oct. 8 @ 7PM ET

Sharing diverse stories has been essential to Matter of Fact’s mission from day one. Now, as Hearst prepares to launch the Matter of Fact Listening Tour, some of the initiatives’ key players give us a behind-the-scenes look at how the four-part series came to be.

“Since the show’s inception, we have always believed every week Matter of Fact aired was the right time to tell these stories,” said Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brian’s Executive Producer Tolleah Price. “The company-wide Listening Tour is an extension of the mission of Matter of Fact, and we’re grateful to have the support of the entire company. The fact that this is a top-down initiative reaffirms what we already know: Hearst is committed to leading the way when it comes to addressing issues of social justice and inequity.” 

“Matter of Fact Listening Tour: The Hard Truth About Bias” is the theme of the first one-hour livestream program, which brings together the digital and social platforms of many of Hearst’s consumer-media resources, including 33 television stations around the country, newspapers such as Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle and Times Union and more than a dozen of the world’s leading magazine brands, including Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Marie Claire.

“The Listening Tour is a deep dive into critical topics impacting the country — targeting fresh approaches, emerging voices and bold solutions to age-old problems,” said Hearst Television Senior Vice President of Programming Emerson Coleman. “Its purpose is to create, grow and advance a best-in-class series of multiplatform forums to extend beyond the workplace to the communities that we serve, with a focus on illuminating overlooked issues and concerns impacting our communities across the country by utilizing our media brands in print, online, on-air, mobile and social to support and encourage dialogue on the country’s most difficult issues.”

Coleman, who conceived and is leading the project, built a core team of Hearst colleagues from across the country to bring the Listening Tour to life.

“I thought it was a great opportunity for Hearst and all of its divisions to make a big difference in a way that most other media companies have not done,” said WCVB-TV, Boston, MA, Director of Public Affairs Karen Holmes Ward. “What appealed to me was the concept of putting the power of all of the Hearst journalistic brands for one evening behind a very huge issue facing our country: systemic racism and bias in the current social justice movement.”

Hearst Television’s Stevland Wilson, Jessica Mathies, Rita Aleman and others developed a holistic format that includes interviews with leading thinkers and doers, as well as victims of racial bias and the public, inviting comments from viewers in real time that will be addressed in a live discussion with Soledad O’Brien and Dr. Mahzarin Banaji.

“When we thought about who should have a voice in the show, we knew we wanted to hear from everyone,” said producer Laura Chavez. “Yes, we have people like Jemele Hill, Trae Crowder and Robin D’Angelo, but we also have people you might not have heard of, like Ernest Crim III and Kat Graves. While they might not be household names, they are an important part of this story, too; we all are, including you.”

A special pre-show conversation with O’Brien at 6:45 p.m. ET will get things started. The first show in the series will incorporate a social experience, with people watching and responding to viral videos that highlighted implicit bias in America.

“I was really looking for people who had diverse opinions because I wanted to have a real, productive discourse. In order to do that, you do need to represent a variety of points of view,” said KCRA-TV, Sacramento, CA, Executive Producer Jessica Mathies.

The team had to work quickly, and as with all productions today, needed to find solutions to the technical and logistical constraints of filming during a global pandemic.

A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Matter of Fact Listening Tour filming in New York.

“We’ve had to deploy one-person crews and rely on Skype capabilities throughout the country and different time zones to pull our panels together. At times, we’ve needed to adjust on the fly in order to execute production,” Wilson said.

Colleagues and teams across Hearst assisted with everything from booking guests to tracking down archival photos.

“What is particularly noteworthy about this important series is the extraordinary level of cooperation among various members of our television, magazine and newspaper groups that has gone into producing these special reports, and the fact that all three groups will stream this series live on their respective digital platforms. I want to thank all those who have worked so hard on this project, which so clearly illustrates the combined strength of our journalistic platforms,” Hearst President and CEO Steve Swartz said in a letter announcing the initiative.

Hearst Magazines Editorial Director of Special Projects Ryan D’Agostino said in his 14 years with Hearst, he’s never seen such a widespread collaboration.

“It’s humbling for all of us to be working on something that is bigger than any one division of the corporation,” said D’Agostino. “I think with the Listening Tour, we had this feeling that this is a moment that is bigger than all of us.

“While the George Floyd protests started in Minnesota, they quickly spread to cities across America and the world,” said Hearst Newspapers Executive Vice President and Deputy Group Head Neeraj Khemlani. “Our newspapers covered those protests in multiple locations, including San Francisco, Houston, San Antonio, Connecticut and Albany. It was a global/local story and the opportunity to work with Hearst TV and Magazines to do a Listening Tour, while sharing insights and stories from the communities we cover with the rest of the country, was a powerful way to maximize the impact of our reporting.”

As the team prepares to roll out the series over the coming months, all involved emphasized the importance of communication.

“The Listening Tour is grounded in the importance of multiple voices being heard, but we also want to reinforce that in order to have real dialogue, listening is key,” said Coleman.

“I have found, over the last few months, that people are very willing to have these conversations because it’s no longer a conversation that just people of color are having — it’s a conversation everybody is having,” said Matter of Fact host Soledad O’Brien. “I don’t know that there’s anybody who wants to raise their kid in a world where people are hostile and feel they’re not included.”

“I am so proud to work for a company that wants to put its resources into this conversation in an honest and meaningful way,” said Hearst Television Director of Special Projects Rita Aleman. “It is a great gift to me personally and my hope is that it will be a great gift to viewers. Everyone across the company has approached it with such genuine passion and concern, hoping that we will actually help move the needle forward. I have the great pleasure of working with Soledad on a regular basis and a team at Matter of Fact that is incredible, but now we’ve added these other wonderful talents and created a whole new group of relationships that are changing the way we look at our work, our company and our world and it’s that personal awareness and the personal relationships that will actually change our culture into a culture of equity.”

The Matter of Fact Listening Tour will be available to stream on YouTube, Facebook and, as well as various participating Hearst sites. Tune in Thursday, October 8 at 7 p.m. ET to watch. Many Hearst colleagues were part of the Listening Tour planning team, including:

Rita Aleman; Devon Armijo; Ash Ayers; Katherine Barnett; Lenora Boutte; Eve Burton; Michelle Butt; Tom Campo; Alexandra Carlin; Carlton Charles; Laura Chavez; Tara Cleary; Emerson Coleman; Ryan D’Agostino; Carolene Eaddy; Martin Faubell; Andrew Fitzgerald; Suzanne Grethen; Sam Guzik; Stefan Hadl; Matt Helf; Karen Holmes Ward; Keesha Jean-Baptiste; Rachel Kay; Neeraj Khemlani; Paul Luthringer; Alex Marcelewski; Barbara Maushard; Jessica Mathies; Ernie Mourelo; Rob Pohle; Chris Preovolos; Tolleah Price; John Robertson; Nigel Robertson; Katherine Rodriguez; Mike Rosellini; Tom Swigert; Gabe Travers; Ellen Turkelson; Joel Vilmenay; Andrew Vrees; Stevland Wilson

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