29. Who’s Telling Our Stories? CNN’s Brooke Baldwin on Women and Media


With Guests:

Brooke Baldwin is a veteran journalist and Peabody Award finalist who has served as an anchor on CNN and in its newsroom for more than a decade. She played a major role in anchoring coverage of the Obama and Trump administrations and has also reported on stories from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. She has covered gun violence, including the tragedies in Sandy Hook and too many others. As the creator and host of CNN’s digital series American Woman, she has dedicated the latest chapter of her career to shining a light on trailblazing women in politics and culture. She is the author of HUDDLE: How Women Unlock Their Collective Power—her first book.

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In this Episode:

Brooke Baldwin is a renowned CNN anchor and author of a new book, HUDDLE: How Women Unlock Their Collective Power, out this month. Huddle examines the phenomenon of “huddling,” or what happens when women lean on one another—in the arts, activism, politics, Hollywood and everyday friendships—to lift up each other and to provide empowerment, support, inspiration and the creativity and courage to enact change and solve problems.

Have a topic you’d like us to delve into, a guest recommendationor just want to say hi? Drop us a line at [email protected]

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0:00:05 Michele Goodwin:

Welcome to “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin” at Ms. Magazine, a show where we report, rebel and tell it like it is. On this show, we center your concerns about rebuilding our nation and advancing the promise of equality. Join me as we tackle the most compelling issues of our times. On our show, history matters. We examine the past as we think about and pivot to the future. On today’s show, we focus on who’s telling our stories. We are joined by CNN’s Brooke Baldwin to speak about women in the media and so much more. Brooke Baldwin is a renowned CNN anchor and author of a new book, Huddle: How Women Unlock Their Collective Power. It’s released April 6. 

Huddle explores the phenomenon of huddling, when women lean on each other in politics, in Hollywood, activism, the arts, sports, and everyday friendships to provide each other support, empowerment, inspiration, and strength to solve problems or enact meaningful change. As you all know, Brooke Baldwin is a veteran journalist and Peabody Award finalist, who has served as an anchor at CNN in its newsroom for more than a decade. She played a major role in anchoring coverage of the Obama and Trump Administrations and has also reported on stories from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. She has covered gun violence, including the tragedies at Sandy Hook and too many other places to mention, and we talk about that in this interview. 

As the creator and host of CNN’s digital series American Woman, she has dedicated the latest chapter of her career to shining a light on trailblazing women in politics and culture, and the book Huddle: How Women Unlock Their Collective Power, her first book, is a must-read. So, I want to welcome Brooke Baldwin to our show and thank her for joining us. 

Brooke, in February, you announced that you’re leaving CNN after 13 years. You began, my goodness, you began working at CNN as a freelancer in 2008, during the Great Recession. You told a powerful story about how you scribbled your name on a post-it note and put it outside a temporary office in hopes of one day becoming a full-time CNN correspondent, and you fulfilled and exceeded that dream, hosting your own two-hour show in the afternoon by the age of 31. You’ve had quite the career at CNN. What motivated your departure after a really successful 13 years?

0:03:03 Brooke Baldwin:

I wish I had held onto that post-it, by the way. I will never forget doing that. Gosh, why am I leaving my family and my home? It’s a great question. I actually think the biggest part of the answer is because of this book and because of these trailblazing women, who I have had the privilege of interviewing, kind of like when you finish this journey of holding space with women like Gloria Steinem, and Stacey Abrams, and Megan Rapinoe, and Indigenous women fighting, you know, for the planet, or the women cofounders of Black Lives Matter…

You just sort of have like…I’m from the South, so I would say you sort of have a come to Jesus with yourself, and my come to Jesus involved realizing, in a painful way, but also in a blessing sort of way, that I could not hold space with these women and be the bravest version of myself, and while my entire time at CNN has been extraordinary on a number of levels, and I do have a dream job, as evidenced by the post-it, I know that I need to move on for me, and whatever it is that I end up doing, there is no way I will be able to do it had I not had this precious time here, you know, sharing these experiences with people all around the world, and so, that’s the real answer, and I don’t totally know what I’m doing next. That’s also a very real answer, but I know that I have to be brave.

0:04:38 Michele Goodwin:

So, I want to unpack that in two ways.So, the first is some level-setting because being a woman in journalism, in TV journalism, is still doing some pioneering, even in 2021. And so, could you help our listeners understand that a little bit just in terms of women and leadership? Women being in front of and behind the scenes in journalism. What more is there left to do? I think probably a lot.

0:05:10 Brooke Baldwin:
Well, let me lift the curtain a little bit, and again, this is only my experience here at CNN, but you know, in my…so, I’ve been anchoring for 10-plus years, the majority of that time two hours in the afternoon, and in that time, you know, the most influential anchors on our network, the highest-paid, are men. My bosses, my executives are men. The person who oversees CNN Dayside is a man, and my executive producer for 10 years is a man. 

So, I have been surrounded by a lot of men, and I do think it is changing. I know it is changing just by looking at some of the faces that are popping up more and more on our channel and on other channels, but that is just…and even going back to my early 20s, you know, I mean, the majority of my time spent as a cub reporter on into my 30s was spent with majority male photographers running around, shooting stories at whatever city I was living in at the time, and yes, there would be certainly women in the newsroom, but oftentimes, especially early on, they were women with very sharp elbows, and so, I was surrounded by a lot of dudes.

0:06:26 Michele Goodwin:

Yeah, and so, then, what does that mean in terms of the stories that get to be lifted out about women? I mean they’re framed, you know, when you have the camera people, the producers, all the people around you who are men, what does that mean in terms of women’s stories coming out?

0:06:40 Brooke Baldwin:

Yeah. Well, that’s a great question. I mean I think that…I know I, personally, fight for women’s stories. I did a whole series…you see the poster over my left shoulder, American Woman, but you know the reason I have that in my office isn’t because, woo, I did a series on women. It’s actually because I got told no a lot, and I still managed to do it, and we have a woman who is in charge of CNN Digital, CNN.com. We have now a woman who is in charge of most of domestic newsgathering. So, like, little by little, by having women in places of power, and I would argue behind the scenes, not just in front, but behind the scenes, you know, that is how you then have stories that reflect who they are, and not only white women, you know? We talk about intersectional, like being intersectional. There is no way we will have progress if a bunch of white women are winning, right? There’s no way.

0:07:45 Michele Goodwin:

No. You’re right.

0:07:46 Brooke Baldwin:

So, it’s brown women, Black women, Asian women. It’s across the board. It’s we have to see them reflected in our stories, and it’s getting better, but we still have a bit of a ways to go, I think.

0:08:04 Michele Goodwin:

You know I’ll say that on the day that you announced that you would be leaving, you know, I think a kind of welp was heard around the country, around the world, because you really do embody and put forward that quality of sharp news delivery at the same time matched by a graciousness and earnestness, all of that, and so, men and women across the country and the world took notice on that day. I certainly know that I did, and I followed it on Twitter with so many people saying, oh no, Brooke can’t go, she can’t leave, but you know, as a kind of level 2 of kind of level-setting, I wonder, and none of this is personalized, but I think it matters to hear about, well, what is that like, then, when you’re the only woman or one of only a few women doing what you love? How easy is it? And as you said, you had to fight for, you know, the poster, you know, what’s embodied in the poster in back of you?

0:09:14 Brooke Baldwin:

So, the question is just what was it like fighting for it, or…?

0:09:17 Michele Goodwin:

Yeah, fighting for it or just as a general matter, being the only woman in the room, oftentimes.

0:09:26 Brooke Baldwin:

Yeah. I want more women in the room, and I think of someone, you know, the person that’s coming to my mind, and someone like this gives me hope, Abby Phillip at CNN, younger, Black woman, her background is in, you know, journalism, newspaper, came to CNN. I think she was initially a commentator, and she’s just extraordinary, and she was one of the people that day. I mean I couldn’t believe…I don’t know. I realized I touched a few people in my 10 years, but my goodness. I was overwhelmed. I’m not comfortable being the center of attention as a journalist. 

I was overwhelmed by the response when I mentioned I was leaving, and Abby was one of those, one of many women at CNN who instantly reached out to me, and I think she welped a little bit, too, and I’ll never forget her text. She said, Brooke, you’re the heart of CNN, and I said, Abby, I am passing that along to you, my dear, and I said it is a privilege, carry it dearly, and I said to her make sure that as you, your star continues to rise and your platform and your power grows, never forget to turn around and make sure you keep the door open for the next Abby Phillip, and oh, I get goosebumps even thinking about that, but you know, I am hopeful in our channel and in journalism in general because more and more women like Abby are given a voice.

0:10:52 Michele Goodwin:

Well, in announcing your exit, you said the next chapter of your life will be focused on what you love the most about your work, and that’s amplifying the lives of extraordinary Americans and putting your passion for storytelling to good use, which you’ve done, and so, I’m wondering, will part of that work include continuing to amplify the voices of women in media, both in the stories told and in the people telling the stories?

0:11:21 Brooke Baldwin:

Yes, 100 percent. So, while being at CNN has been a gift, you know, I only get an hour or two hours a day, and I know that sounds like a lot of time, but there’s a lot of news that you have to place in that amount of time, and when it comes down to it, those segments that I enterprise or the women that I want to talk to outside of what’s happening in the world that we need to cover is very small, and I would like to amplify…my favorite interviews are what I call extraordinary ordinary women, right? It’s amazing to talk to celebrities, but I really admire ordinary women in extraordinary circumstances, and so, I would love to somehow dive into the deep end of storytelling. 

I am working with a production company to create what I will hope will be part of my next dream, which is an unscripted doc series that, you know, people can binge and be inspired by on fill in the blank, I’m not there yet, streaming network, where I can tell these stories of these huddles. You know what was so hard as a journalist, as a TV journalist specifically, was crisscrossing the country and having these amazing conversations, and it’s all on the beautiful pages of my book, but I would love it to come alive on camera, and so that is my dream, essentially, to create Huddle the book into “Huddle” the docuseries.

0:12:45 Michele Goodwin:

Yes. Well, let’s turn to your new book.

0:12:48 Brooke Baldwin:

Thank you.

0:12:48 Michele Goodwin:

And your new book is dropping. It’s called Huddle: How Women Unlock Their Collective Power, and it’s a blend of journalism and personal narratives examining how women have come together in a wide variety of times and places to provide each other with support, empowerment, inspiration, and strength to solve problems or enact meaningful change, and don’t we need that in the world?

So, I’m glad that we’ve gotten to this point to really talk about what the huddle means and what inspired it. So, what got you thinking about this? And I get goosebumps thinking about your approach, which is what’s happening to everyday women where they are making a change in meaningful ways? So, tell us about the book and what inspired it.

0:13:36 Brooke Baldwin:
Yes. So, I, in my bones, believe that outside of, you know, representation and access and power, women are one another’s best resource, and so, I think, you know, the biggest compliment is to be called, for me, a woman’s woman, but as I have explained, you know, I am this woman’s woman. I am a…growing up in Atlanta, surrounded by girls, was very active, led a lot of huddles, and then, all of a sudden, I get into journalism, where I am surrounded by a lot of men, and I don’t have a huddle, and I am very lonely in my 20s and in my, really, the first half of my 30s, and then cut to I’m at CNN, I’m covering the presidential election that was 2015, 2016, I’m crisscrossing the country. 

My antennae are out, and they’re speaking to me, saying, wow, you know, women are showing up in this race and not just because they thought the glass ceiling would be shattered but for every candidate. You even think back to how many white women voted for Trump. My point is just women were showing up in ways I had never seen in my career, and so, there I was, January 2017, literally like balancing on the back of a flatbed truck, embedded in the Trump motorcade on his inauguration day, surrounded by MAGA hats, fresh off of the grab them by the pussy, you know, revelation.

0:14:55 Michele Goodwin:

You can’t make that up. You just…

0:14:57 Brooke Baldwin:
I mean you just…that had just happened, and the man is elected, and I’m standing there, trying to maintain my objectivity as this man is making his way to the White House.

0:14:57 Michele Goodwin:

How does one do that?

0:15:10 Brooke Baldwin:

I tried as best as I possibly could, and but I couldn’t help but have my own internal dialogue of what will these next few years look like, right? So, that’s on a Saturday, and then, the very next day, there I am in the middle of thousands of women at the Women’s March and beyond realizing that I am standing in the middle of this giant huddle, I’m thinking, wow, if I wasn’t here covering it, like, would I have a group of women who would show up with me, who would stand in the Porta Potty lines and share a tank of gas, and I just actually didn’t think I did, and I…that was really the beginning of what became American Woman, which was the unofficial beginning of my journey to find this book and find my own huddle and you know bring real intention to it, and I just want to urge other readers to do the same, and the last point I’ll make is, you know, in my journey, obviously realizing, checking my privilege in the first couple of pages of this book as a white woman, coming from Atlanta, you know, I may not have seen many women coming together, and as this Duke professor explained to me, for white women, there really had been this huddle drought for basically my entire lifetime. For Black women in this country, huddling is in their DNA.

And I just wanted to bring that out, and that’s why I started with the Houston judges, and I just feel like huddles don’t always make the headlines, and I needed to write a whole book in honor of them.

29. Who’s Telling Our Stories? CNN's Brooke Baldwin on Women and Media

(Brooke Baldwin / Twitter)

0:16:35 Michele Goodwin:

Well, you know, you’re so right. When you speak about the experience of women of color and Black women in the huddle because without that huddle, who knows just where and how Black women would’ve landed within these spaces.

But that huddle has meant being able to see a kind of sisterhood that’s not geographically determined. That’s not biologically determined, that’s not determined by whether you were in this sorority or that sorority, whether you went to this college or that college. But it’s a shared sense of a broader collective experience. You know something that I’ve been thinking about lately, Brooke, and it gets kind of to this sort of point of a huddle that goes way back many generations, and I’ve been thinking about, you know, what story does a mother tell her daughter the night before the auction? So, the mother who has to prepare the 5-year-old because she’s going to be sold the next day and may never see her again, that’s a huddle.

And what do you tell her, knowing that there’s a huddle on the other side when that girl arrives, wherever it is, that there’s somebody who never met the mother, who is embracing her in these horrific conditions.

0:17:39 Brooke Baldwin:

That’s a huddle.

0:17:39 Michele Goodwin:

That’s a huddle, right? Like, that’s a huddle, and so, you’ve, what you’ve done is to tap into a kind of modern-day huddle of where we are.You crisscrossed the country for two years, researching and writing this book. Revealing how huddling helps women to achieve survival. I mean it’s like, you know, success in the workplace and whatnot, but part of this…

0:18:15 Brooke Baldwin:

But it’s also survival. It is survival.

0:18:16 Michele Goodwin:

Yes. That’s exactly what you’re saying.

0:18:16 Brooke Baldwin:
To your point about the night before the auction, you know, I interviewed the two women who started GirlTrek, Vanessa and Morgan. It’s a giant and growing group of predominantly Black women who walk, which is obviously in honor of the history of women walking to freedom many, many years ago, and one of them made the point to me, and it’s often said that, you know, yes, of course, women were all they had centuries ago in slavery, but she also, and this other Black historian, Kimberly Springer said the same to me, Brooke, it is so important that you emphasize that it predates slavery with Black women huddling, that Black women just genuinely enjoy the company of one another, and it has only strengthened through the years and into the ’80s and ’90s and the Million Woman March in Philadelphia in 1997, which was this whole grassroots effort, which rivaled the Women’s March in 2017. Like, Black women have been at it for a long time, and that is why, especially as a white woman writing this story, it was important for me to start with those Black judges in Texas.

0:19:24 Michele Goodwin:

Well, and in fact, let’s build on that because I’d be curious to know, then, I mean you’ve been doing real work, and this is not new in terms of your articulation of your space, right, and saying I’m a white woman here in Atlanta, I’m a white woman doing this, but I’m mindful of what’s happening around me, and so, what inspires that, because a lot of folks see when things are well-intentioned but done in really clumsy kinds of ways, but it seems to me that you’ve really spent a lot of time figuring out how to actually do the centering of other people’s stories in a way that is meaningful. In a way that lifts up their humanity and also yours, too. 

So, how have you tried to go about doing that for others who would say I want to do that, too, Brooke, but I don’t know how?

0:20:11 Brooke Baldwin:

I honestly give a lot of credit to my mom. I think I was really raised right. I was raised to have all kinds of friends, and friends who don’t all look like me, which has only been reinforced through my years in journalism and realizing that I am only one person in a story and only one perspective, and one needs to constantly hear from other people with other experiences, and my activist rapper friend, Killer Mike, I’ll never forget interviewing him after Ferguson.

And he urged me and everyone else watching our interview, like Brooke, you have to have friends who go to a different church or synagogue or temple, who don’t share the same skin color as you, and I think I just really, really, really try. I’m not always successful just because of who I am and how I was raised, like how I was brought up in my one unique experience, but I really try to have my eyes wide open. I think it’s what’s made me pretty good as a journalist, and so through that lens is how I approached writing this book and selecting these various huddles of women.

0:21:17 Michele Goodwin:

Well, what were amongst the huddles that surprised you most once you began the process of interviewing some of the folks that you have here? Were there surprises?

0:21:29 Brooke Baldwin:
Let’s see. Let me think about that for a second. Let me think about that because, I mean, we’ve talked about the richness of Black women huddling, but I will never forget…like, I know I’m not supposed to pick my favorite huddle, but those Houston judges, you know, we text to this day, when they were going through the power issues in Texas, I had them on my show. They were huddling through sitting there, freezing in their homes, and I think I was just so…I’m sitting here in my office, looking at the picture of the 19 judges, you know, that they gave to me. That I literally have like front and center in my office. 

So, they’re just so…they’re just deep in my heart for a multitude of reasons. They were the beginning of my huddle journey, and I think what surprised me is I really didn’t know how far back the story of huddling for Black women went, and so, I really was educated on that, and I’m so grateful for them to doing that. 

29. Who’s Telling Our Stories? CNN's Brooke Baldwin on Women and Media

(Brooke Baldwin / Twitter)

I think the other thing that surprised me is actually, there’s a whole chapter about women in sports. And of course, we all knew and fell in love with the, you know, U.S. women’s national team and Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe and the rest of the women and how they just like crushed it over in France and won the cup, but what I didn’t realize was the amplification factor among those women, both like generationally, like Abby Wambach would say like we need to make sure we leave this team better than when we found it for the next generation of women, and that means in terms of rights, etcetera, but then also among the WNBA players I interviewed and how they’ll sometimes cross-pollinate with the soccer players, who then might cross-pollinate with, you know, the US women’s hockey team in a way that doesn’t get covered, in a way that they link arms and share secrets, and this is what worked when we were negotiating our collective bargaining agreement, you know? It’s just all these details that maybe aren’t sexy, but this is how the sausage is made, and I just hadn’t realized how those women really leaned on one another.

0:23:29 Michele Goodwin:

And in fact, unpack that just a little bit more because one of the things that I think can be taken for granted is how transformative women in sports can be in terms of women in leadership as a general matter, right? When you sort of think about what Title IX has meant for so many women who are actually in C-suite. I mean part of it was going to college on scholarship,a sports scholarship or engaging in sports and just really finding their space. So, did you have certain kinds of connections through that that you were able to kind of tease out by engaging with these folks, with these women?

0:24:08 Brooke Baldwin:
Well, I remember talking, you know, back and forth with Billie Jean King, and she pointed that out exactly. I can’t remember the statistic off the top of my head, but it’s like a huge chunk of women in C-suite offices did play some sort of collegiate sport. It’s all…it’s interconnected. You know the WNBA, I joke now that I want to come back in my next life as a WNBA player. Like, I filled in for Ellen DeGeneres the other week, and they literally brought a basketball hoop in.

0:24:33 Michele Goodwin:

I love that.

0:24:33 Brooke Baldwin:

It’s not in my future, but just talking to those women about…talking to those women, too, about how they linked arms and dedicated the season to Breonna Taylor and how they’re just, majority Black league, a number of gay women who not too long ago would still be closeted and playing.

29. Who’s Telling Our Stories? CNN's Brooke Baldwin on Women and Media

(@WNBA / Twitter)

And now, here they are, you know, leading national conversations, helping change the course of elections, like in Georgia. They are such leaders, but at the same time, like still fighting to not have to play European ball, you know, to make ends meet before they come back and potentially get injured and play in the WNBA, and it just, it blows your mind how, you know, compared, like the women in the WNBA, if you have a child and you were on the road, you would have to share a hotel room with another woman. Like, their rights compared to the wives of WNBA players?

0:25:35 Michele Goodwin:

Things that college, guys in college don’t have to do.

0:25:39 Brooke Baldwin:

It’s nuts. It’s like basic-level like can we have showers in the complex after we play our game, you know? It’s nuts, but it’s just stuff that I wanted to bring to people’s attention, and I don’t know, hopefully I’ll teach people a little bit.

0:25:58 Michele Goodwin:

I think you’re doing a lot of teaching in this book, from Gloria Steinem, to Billie Jean King, whom you’ve just mentioned, Madeleine Albright, Stacey Abrams, Ava DuVernay. In fact, let’s turn to Stacey Abrams because you’ve just talked about voting, sports, the WNBA. And talk about what amazing work, WNBA, Breonna Taylor, and the election, right?

You know I mean really providing the spark that then, you know, guys came afterwards, and the guys got a lot of credit, but it was really started by the women of the WNBA. But we also know that, also, right, in Georgia, your home place, Stacey Abrams. So, what was connecting with Stacey Abrams like? I mean talk about a powerhouse.

0:26:42 Brooke Baldwin:

I don’t even know where to begin with her. I mean I was lucky enough to meet her when she was running for governor in Georgia, and she had me over to her home, and we had this wide-ranging interview. And then after the whole thing, she showed…

0:26:58 Michele Goodwin:

Do you remember what you had for dinner?

0:26:58 Brooke Baldwin:
I mean I remember the suit I was wearing, the shoes I was wearing. I remember this, you know, Dr. Seuss books in her first edition collection that she had. I remember what she was…it was just, you know, it was one of those…I’ll just never forget it, and so, since then, she is such a…she is what I would refer to as an OG huddler. Like, before huddling was a thing in mainstream.

You know she was 29 and the deputy city attorney in Atlanta, and it was the first time she had access to power, and what did she do? She shared the wealth. She was surrounded by…at the time, you know, we referred to them as secretaries, and she was surrounded by these secretaries who couldn’t rise up any higher because they were like sort of limited by their job title, and so, she went to the City of Atlanta, and she was like, you all, this is not right. These women are brilliant. They know Georgia legislative history backwards and forwards. We need to do something better for them. 

And so, she was able to get them training and adjust their titles and adjust their salaries, and it was just a win/win all around, and no one ever would tell that story, but that is just who Stacey Abrams is. Cut to, you know, they flip Georgia blue for the first time since 1992, and she talks about how she gave a chunk of her fundraising wealth away to other women’s organizations, other Black women’s organizations, who are fighting the good fight along with her. She had learned how to fundraise, having been the minority leader in Georgia, and that’s just what you have to learn how to do, but she shared all this money with these other organizations in ways she did not need to do, which ultimately helped flip the state.

0:28:36 Michele Goodwin:

Amazing. Amazing.

0:28:37 Brooke Baldwin:

That’s Stacey Abrams.

0:28:37 Michele Goodwin:
That’s Stacey Abrams, and okay, so the next book has to be, you know, OG Huddlers, right? I love that.

0:28:45 Brooke Baldwin:

OG Huddlers, OG Huddlers unite, yeah.

0:28:45 Michele Goodwin:

Yes. Exactly. I love it.

0:28:49 Brooke Baldwin:
She is.

0:28:49 Michele Goodwin:
That’s perfect. Well, you know, it’s also interesting, and this is the power of your book, this research and what you’re looking to do. I just see the stream of it, the theme of it, is that, you know, the people who start from a space of earnestness, who are building and lifting up other people as being transformative, and I think, so often, about if only the barriers were taken away, imagine what women could do, because they’re already doing it.But they’re doing it having to hurdle, overcome so many obstacles.

0:29:23 Brooke Baldwin:

Hurdling instead of huddling.

0:29:24 Michele Goodwin:

Yes. Yes.

0:29:24 Brooke Baldwin:

Totally. Totally. I mean I think for so long, women were leaning in, which was totally appropriate at that time, but you know, and myself included, leaning in so hard you like smack your forehead, and you’re fighting one another as you are fighting for that 1 or 2 seats at the table, and now, the idea from all of these women I’ve been speaking with is like let’s just build our own table.

Let’s just throw down our ladders, as Megan Rapinoe says, if we have experienced that success, or as I told Abby in the text, like keep the door open for those coming up behind you. It’s just making sure that we subscribe to this abundance mentality ethos, that when I shine, you shine, and I just want to inspire other women. I want to add this word, huddle, to the lexicon, to make sure other women know that it’s a safe space.

You know success comes from huddling if you’re looking at it through that lens. And I just, I believe in it with every bone in my body.

0:30:25 Michele Goodwin:

Well, and in fact, you know, with Megan Rapinoe, what’s interesting is the intersectional kind of huddling, you know? When Megan Rapinoe takes a knee after, you know, Colin Kaepernick. Right? I mean it’s that.

0:30:36 Brooke Baldwin:
Yes. Yes. It is.

0:30:39 Michele Goodwin:

It’s using the power of her force, and just as you were mentioning, in the wake of so many white women who voted for Donald Trump, and then you see a Megan Rapinoe saying I will take a knee. Because this is the right thing to do. So, can you give some insight there about what you learned from Megan?

0:30:57 Brooke Baldwin:
Well, I mean, she’s extraordinary and was amazing to literally wake up early after getting a huge, huge award from Sports Illustrated. She still had like a little bit of like pillow crease on her face as she dragged herself out of bed. I felt so bad, but you know, I’d been chasing her for many, many months. I was essentially like the lead stalker of Megan Rapinoe, and she blessed me with her presence over breakfast and coffee, but she is somebody who, to me, embodies intersection…intersectionality, and I cannot stress this enough. Like, we, as women, will not have success without being intersectional.

I am no historian, but I know that 100 years ago, when Black women and white women were fighting for the…for the right to vote side by side, when push came to shove, the white women won those rights, and the Black women were abandoned, and it took 50 more years for Black women to win the right to vote, and ultimately, when you think about, you know, fast-forward to the Civil Rights Movement, to the feminist movement, it was Fannie Lou Hamer who said, you know, it’s the slow reckoning among white women that “nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

0:32:09 Michele Goodwin:

Yes. Yes. Quote her. Yes.

0:32:10 Brooke Baldwin:

Nobody’s free until everybody’s free, and that is…

0:32:10 Michele Goodwin:

We love Fannie Lou Hamer.

0:32:14 Brooke Baldwin:

We love Fannie Lou Hamer, so, that’s just how it is. That’s how it should be.

0:32:18 Michele Goodwin:

Well, you know, one of the things that one gets from your work and from the book, specifically, is this let’s just bare it all, let’s just, let’s be honest, right, and that we can’t get to that space that Fannie Lou Hamer aspired for us all to reach unless we’re honest about who we are, where we’ve been, and how we can move forward, and listeners should know that, you know, with this book, you did real work. You engaged with historians on this journey. This wasn’t just kind of top-of-mind work. But this was actually, you know, level-setting.

0:32:46 Brooke Baldwin:

This was work.

0:32:52 Michele Goodwin:

This was work. This was actually really talking with people, learned people who study these things, to help shape some of your insight. 

So, there’s another person who is a trailblazer that you connected with, too, and that’s Ava DuVernay, and so, right, because the images that we put out are important to the stories that we’re able to tell, and she’s a storyteller.  So, tell us a bit about that because…and with that, if you could maybe tell folks about what the importance is of storytelling. What does that mean? What does it mean to you?

0:33:16 Brooke Baldwin:

Yeah. Yeah. First of all, not namedropping, but she emailed me today.

0:33:30 Michele Goodwin:

Whoa.

0:33:30 Brooke Baldwin:
Prior to you talking to me, that kind of made my day. So, Ava DuVernay, just for folks who are like under rocks. She is this filmmaker/director/powerful Black woman in Hollywood, where, again, she is a unicorn, and so, I got to meet her because I wanted to do a story on her series. It’s a series that airs on OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s network, called Queen Sugar, which is into season five and is a beautiful story of just Black families in Louisiana. So, I rolled down to New Orleans, where they’re shooting the show, and I’m sitting on set, on the Queen Sugar set, and the reason I wanted to talk to her is because what she is doing in Hollywood just isn’t really done. 

She is not only lifting women filmmakers. She’s lifting a lot of women, Black and brown women, as well, and indie filmmakers. So, the deal is to like crack through the crazy ceiling that is Hollywood as a woman is nearly impossible, and since she has managed to do it, she is now making sure that every single episode of Queen Sugar into the fifth season is all directed by a woman.

And in opening the floodgates for these various women to do that, the stories, she would say, are richer as a result of being directed by a woman, or a Black woman like her, and that, then, also, down the road, affects stories being told out of Hollywood because those women now can go on, because they have that notch on their resume that they directed Queen Sugar and could do what they couldn’t do prior, which is go direct network TV. It’s, at the end of the day, all about storytelling, and as much as we hope and dream like putting women at the center of the stories, and so, that not just goes for the actresses, but for those who are behind the camera, and so, Ava DuVernay, I cannot speak higher, more highly of her, and I’ll never forget the line, I tell her, I say this a lot, but you know, I said to her, I was sort of playing contrarian, and I said Ava, like, why don’t you just keep all the fame to yourself, all the fame and the money, and just direct all the episodes yourself? And she goes, Brooke, I don’t want to be at the party alone. I don’t want to be at the party alone.

0:35:48 Michele Goodwin:
Wow. Yeah.

0:35:49 Brooke Baldwin:

Metaphorically and literally, and so, she’s sharing the wealth. She’s an OG huddler.

0:35:54 Michele Goodwin:

An OG huddler, and you know, this gets back to a kind of sensibility about Black women. You know when I was growing up, my parents were living in Montreal, and I was living in Wisconsin with my…between both my maternal and paternal grandparents, and my maternal grandparents were from the South, from Mississippi, and we had…there were lots of aunts and cousins around. It seemed that they were always around, and I only learned later, came to understand, Brooke, that these were women that were not biologically related to us. 

My maternal grandmother was kind of leading her own underground railroad, that kind of southern migration northward.Helping these women get resituated, and my grandmother, you know, would just tell me this is Aunt Sally, this is Aunt Berenice, and these are your cousins, right? And of course, that destigmatizes it all, and then, you just sort of think that’s just family. And so, that kind of OG huddling of…and like it’s all of that. So, I want to talk about, and thank you, so much, for allowing me to just pepper you with these questions, Brooke.

0:36:59 Brooke Baldwin:

Of course. Best interview. Best interview.

0:36:59 Michele Goodwin:

So, you know, your book also pays attention to Black Lives Matter as kind of a contemporary story, and we know that there had been so much backlash about Black Lives Matter. Some people have been hostile to it, still are, and what’s interesting about your work is that at a time in which people were hostile, you were leaning into this as a huddle that matters. So, what was it that drove you to say, no, I need to have part of this book that centers the story of women who are involved with Black Lives Matter?

0:37:34 Brooke Baldwin:

Yeah. Well, obviously, as I’m sitting there, working on the book, George Floyd is killed, and we all like will never forget hearing him call to his dead mother at the very end as these officers’ knees are on his neck, and also sitting in that anchor chair through so many senseless killings of Black and brown bodies, I knew I needed to talk to Black Lives Matter. In fact, Alicia Garza, when I was on the phone with her, she made me realize something I hadn’t even known, which was when I sat there, I think it was 2014, and she came on TV with me, along with Patrisse Cullors, one of the other co-founders, she said to me, Brooke, wow, I was so…she said, Brooke, you were the first woman who put Black Lives Matter on national television.

And as a result of that, you know, Sunny Hostin, at the time, was at HLN, and she was in the hallway, and she ended up seeing our interview. Then, she put those women on HLN, which just started this whole ball rolling, and she said, you know, I’ve just written this book, and I wanted to tell you that I noted that, I noted that you gave us this voice, and I’ve always wanted to thank you for that, which, wow. I came back to her because unlike civil rights movements, oftentimes with male figures at the center of the movement, what Black Lives Matter does is she and Opal and Patrisse talk about is how, again, if you’re listening, you know, three women co-founded Black Lives Matter, which you would be surprised how many people think it’s men.

29. Who’s Telling Our Stories? CNN's Brooke Baldwin on Women and Media

Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, are interviewed by Mia Birdsong (not shown) at TEDWomen in October 2016 in San Francisco. (Marla Aufmuth / TED)

And they said to me, Alicia said, it’s about being leaderful, it’s not about being leaderless, but a lot of people don’t know that it’s three women who founded BLM because they’re not all up in everyone’s faces about it.

0:39:28 Michele Goodwin:

Exactly.

0:39:29 Brooke Baldwin:
They’re about the work. They’re about the activism. They’re about the change. And so, you can always add to the circle, and it becomes more and more powerful, and I think back to the summer, just living in downtown New York and seeing all of these movements and protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death, and how could I not talk to these women and feature Black Lives Matter prominently in this book because their story is incredible.

0:39:57 Michele Goodwin:

Well, and that’s just incredible, just how you’ve described the very earliest and how they have appreciated how the earliest mainstream presentation of the movement, of that movement, came from you giving legitimacy and space from your seat, and I think it’s important for folks to know, too, that when you do those kinds of brave…like, those things take bravery, right? It’s not always that you just get free clearance but that you actually making the case as to why this is important, and I think that’s important for people to know. All right. In your book, you’re also talking about mothers who are fighting for sensible gun laws, too.

0:40:43 Brooke Baldwin:

Moms Demand Action.

0:40:44 Michele Goodwin:

Exactly. And with that, to take a pause and to continue to think about the women who were gunned down in massage parlors in Atlanta, most of them overwhelmingly Asian women, Asian American women, and my heart still drops, continues to drop about that.

And it can’t just be we just move on, like it happened and now it’s done, but to me, that connects with also the power of you looking to tell the story about mothers who are in the fight for sensible gun laws. So, can you share a little bit about that, too?

0:41:26 Brooke Baldwin:

Sure. So, I have been, again, just because of what I do for a living, I have been in that seat when mass shootings have occurred, and I’m in the middle of a segment, and the teleprompter goes blank, and my executive producer gets in my ear with very little information, and we stop everything, and we have to pivot to covering this tragedy in real time. It is something that I have had to do too many times. I’ve written opinion pieces about it. These people, these survivors, have become sort of odd friends of mine just through all of these experiences, and so, I wanted to make sure that I shined a light on this community. 

There was a moment when I did something that hadn’t been done before after, you know, one of the latest mass shootings, and I got 40 of these survivors or these families who’d been touched by gun violence together in the Newseum in Washington, D.C. I’ll never, ever, ever forget it, and there was a moment when, in the front row, I see it now, Sharon Risher, the Reverend Sharon Risher, Black woman, lost several family members in Charleston in that church, was sitting next to now-Congresswoman but then, you know, a mother, Lucy McBath, who’d lost her son Jordan in this loud music situation at a gas station.

And the raw emotion between these two women in that interview was palpable and the way they physically leaned on one another to string words together, I’ll never forget it. So, that just, that’s something that’s been in my heart for years, and so, what I wanted to make sure that I did was that I honored what is the largest grassroots huddle in America, which is Moms Demand Action, or Moms, and Lucy McBath, who was sitting there that day in the Newseum, is one half of what was the beginning of Moms. It started with Shannon Watts, who saw what happened in Sandy Hook with the little first-graders being shot and killed and other teachers and the principal as well. She started a Facebook group, 75 followers, but ultimately, it was Lucy McBath who reached out to Shannon and said, hey, in a really lovely way, and you talk about intersectionality, you know, Lucy McBath, African American, Shannon Watts, white woman. 

She was really focusing on these school shootings and like it affecting white kids in suburban schools, and Lucy gently said, hey, you know, we need to broaden the lens of it, and let’s, let me help you. Let’s bring it into the faith communities. Let’s bring it into the inner cities. Let’s talk about gun violence in a much broader scale. And that, then, led to this giant organization that is Moms, and I’ve been out on shooting locations, you know, covering the aftermath and seeing these women come up to my live location wearing their Moms T-shirts, it gives me goosebumps just thinking about how these women are able to work together, and also men, let me be fair, too, within Every Town for Gun Safety, to work to change legislation, to create more, as they would say, “gun-sense legislation” in this country so that these shootings stop happening.

0:44:35 Michele Goodwin:

Well, they’re painful. I can tell you from the point of view of a researcher at the intersections of constitutional law and also medicine, I’ve done town halls across the country and events at the National Press Club, and it’s tragic, hearing from the parent who has lost a child on the front steps of a church, the kid who goes out to try…hearing a gunshot and thinks that he can help someone and gets caught in gunfire himself.

Or the cases of young folks … one young woman comes to mind who lives on the South Side of Chicago, and who tells a story about having lost, by the time she was 25, 26 years old, 28 people in her life to gun violence, and of her story, you know, one of the aspects of it that most deeply touches me is that she said that on Facebook, while there are people who are celebrating their friends from high school and college, and they’re connecting with each other, that for her, it’s dead space. Those people are gone. She doesn’t have those people to connect with.

0:45:43 Brooke Baldwin:

Wow.

0:45:43 Michele Goodwin:

And it’s powerful, and yes, there’s something that needs to be done by that. And I just want to ask a quick follow-up before going to Indigenous women who huddle for the planet. And then getting to our point where we talk about silver linings—what is that like, then, for you as a journalist when the screen goes black and you hear the voice in your ear that there’s been another mass shooting, and now, Brooke, you’re on. How in the world do you process that? I can imagine that it’s one of the most difficult things ever to just pivot, and you have to maintain your composure and all of that, but can you just give us some personal insight to some of that intimacy?

0:46:24 Brooke Baldwin:

It is one of the worst parts of my job but also one of the most important. So, and there was a time there where it was happening all the time, and when it got to the point where … and again, like this isn’t about me, right? This is about these families and these lives lost, but just covering it as a journalist…

0:46:47 Michele Goodwin:

But I do want to hear about you. Yeah.

0:46:50 Brooke Baldwin: 

No. I know. I know. Like, covering it as a journalist, when it started happening as frequently as it did a handful of years ago, I would get angry. You could see it on my face. My executive producer would have to…he told me later, like, he would dread having to break in and tell me in my ear to politely stop what I was doing, stop the conversation I was in the middle of, and you know, I’d get three little nuggets of information, and I’d have to ad lib for what could potentially be the rest of the show as we’d be getting bits and pieces of information, and I would really have to check myself because it’s not on me to have an opinion. 

It is on me in those very delicate moments to relay the facts and be delicate and accurate, and I would finish my show, and I would go in my office. Oftentimes, I’d go in my office, and my boss would say you’re getting on a plane, and I’d go to that location the next day, and I’m not afraid to show up vulnerably on television if the moment calls for it, where there is a mother shrieking for her lost 16-year-old in Parkland, for example, and I’m standing next to a congressman and hearing her shrieks, I’ll never forget it. I just started to weep, and the congressman standing next to me started to weep, seeing those teeny-tiny white caskets in Newtown, Connecticut. 

I came home, at the time, I was living in Atlanta, and I remember coming home, dropping to the floor in my living room, not turning any lights on, and watching the sunset, and just crying and crying and crying, thinking of those families and those precious little bodies who would never see the sunset again. I just, I have never become jaded. I feel for these families deeply, and it is the worst and most important part of my job.

0:48:41 Michele Goodwin:

I just have to breathe in for that. I can imagine that. What a challenging position because you are on-camera and also behind the scenes, having to be at your best in terms of investigating, getting the information. And then translating it and transferring it to your public. That’s a lot. I feel it, right now, in my body, even as I’m talking to you.

So, Brooke, before we get to our silver linings part of the show, and I hope that we get another chance to do this together, again. I hope that we get a chance to do it.

0:49:15 Brooke Baldwin:

This has been such a gift, such a gift.

0:49:17 Michele Goodwin:

By a fireplace someplace and just with a wonderful audience in front of us. I would love that.

But you also pay attention, in your book, to Indigenous women, and talk about a population that is overlooked, that has yet to have its full day and recognition, and you take that pause, that huddle with them in the book, and specifically about saving our planet. Can you tell us just a bit about that kind of work and why you included it?

0:49:28 Brooke Baldwin:

Of course. Well, a lot of the Indigenous women or Indigenous people in this country are the ones who are fighting to give, as they say, nature a voice, and so, it was really important for me to include their voices in this book, and I had been in, gosh, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, with Paulette Jordan when I was shooting American Woman, when she was running for, I think it was governor at the time, but she’s since run for senator. She’s lost both. 

I mean it’s a very red state, but to stand on her family’s land, to interview her, you know, it was something that always stayed with me, and so, I immediately called her because I knew she was a prominent voice in the space, and so, we had this conversation, and she was the one that used this phrase I’d never really heard before about giving nature a voice, and I was kind of like, well, what does that mean? It means exactly what it sounds like, giving nature a voice, and the way she described, you know, her huddle…you asked me about a surprise. 

This, I didn’t anticipate coming was when she was telling me about having a ceremony among various Indigenous people in her community and you know having her ancestors in the ceremony, her grandmother, her great-grandmother, coming to her in those moments and telling her, you know, encouraging her to really lean into this climate space. That was, you know, we were saying is that a huddle, how these women were coming to her? And so, she just spoke to me about how, you know, in some cases, with the previous administration fighting them on protecting our land and our waterways and our animals and its sacred space, and just, I wanted to make sure that the reader realizes how hard, you know, Indigenous people in this country are fighting to protect that.

0:51:44 Michele Goodwin:

And they’re fighting to protect that for all of us, right?

0:51:44 Brooke Baldwin:

All of us.

0:51:47 Michele Goodwin:

That’s for all of us. Well, Brooke, we’ve reached this point of the show where we ask our guests about the silver linings they see coming ahead, and when I think about the work you do and I think about where some other networks are now heading, we’ve got six major networks now assigning women, including women of color, to lead White House coverage, right?

0:52:12 Brooke Baldwin:

Yes! Yes.

0:52:15 Michele Goodwin:

We’re beginning to see some change. Clearly, much more is needed, for sure, but tell our listeners about what you see as the silver lining coming ahead, and I can tell you, I am so excited. I definitely hope to see that docuseries coming to life.

0:52:34 Brooke Baldwin:

Fingers crossed. Fingers crossed.

0:52:35 Michele Goodwin:

Oh, on both hands. So, this silver lining, Brooke.

0:52:41 Brooke Baldwin:

Can I read, actually, a part of my book? Because I write this chapter…yes, okay, thumbs up. So, I write this chapter. At the end of the chapter, I say a silver lining is a terrible thing to waste, and I tell this whole story about how I, you know, got bumped off my own show because the three primetime anchors were covering this hurricane, and our primetime anchors all happened to be men, and it all happened to coincide at CNN and Warner Media with this week that’s called Make You Matter week, and so, I’m literally like leading a Make You Matter, you know, breakfast, but I’m not really feeling like I’m mattering very much, and so, I tell this whole story, you know, how I ended up huddling with one of my woman colleagues who told me to go march into my boss’s office and you know speak up for myself about covering the next hurricane, which he totally was true to his word. I ended up covering the hurricane and got like nominated for a Peabody, all right?

So, the very end of this chapter, this is what I write:

“Losing the fear of asking other women for help has changed my entire approach to ambition and friendship. I might not be able to change the forces at play in our culture that have resulted in gender disparities and lopsided power balances in the work place, but I am able to locate my best allies for weathering this storm.

“I’ve learned firsthand how fulfilling it is to root for a female colleague, to openly and honestly express my deepest frustrations about my career and to share the secrets of my own success with someone who is struggling to find her way. More than just comfort, there is power in female coworkers talking to each other. Even if it’s still in a man’s world we’re working in, the huddle is the silver lining.”

0:54:22 Michele Goodwin:

That is brilliant. The book is brilliant. You are wonderful, passionate, compassionate, empathetic, and you have just brought some of the smartest news of the last half-century to bear at CNN. Brooke, I am so grateful that you decided to spend some time with us for our “On the Issues” podcast.

0:54:47 Brooke Baldwin:

Oh, thank you.

0:54:49 Michele Goodwin:

Thank you, Brooke.

0:54:50 Brooke Baldwin:

Best interview, best interviewer, like thank you so much. It has been my honor.

0:54:56 Michele Goodwin:

Thank you, Brooke.

Guests and listeners, that’s it for today’s episode of “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin.” I want to thank my guest, Brooke Baldwin, for joining us and being part of this insightful and critical conversation, and to our listeners, I thank you for tuning in for the full story. We hope you’ll join us again for our next episode, where we will be reporting, rebelling and telling it like it is with special guests tackling an important issue because it’s tax time. No taxation without representation. This is the kind of conversation that people are having in Washington, D.C., and also considering important questions with regard to wealth, race, taxation and so much more. We will be joined by Dorothy Brown, Maura Quint and Demi Stratmon. It will be an episode you will not want to miss, and for more information on what we discussed today, head to msmagazine.com. 

Now, if you believe, as we do, that women’s voices matter, that equality for all persons cannot be delayed, and that rebuilding America, being unbought and unbossed, and reclaiming our time are important, then be sure to rate, review, and subscribe to “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin” in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher. We are ad-free and reader-supported. Help us reach new listeners and bring the hard-hitting content you’ve come to expect by rating, reviewing and subscribing. Let us know what you think about our show, and please, support independent feminist media. Look for us at msmagazine.com for new content and special episode updates, and if you want to reach us to recommend guests for our show or topics that you want to hear about, then write to us at [email protected], and we do read our mail.

This has been your host, Michele Goodwin, reporting, rebelling, and telling it like it is. “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin” is a Ms. Magazine joint production. Kathy Spillar and Michele Goodwin are our executive producers. Our producers for this episode are Roxy Szal and Mariah Lindsay. We thank Oliver Haug for research and digital assistance. The creative vision behind our work includes art and design by Brandi Phipps, editing by Will Alvarez and Marsh Allen, and music by Chris J. Lee. Stephanie Wilner provides executive assistance.