Brooke Baldwin bids an emotional farewell on CNN Friday on a busy news day

‘My parting words: get a little uncomfortable. Speak up. And keep pushing.’
Westminster Schools grad and Atlanta native Brooke Baldwin bids farewell on CNN Friday, April 16, 2021. CNN

Credit: CNN

Credit: CNN

Westminster Schools grad and Atlanta native Brooke Baldwin bids farewell on CNN Friday, April 16, 2021. CNN

Atlanta native Brooke Baldwin chose a crowded news day to say goodbye on air on CNN. After 13 years, she bid farewell to the place where she had dreamed of working since her time as a student at the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill. ]

“I am filled with emotion and gratitude,” she said on air during the final minutes of her last broadcast Friday afternoon. “A decade ago, I didn’t even know this show would become mine. A decade later, I find myself in a similar situation not totally knowing what’s next. And I’m OK with that because what I do now is that I am a journalist and a storyteller for life.”

On Friday, on Baldwin’s final two-hour show, she reported on a mass shooting at a FedEx facility, the Daunte Wright shooting, the Derek Chauvin trial, Russia retaliating for sanctions against alleged hacking into the U.S. election, Prince Philip’s upcoming funeral, the COVID-19 surge in Michigan and President Joe Biden meeting the Japanese prime minister.

In the final minutes, her producers aired a “best of” tape of her work on the network including shots of her on the big escalator at Atlanta’s CNN Center, tumbling around at a NASA facility, on site after the Boston marathon bombing, visiting then-President Obama’s half sister in Kenya, hosting her digital “American Women” series, covering a hurricane and sharing the stage with Don Lemon during New Year’s.

“This job, my show here on CNN, was not originally to be mine,” Baldwin said. “More than a decade ago, there was an anchor who suddenly departed CNN, leaving this gaping hole in the afternoon and the then-bosses quickly turned to me and said, ‘Brooke, we’re going to need you to keep the seat warm just for a week until we actually find the person to take over the show.’ Well, okay, I have kept this seat warm for nearly 11 years.”

“You and I have witnessed history together,” she continued, “from marriage equality to this pandemic, from the Women’s March [in 2017] to #MeToo, from natural disasters to, again, senseless shootings. And now we wait, we wait for justice in a trial of another Black man in America who has died in the hands of police. This job using my voice over a decade has been nothing short of a profound privilege.”

At this point, her voice broke and she fought back tears.

“To you at home, thank you, thank you for trusting me, thank you for holding me accountable, thank you for all of the love. I’m telling you, I’m reading every single one of your DMs. Send them on! And to you, my CNN family, my CNN huddle, this is the hardest part. Thank you for making me better, thank you for pushing me, thank you for believing in me and my big back flip off the high dive today.”

Baldwin, who grew up in Atlanta and graduated from Westminster Schools and UGA, spent her first few years at CNN in Atlanta, first as a freelance journalist, than as an afternoon host before moving to New York in 2014. She said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month that she has no new job. She just decided after writing a book about women’s empowerment called “Huddle” that it was time to forge out on her own and do long-form storytelling on her own terms.

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“I’m leaving this place better than I found it,” she said. When she saw a preponderance of women journalists in the White House press room recently asking Biden questions, she leapt to her feet in her office cheering them on. “So many women, Black, white, brown. Progress! We do need diverse voices telling our stories from in front of the camera to the executive suites. We are making progress. So whatever industry you’re in, my parting words: get a little uncomfortable. Speak up. And keep pushing.”