June 16, 1997 12:00 PM

SOLEDAD O’BRIEN LEARNED ABOUT the perils of reporting early on. A San Francisco TV journalist in 1993, she was on-air for her first live news feed—coverage of fans’ reactions to a big win by the Giants—when one reveler became overexcited. “He grabbed my derriere,” she says. “I just stopped talking. Time stopped. The cameraman was going, ‘Talk! Talk!’ ”

Thank goodness she kept gabbing. Now as anchor of The Site, MSNBC’s hip hour-long nightly homage to the computer world, O’Brien, 30, has become the Connie Chung of the cyber set. O’Brien easily segues from interviews with bigwigs such as rock musician Joe Satriani and computer scientist Michael Dertouzos to inane repartee with her computer-generated cohost, a purple-haired geek named Dev. “There is no template. It doesn’t have to be a certain way,” says O’Brien, who receives 300 e-mail messages a day from fans. “She has a different perspective,” says Sue Ackerman, 35, a project engineering manager who has e-mailed O’Brien. “You can tell she’s not a typical geek who wouldn’t appeal to a broad audience.”

A native of St. James, N.Y.—her mom teaches high school; dad is an engineering professor—O’Brien left Harvard in her senior year to become a news assistant at WBZ-TV in Boston. “My first job was pulling staples out of the wall,” she says. By 1991, however, she had been hired by NBC Nightly News as a science and medicine associate producer. Now working six days a week, she doesn’t see as much as she would like of her husband, Brad Raymond, 31, an investment banker, or their San Francisco apartment. “In the long run, it’s the price of getting to do what you really want to do,” she says. But at least her family knows where to find her. “My mother will send me e-mails,” she says, “and say, ‘You rush your guests.’ ”

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