Pump Up the Politics
With hip, smirky poise, Soren has tried to provide that spark of inspiration. She has presided over Choose or Lose since February's New Hampshire primaries. So far, MTV estimates that the channel's voter drive, including Soren's spots, have helped just under 100,000 new voters to the nation's voting rolls. In the process, Soren herself has become political reporting's rookie of the year. On June 16 she joined CNN anchor Catherine Crier as cohost of MTV's Facing the Future with Bill Clinton, in which a young studio audience grilled the Democratic presidential candidate on its concerns, including AIDS, education and the economy. The unflappable Soren asked bold questions such as why homosexuality is still illegal in Arkansas, prompting Crier to describe her as being "on the cutting edge of presenting information to the younger generation." And an essay in the British weekly The Economist credited Soren, along with conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, with having "stolen the media coverage of the election campaign from under the noses of their more conventional colleagues."
Soren also covered this summer's conventions—with the unconventional help of rapper MC Lyte and Megadeth guitarist Dave Mustaine (at the Democratic conclave in New York City) and rocker Fed Nugent (in Houston for the Republican gathering). "The Republican Convention was just as much a pep rally as the Democratic one," she says. "They pretended like they agreed on everything, and that's just impossible. I was cynical about politics before. I'm cynical about them now."
Jaded or not, in the final weeks of the campaign, Soren followed the candidates on the trail to file her four-minute, issue-oriented reports. On the road, Soren is right at home. The older of two daughters of career officer Sornberger and his wife, Mary Jane, now 45, Tabitha spent her childhood hopscotching from one military post to another. A 15-month stint in Carmenville, a suburb of Manila, when Ferdinand Marcos was dictator of the Philippines, made an impression on her. "I saw how people without a democracy lived," she says. "It was very sad." Adds her mother: "Tabitha has seen a lot of the world, so maybe she appears a little older."
In June 1989, after graduating from New York University with a journalism degree, Soren landed a job at the ABC affiliate in Burlington, Vt. There she covered the stale house in nearby Montpelier, anchored the 11 P.M. news and, at the behest of her station manager, shortened her name. ("He gave me the job, so I said OK.") By early 1991 she was back in Manhattan free-lancing when MTV news director Dave Sirulnick, who had met her when she was a college intern at CNN, asked her to help anchor MTV's nightly news show. "The three things MTV is about—television, rock and roll and news—could all be found in Tabitha," he says.
Indeed, Soren is not unlike her MTV viewers. She boasts a support system of college buddies she calls slackers who "don't bathe a lot" and hang with her at places like the dingy rock club CBGB on Manhattan's Lower East Side. She says she spends "all" her money on vacation trips to such far-flung destinations as Bali and Japan. Without a steady beau—"for the first time since I was a teenager," she says—Soren repairs to a one-bedroom apartment in New York City to write free verse and listen to music—lately country singers, including Wynonna Judd and Lyle Lovett. Her ultimate goal? "I'd like to work on long-term documentaries, sort of in the Bill Moyers fashion," she says.
But for now Soren has a mission to complete. "There are 25 million 18-to-24-year-olds," she says. "And MTV is in 15 million of their homes. So, if you do the math, it could easily swing the vote on Nov. 3." And dare she hazard a guess as to how? "I think it's a mistake," says Tabitha Soren, who puts no faith in polls, "to assume the youth vote is liberal."