Will you miss her? Not ready to find other ways to fill your 5pm time slot? Still want to shed tears at yet another tragic story? I am sure my male readers are agreeing with me, if they haven’t already clicked out of this post at the sight of the word, “Oprah”.
Now, I am not denying her power and the incredible impact she has made on society and pop culture. There is no one else that could take a book, movie, a movie star, a two-bit professional good at the sound-bite, industries, trinkets and trash and make it either an instant run-away hit, or a first class pariah. She had a power that gave many a public relations free-pass. Forget pitching any other media outlet, social media icon, or marquee event – just get on Oprah and you are set. And how else would we have seen Tom Cruise’s career and credibility take a massive nose-dive if it were not for Oprah and her couch?
So as someone in PR, why won’t I miss Oprah?
The Oprah Winfrey show was no longer a powerful, objective international media outlet, thanks largely to its namesake. Oprah turned from talk show host to modern day prophet. For many, Oprah became a religion. She told you right from wrong. Up from down. What to eat, wear, read, spend your money on. She also told people what not to eat, what not to wear, what not to read, and what you shouldn’t spend your money on. She schooled you on how to take care of your body, your mind and your wellbeing without ever laying eyes on you. She was like an overbearing mother or evangelist on steroids.
Now I realize that everyone had the choice to watch. You could choose to attend 5 o’clock services, or not. And I realize that not every fan of the show was a sheep in Oprah’s large flock.
While Oprah was a religion to many, sitting in my living room at home, it often felt as if Oprah considered herself to be “the chosen one”, divinely selected to uplift the people by bringing them newfound knowledge they could not otherwise obtain themselves.
And while she did a lot of good, she often crossed the line of journalistic objectivity and good, and moved into personal opinion and perspective. Media Bias 101. American beef producers know this all too well. It was about furthering the Oprah brand, which was less about empowering people to think for themselves, and more about empowering her entertainment empire. Even her over the top moments of generosity were more about sponsorship and another company’s promotional budget than about Oprah’s own philanthropy. She was a vehicle (for many vehicles!) and she got all the credit. Pretty powerful stuff.
So for me, I look forward to seeing how the void gets filled as there is no one that can or will ever fill her shoes. I look forward to seeing how companies, book publishers, near has-been celebrities, and B-movies will have to work to be a household name. How former viewers, mostly women, will spend that extra hour they have gained in their day (did someone say Food Network?). How many will get their daily doctrine on how to live their life…..or if they will just begin to critically think for themselves.