Friday, November 20, 2009

Thoughts on Oprah

Oprah Winfrey is due to announce that she will end her long running talk show on September 9, 2011 after 25 years on the air.

There's no doubt that over the past quarter century Oprah has become not only one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the United States she has become one of the most influential people in the world. My maternal grandmother's day is not complete until she watches Oprah.

But I have to be honest. Oprah Winfrey irritates the bejesus out of me. And that was long before she ever endorsed Barack Obama. From where I sit she comes across as a self-centered, preening and condescending. She's also something of a dilettante especially when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians. Now granted I stopped watching the show with any kind of regularity once I graduated from high school but Oprah is such a prevalent public figure it's hard to avoid her altogether.

In fact, I had this discussion about Oprah with an old friend of mine when I was visiting Ottawa last August for my grandmother's 90th birthday. She praised Oprah to skies with her charitable and philanthropic works. I won't deny that Oprah has done some good in this area. But I cannot help but think that if these endeavors weren't publicized then they most likely would not come to pass. In which case she's helping people for all the wrong reasons.

I have far more respect for someone who helps out and is circumspect about it. The late Ted Williams was a good example. Despite Williams success as baseball's greatest hitter he was not popular with the sports media in Boston and this cost him at least one AL MVP. Yet Williams spent countless hours visiting with children afflicted with cancer at the Childrens Cancer Research Foundation (now known as the Dana Farber Institute.) Yet he did not want these visits publicized.

Williams became more publicly associated with The Jimmy Fund (the Red Sox official charity with Dana Farber) after his career was over. Yet during his playing career such publicity might have helped him curry favor with the press but that was not his overriding concern. His overriding concern was the comfort of those children. The time he spent with those children was theirs and theirs alone. Ted Williams helped those children for the right reasons. I cannot say the same for Oprah.

1 comment:

Dean Sanderson said...

it will be interesting to see if she preserves her power/influence as she makes the transition from heading up a show to heading up an entire network