This week, former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and his accusers are dominating the headlines. As the days pass, it seems even more accusers are coming out to reveal they were victims of his sexual abuse.
On the political front, Herman Cain has become a household name for all the wrong reasons. And as of late, the presidential hopeful is widely associated with the bevy of women that have accused him of sexual harassment.
Last week, Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy dominated the entertainment news cycle. After using as anti-gay slur, which went viral, Ratner stepped down as the producer of the upcoming Academy Awards and Murphy followed suit by quitting his gig as host of the awards show.
In nearly every sector of news there have been major moments which are worthy of more than just a segment on a morning news show, and yet are too heavy for casual interview on Ellen or Anderson Cooper’s new show Anderson.
Which might lead news consumers to wonder ‘what would Oprah do?’ And is there a void in how we receive in-depth news coverage now that The Oprah Winfrey Show is gone?
Six months ago Oprah Winfrey said farewell to the fans and viewers of her syndicated talk show after a quarter century of being on the air. During her last show she mentioned that throughout her years on television she consistently sought to make each show serve as a classroom for the millions of viewers that tuned in.
Winfrey was able to remove the veil from the lives of her guests and allow them to speak their truths, whether they were celebrity entertainers, addicts, abusers or the abused.
Oprah arguably was the ultimate teacher, and it’s in times like these some people may miss her ability to make sense of the sensational headlines in the news. She had a knack of taking heavy news topics and making them relevant to a high brow audience as well as everyday Americans that might not care about politics or possess knowledge of our judicial system. In the midst of her farewell show, Winfrey revealed that one of her biggest regrets while on the air during her 25 years was that she felt she could have brought more attention to the “sexual seduction, molestation and rape of children.” She said that one her proudest moments was when 200 men that had been sexually abused stood up in her studio audience to “lift the veil of shame” around being victims of sexual abuse.
“She could take very complex issues and boil them down so that everyday people could understand, and also put her own spin on the story at the end,” said Shuter. “Currently we have a lot of news outlets covering these major headlines, but very few news anchors and reporters are able to take a moment like Oprah could, to give her opinion to the millions of followers she had with her national broadcast.”
If Oprah were still on the air she would more than likely have the clout to get an exclusive interview with Jerry Sandusky and his accusers. And she would presumably conduct the interview with the same sensitivity she had during her final season when she dedicated her show to 200 men that had been sexually abused.
“Oprah would tackle the Jerry Sandusky case head on. She would probably dedicate a whole hour to the story, give her opinion, then find young men who were survivors of abuse and then had them on the show to tell their stories. She would broaden the story to really challenge the issue, unlike many of the reporters that are covering this case today,” said Shuter.”
Robert Thompson, Director of the Bleier Center for Television and Pop Culture and professor at Syracuse University feels that there is a void now that The Oprah Winfrey Show is off the air, but believes journalism will prevail without Oprah.
“Oprah did have a style and centrality to the culture that no other host has been able to emulate, however Larry King was also able to bring a similar type of persona to the air. People went to her to air their apologies and do damage control and weep a bit over what they had done. But it’s evident that the news goes on without The Oprah Winfrey Show and people are still getting the concise information,” Thompson said.
“I’m not sure that she is a required element in the calculus to getting stories right. I hope that the American journalistic establishment is able to still get to the truth of these stories without Oprah. For the sake of Journalism there has to be another way to approach news stories.”
This week, after nearly a month of anticipation, Gloria Cain sat down with Fox News host Greta Van Susteren to talk about the “inappropriate behavior” allegations against her husband, Herman Cain. During the interview Gloria stood by her husband and appeared confident and poised.
If Oprah sat down with Gloria, the interview would have probably been very different. She would have brought a lot more emotion from Mrs. Cain and revealed a deeper understanding of her relationship with Herman Cain. She would have had an all-access pass with no questions off limits, similar to the interview Oprah did with Elizabeth Edwards in 2009. Oprah might also have allowed Herman Cain to appear on the show to talk more in-depth about the accusations that have plagued his political campaign.
There are countless other stories making headlines that have caused Americans to want to know more; Dr. Conrad Murray and the Michael Jackson manslaughter trial, Gabrielle Giffords’ recovery, the Occupy Wall Street movement and the upcoming 2012 election.
If The Oprah Winfrey Show were still on the air, viewers could turn on their televisions and for an hour, dig a little bit deeper and take part in that classroom that Oprah’s show ultimately was.
“There are a lot of people out there that give opinions but there is no one out there that has the size or the unity of an audience like Oprah did,” say Shuter. “What Oprah did with new stories, which was amazing, was she brought people together people from different social and economic backgrounds, but she spoke to a very diverse audience with one voice, and the end of the show everyone walked away with a deeper understanding of the story.”