Why Lance Armstrong’s loss has been Oprah’s gain

Opinion

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(MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

(MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

High-stakes redemption in high definition, next on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

In the highly competitive world of journalism, one particular aphorism resonates in the minds of reporters everywhere: You’re only as valuable as your last big scoop. It’s a principle that surely must have guided Oprah Winfrey when she landed a coveted interview with disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong on her eponymous cable network.

In one fell swoop, the woman who, at the height of her fame, was referred to as the Queen of media has managed an impressive dual feat. Proving that lightning really can strike twice in the same place, Ms. Winfrey duplicated the public relations coup she pulled off nearly a year ago when she scored a sit-down with Whitney Houston’s troubled teenage daughter. If she plays her cards right, she may help resuscitate the flagging fortunes of her network, which most viewers can barely find on their cable boxes.

It remains to be seen whether the Armstrong interview will rival or exceed the record ratings the OWN Network set for the Bobbi Kristina/Clan Houston confab. Judging by how the pre-interview buzz has quickly becoming a deafening roar, the initial signals look promising.

On morning talk and entertainment shows around the country this week, rumors of Lance Armstrong’s mea culpa flooded the airwaves, accompanied by impromptu analyses of his (assumed) confession of steroid use. Just when a formerly adoring public had written him off, Armstrong has managed to vault right back into the news cycle.

Indeed, Kim Kardashian’s baby bump — and Shawty Lo’s actual babies — had all but washed away the athlete’s assumed indiscretions from the public’s consciousness.

Then again, such has always been the inexplicable magnetism of Oprah. As she struggles to salvage both her network and the damage its failure may wreak on her reputation, it’s easy to forget the Chicago native once had a Midas touch that illuminated virtually everything she touched.

From her book club to the lucrative commercial bonanza of her “Favorite Things,” Oprah has always found a way to make herself part of the conversation. Oprah’s prowess forces people to mention her the same breath as Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer. She is the Mother Confessor, the person whose couch public figures always want to visit on a publicity tour.