Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Some Breaking News And An Oprah Lovefest (Monday's First Hour)

Hi everyone. We begin right off the bat tonight with a clip from Anderson's interview with Oprah. He also mentions the criticism Oprah has been getting lately and in so many words let's us know he thinks that's crazy. Okay there Mr. Objective. Anderson's comments set the tone for the whole Oprah special. Despite acknowledging criticism, it's a total Oprah lovefest. And they didn't even acknowlege my criticism. Before I get to the actual special I should probably say that I actually like Oprah and admire what she does. I just don't think she's God. She does a lot of good in the world, but I think she contributes to some of our societal problems too. Plus she unleashed Dr. Phil on us; somethiing I'm not sure can be forgiven.

We'll move on to the special shortly, but first we've got some Breaking News. Apparently Malibu is on fire. Man, those are some pricey homes turning to kenneling. Is it just me or does it seem like there's been more fires lately? In any regards, I hope they get it under control soon because that's a big fire. Jamie McIntyre then joins us live to give us breaking news of another topic. A US airstrike was ordered on Somalia in an effort to take out two Al Qaeda operatives, at least one of which is suspected to have been involved in the 1998 US embassy bombings. I have to wonder why it took an airstrike for them to cover what's going on over there. Stuff has been brewing for quite a while and I bet you anything there are people watching this right now that are shocked that Al Qaeda is even in Africa. Obviously they've been in Africa all along, but not everyone reads print news and therefore doesn't know that. Anyway, it's unclear whether or not the strike was successful, but Jamie gives us a long and totally unnecessary description of the weapon used. God Jamie, do you have stock in it or something? Anderson and Jamie then talk a bit about the 1993 strike that failed and Anderson recalls that some journalists were actually killed. Hopefully nothing like that happened this time, but I'm not holding my breath.

Okay, now we're on to the Oprah special and it's kicked off with a repeat piece that lays the background for the whole special. Oprah has opened a leadership academy for 152 girls that cost $40 million. For more background on the school, check out Newsweek. This is also the article where you can find her infamous comment about inner city school students and how they all want Ipods. That comment was pretty much the main thing that pissed me off about this whole situation. As I said on the 360 blog, it's pretty hypocritical of Oprah to criticize impressionable school students for wanting material things, when she spends a lot of her show promoting material things. The thing is, she's right that there are a lot of students in this country who don't value an education. This is a problem that cannot be solved by throwing money at it and Oprah gets that. However, what she doesn't seem to get is that she contributes to the problem when she focuses on her celebrity friends or has a screamfest over her "favorite things." I'm not saying she needs to have Elie Weisel on every day, but maybe she could not name drop so much and cut down on the materialism a bit.

Next we have some of Anderson's Oprah interview and she talks about her background and how she grew up in poverty. This is reminding me of when Anderson went on Oprah to talk about Carter. The interviewer has become the inteviewee. Anderson mentions how South African officials have criticized the school for being too extravagant and Oprah says she was told that since these are just African girls who came from huts the school was too much. However, Oprah doesn't think it should matter where they came from. I agree, but I still think it's too extravagant. I'd say the same thing if she built it in the US. I've heard a lot about the school's fireplaces, and marble counters, and how Oprah picked out the uniforms, but I haven't heard anything about what classes these girls will be taking or much related to their actual education. That is what's important. That Newsweek article also mentions that Oprah may eventually end up living on the grounds and a part of me wonders if that's why she made it so nice.

On now to a Jeff Koiange piece on one of the girls now at the school. She lived in a shack with no electricity and had to share a toilet and water tap with the neighborhood. The poverty is astounding. During the interview process Oprah actually went to the girl's homes to see where they came from. I think it's cool she did that. She then tells Jeff how during their first meal all the girls were eating like linebackers and hoarding food since they're so used to not having any. These lucky girls will go hungry no more.

Moving on now to an Anderson piece on all the good works Oprah does. There's a real 'Oprah is awesome' theme going on here. Anyway, her net worth is about $1.5 billion and she gives a lot to charity, including through her Oprah Winfrey Foundation and Oprah's Angel Network. Though she's filthy rich, she thrives when it comes to connecting with regular people. She has obviously connected with Anderson, though I wouldn't call him a regular person. Okay, this might not be a popular view, but when someone has $1.5 billion dollars I kind of expect them to give a whole lot to charity. Obviously it's totally her choice, but who needs all that money? I just think charity should be measured in proportion (although actually it shouldn't be measured at all). Oprah gives a hell of a lot of money away, but there are many many average Americans who give away a greater percentage of their "net worth" than she does. I'm not saying she shouldn't be commended, but we shouldn't get lost in the numbers.

After the piece Anderson acknowleges that she could have taken more kids in a less expensive school. Yes, she could have. Again, her money, her choice, but there are a lot of deserving kids that got left behind. Back to the interview we learn that Oprah eventually had to stop asking the girls about their backgrounds because they were so horrific. Also they are having "Family Day" instead of "Parent's Day" since so many of their parents are dead from AIDS. That's so sad.

Next up we have a Jeff Koiange piece on a 17-year-old that is taking care of her own infant as well as AIDS orphans, two of which have AIDS themselves. Kids taking care of kids isn't out of the ordinary in Africa. Hope Worldwide is helping out, but this teenager has a very tough road ahead. Oprah tells Jeff that what's going on in Africa is happening because the world is letting it happen. She says that people need to step up. I'm sorry, but I don't know if I have any faith that that will ever happen. We can't even take care of the ninth ward. I used to think that horrible poverty was a problem that could not be solved. Now I know that the world could get together and wipe it out, but we won't. The powerful countries will always exploit the weak ones for their resources and the people suffer.

Back to the interview, Oprah talks about her own sexual abuse and how this connects her to the girls. She thinks that education is the only thing that can save the girls and subsequently their country. She points out that unlike in Africa, in the US you have to go to school. This is kind of her response to those critics that thought she should have focused on the US school system. I am not one of those critics. Africans deserve the same things we do. I remember being furious after the tsunami due to all of those people saying we shouldn't have given money to them because we had our own problems. A human being is a human being.

On now to an interview with educational diversity expert Pedro Noguera. The US has over a 20% child poverty rate, which ranks very poorly among developed countries. Pedro says this has caused some US children to go to what amount to third world schools. He rates 1/3 of the country's schools as good, 1/3 as adequate, and 1/3 as poor. Anderson wants to know if education is the personal responsibility of the parents and Pedro thinks the country needs to meet parents halfway. Yeah, when a single parent has to work two jobs to get food on the table it's really hard to properly keep up with Junior's homework. Anderson mentions the Oprah critics and Pedro replies that Oprah's school is great. He doesn't think private individuals should be responsible for this kind of stuff. Oh, conservatives won't like that. They're all about the private individual over government. Anyway, I agree with Pedro in that Oprah has no responsibility to fix our schools, but if she wanted to she could certainly help out and it wouldn't cost her anything. Instead of the feel good helping stories that are often found on her show, she could mobilize her audience army to become activists in their local communities and in terms of lobbying for national legislation. It's not always about dropping millions.

Next up we have another Jeff Koiange piece, this time on Gail Johnson, a white South African that runs an orphanage. Gail isn't rich like Oprah, so the $10,000 a month it costs to run the place is tough. Oprah tells Jeff she built the school without help because she wanted to inspire people to help. She wants to show that one person can do something. That reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: "I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do."--Helen Keller. Anyway, I hope people do get inspired. I hope this school really does change the country and I'm forced to eat every critical word in this blog post. But I hope a lot of things...

Back to the final snippet of interview and I have to say I hate how they cut these interviews up. Anyway, Oprah tells us she sees hope in the girls and that their "future's are so bright it burns my eyes." Anderson informs us that he read that quote earlier and even wrote it down because he thought it was the best line he'd heard in months. Timbuk 3 fan? He is so non-sexually lovestruck over her. We then move to a Jeff Koiange reporter's notebook. Jeff has been covering Africa for years and has thus seen many horrible things. The faces of the children haunt him, but this week Oprah brought him a ray of hope. Aw. I like when Jeff gets to do a good story. The show was pretty good tonight, though I wish it would have been a little less Oprah-centric. At least there were a few pieces from the region that actually focused on the region. B

Okay give it to me. I open the floor to your Oprah love/hate.


Anonymous Sharla Dawn said...

You didn't mention- the comment you left on the blog, did it actually get on there? I didn't see it.

Oprah.... I think I blogged once about her. It was after her speech about the new memorial they were putting up, and I was mentioning how I thought it was interesting how her speech pattern changed subconciously (to ebonics, almost) in order to identify with the people she was talking to- all the while wearing diamond earrings the size of freaking ice cubes. Way to go, Oprah.

Do I like Oprah? I'm not sure. I've never met her so I can't say. Based on what I see, I think she's very well intentioned and cares, but I actually think if I met her personally, I would think her highly opinionated and stubborn in a bad way. But... like I said, I've never met her so I can't tell. It's sort of like Anderson himself- I'm pretty sure I'd like him as a person if we actually met, but there is always the off chance he's actually an ass. :)

Oh goodie! Your counter thing says I'm in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Close :D

8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I give Oprah's lovefest one of the most phony, frustrating hours in 360 history. Anderson skirted the questions, so could not demand true answers. Her critics were not all saying that the school was too oppulent for SA girls. What many were questioning was WHY did she throw 40 mil of someone's money (as there are ?'s as to where the $$ came from in the first place - as usual, with Oprah)on a school for so few. Nowhere in the USA are pricey boarding schools similar to country clubs. Take an online peek at the NE premier prep schools - Choate, Exeter, Andover, Williston Northampton. You will see nothing but modest facilities with a 100% commitment to education. Anderson also didn't dare question her as to what was to become of the girls she rejected. He once again said that the admittance record of 4% was tougher than Harvard's, he simply made mention of that. Was he afraid to ask her if she was aware that the rejected girls would have few or no opportunities outside her school, yet Harvard rejects have many other wonderful opportunities to consider? Did he question her decision to make her school tougher than any US college to get admitted to and why? Of course not. I am disappointed in Anderson. Having interviewed with Oprah in the early 1990's, I can say that if someone is afraid of her, they are frightened by their own shadow. The only intimidation factor I see is her alleged net worth and a loud mouth.

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Sharla Dawn said...

Amen, anonymous!!

4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's great to see how Oprah is working with Anderson to shape his career. CNN must love the fact that she has taken an interest in him.

6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eliza--I am definatley NOT a fan of Oprah's. Sometimes I think she is using Anderson because of his new found popularity. That said, I did enjoy Jeff's reporting on some of the girls. I too,wonder what will happen to the girls that were turned down. It just doesn't seem fair. I still think she could have cut back on the grand school and made room for all of the 200 plus finalist.

I'm looking forward to Wednesday's show when Anderson is back in Washington to report on the first 100 hours of the Dems. They have a chance to make things better, now I only hope they do.


7:18 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@Sharla-Yes, my comment was one of the first posted. I used my real name.

@anonymous 9:20-Ouch! However, you're right that some of the critics weren't saying it was too much for African girls. I think it's too much for anybody really; especially when there are so many out there that have nothing.

You bring up some good points. So what did you interview about with Oprah? What was the experience like?

anonymous 6:46-I'm a bit apprehensive of Anderson's relationship with Oprah. I don't want him to always be about human interest stuff. I need someone to "Keep Them Honest" damnit! Heh. Oprah doesn't do that unless you're James Frey. Of course my opinion doesn't matter. His career.

@Jan-I'm looking forward to Wednesday too, though not Dubya's speech. I hope the 360 team rips it apart.

7:40 PM  
Blogger midnite6367 said...

I had the feeling that Oprah was a fan of Anderson's before he even began his Katrina coverage. She said he was her favorite reporter. I'm not really convinced that she's using him because of his popularity, but because she genuinely likes him as a reporter. I don't know how long they'll be connected, but there seems to be some real admiration on both of their parts.

This is kind of her response to those critics that thought she should have focused on the US school system. I am not one of those critics. Africans deserve the same things we do. I remember being furious after the tsunami due to all of those people saying we shouldn't have given money to them because we had our own problems. A human being is a human being.

This is absolutely right. I was upset with her comments about inner city kids and I do want more to be done for them here, but that doesn't mean that we as Americans deserve more than any other person in the world.

I must agree with eliza's criticism of Oprah though, she's doing a good thing for the girls but there are definite issues and contradictions and hypocrisy inherent in how Oprah presents herself that shouldn't be overlooked. Overall, it was an interesting hour and hopefully the girls will prosper in the future.

8:34 PM  
Anonymous ivy said...

@hi eliza
Here's a problem I have. Acually a couple. One is the fact that 360 had this special in the first hour and pushed all the breaking news to the second hour (which was a good news hour) and another is that there was no real discussion --which is beyond my understanding, you can stil be friendly and have a serious talk -- like you said a total lovefest. (honestly I switched to an interesting PBS "Anti-semitism" documentary after 15 minutes)

I think Oprah is a genuine person and does care about people.It's not that she should try to provide this opportunity for everybody but why not built 2 more modest schools or admit a 100 more girls for the money? she might really believe it as an example that there's no limit in anything, but I'm not sure that's a good way to do it.

Her project is wonderful but seems to be faulty as her other showcases of generocity -- take giving out cars to the whole audience and such. It's like Extreme Makover Home edition where they build new houses instead of falling apart ones where everything is "top of the line" whether people need it or not.
I guess Extreme is what bothers me. Why does anything of that nature done by meida shows or personalities have to be over the top? do regular charity organizations function like that? Yes, unfortunate people deserve the best but to go so far beyond necessity level is a waste of money that could help other needy people, if you ask me.

Imagine a show about starvation where organization comes and selects let's say a 100 out of a 1000 kids and gives them ridiculous amount of expensive food, candy and so on, while all 1000 could have basic monthly rations and not starve for the same amount of money. It's an exagerration, but a queston comes to mind how big of a role PR plays vs aspirations to make a difference. Sorry for a long rant

9:08 PM  
Anonymous jr said...

Here are my thoughts. Just as much as I don't care for Donald Trump, you got to give him credit for being successful. Oprah is no different. She went from poverty stricken to a worldwide sensation. I'm sure that was a tough road for an African American woman. I'd back her over Trump any day!

With that being said, we all know that Anderson has a fondness for Africa so it didn't surprise me that he would spend an hour on this topic. For me, I actually enjoyed watching a program about "hope" rather than death and destruction which is what every other story in Africa is about these days. There is sadness all over this world. At least Oprah is putting her money to a passion of hers and trying to make a difference. Many women in Africa are raped and suppressed and have lost their spirit. It was refreshing to see these young girls laugh, smile and have enthusiasm to learn. My hope is that they, in turn, pay back the favor given to them by Oprah and drive themselves to make a difference in that region and throughout the world.

11:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eliza, in all fairness to Oprah, I went to Harpo as a favor to a mutual friend. I had a new baby and agreed with consensus,50-60 hr work weeks were no longer doable. Our backgrounds couldn't have been more opposite, thus playing a role that had some impact of discomfort on my part. As not to expose the gentleman that took the position and I believe is still there; as a practicing attorney, the position would have been a unique fit.
Back to the experience. She's very gracious, but I can't attest to a genuiness. She's well-spoken and witty, yet I was self-conscious in her presence. My racegar went off in my brain like a foghorn. As a blonde, blue-eyed grandkid of a Auschwitz survivor, it's almost impossible not to hide my heritage through my appearance. During the visits, I found comfort in my only obvious racial characteristic was that I was white. With Oprah, I felt a racism in reverse and I was uncomfortable. I never expected that to be the situation. Add that to the fact that the neighborhood it's in was desolate at the time. About the only thing there was a diner. Everything happens for a reason. I'm satisfied with the directional path my career took after that unusual experience. i see you're from the St. Louis area. I'm a Clayton High School grad.

1:45 AM  
Blogger eliza said...

@midnight-There's definitely a connection between Anderson and Oprah, but was he ever on her show before Katrina? I remember totally cracking up when he told Aaron Brown that he watched her religiously and he seemed really excited that he was going to go on. It was actually really funny because Anderson was off camera when Aaron ask if it was going to be a celebrity puff piece and you could hear Anderson yell, "No!"

Anderson obviously isn't capable of being critical with Oprah, so what they should have done is had readers send in questions that he could read like he did with Michael J. Fox (another person he didn't seem confortable criticizing.) That would have allowed him to separate himself from the question. I was even going to send in some stuff, but then I found out the interview was already taped.

@Ivy-"Imagine a show about starvation where organization comes and selects let's say a 100 out of a 1000 kids and gives them ridiculous amount of expensive food, candy and so on, while all 1000 could have basic monthly rations and not starve for the same amount of money.

That's a good point. Sometimes I think the excesses are just so the rest of us can feel better. Actually fixing systemic problems isn't very pretty or fun to watch. I'm a big picture kind of person.

@jr-I do have to admit to being really happy for Jeff Koiange that he has something good to report.

@anonymous 1:45-I'm not sure I completely understand what went on. You worked for Harpo? You interviewed for the job? Intially I thought you meant you had been on the show.

Ah, the St. Louisan fascination with high schools. ;) I went to school in North County.

2:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eliza, job interview consisting of four visits to the studio, two of which were to see its namesake. I can't imagine agreeing to honor a favor by going on that show after the experience above.
You're right, there is/was a high school fascination in St. Louis. Strangely enough, the mystique is even greater, if you can believe, in Chicago.

9:43 AM  
Anonymous ivy said...

Sometimes I think the excesses are just so the rest of us can feel better. Actually fixing systemic problems isn't very pretty or fun to watch.

That's what you made me think about: isn't "fun to watch" the key to the whole thing? You know, Anderson should've asked her one question: Are you trying to make a difference or make a point?

If it's making a point, it looks like the same point that most entertainment tv trying to make: they, tv show or host handing you an American Dream. And gigantivism (is that a word? -) ) seems to be the main attribute of it. Look at all these commercials for giant- size, king-size fast food, huge gas-guzzling SUVs. All these make-over shows -- you have to transform into a beauty queen or a barby; the new house has to have everything state of the art --the biggest plasma tv, mahogany doors and so on -- though something not as extravagant but good quality would serve the purpose. It must have to do with our society's perception; the ratings depend on the audience. Do we find everything huge, most expensive and over the top so appealing? Do most americans think they NEED that much? This school Oprah built seems to be one of those gestures -- though it's not built here, Oprah is one of the biggest american TV personailties, and the principles stay the same.

I'm sure Oprah's heart is in it. But if it's just about making a difference: if the tables weren't marble and other things were scaled down -- not because the best is not good enough for african girls, but because it could still be nice and sufficient -- wound't that make a difference for more people who really need it? Or it's that the audience woudn't find it as ptretty and fun to watch, as you said?

2:54 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@Ivy-Have you seen this commentary about the whole thing:


He gets it.

I totally agree that we're a society obsessed with excess. Maybe it's that whole grass is greener mentality. You know, we think that if we just had that nice car, or big house, or cool gadget, then we'd be happy. Unfortunately once we get them, there's something else we "need", so it never ends.

3:11 PM  
Anonymous ivy said...

@eliza -- thanks for the link, I have not read it. I don't fully agree with WP author, I know couple of people who are teaching in "inner city" schools and kids aren't geared towards education which is frustrating for teachers. It's true of course that teenagers are teenagers everywhere, but I can agree with Oprah that kids who're eager to learn in South Africa have less opportunities to do so then the ones in USA. Of course we have many kids who need help too. And not just "minority" kids, they aren't the only ones who are poor. That help should be done on more systematic level, Oprah can't and shouldn't take care of everybody, afterall it's her good will and she's just one person. BTW, where are all the rappers?

5:41 PM  

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