Why Oprah Winfrey Left ’60 Minutes’
Talk show icon and media mogul Oprah Winfrey has her hand in numerous projects. Serving as a network owner, philanthropist, activist, television producer, and spokesperson (to name a few titles), last year Winfrey decided to forego one coveted role when she realized it “wasn’t the best format” for her.
Winfrey started as a journalist
Though Winfrey is known as the ‘Queen of Talk’ for her iconic talk show from 1986 to 2011, she started as a newswoman. According to Brittanica, she became an anchor at the age of 19 for the CBS local station in Nashville, Tennessee. Winfrey then moved on to Baltimore in 1976 to serve as reporter and co-anchor for an ABC news affiliate.
Realizing she wasn’t cut out for the constraints of news reporting, she switched to hosting a Baltimore morning show in 1977, thus beginning her journey to talk show superstar status.
’60 Minutes’ lasted about a year
When Winfrey was first approached about being a special correspondent for CBS’ legendary news magazine show 60 Minutes, she saw it as a milestone in her career. “As someone whose grown up watching 60 Minutes since I was a young girl, not even knowing the power, the impact, the value of the reporting, and then becoming a young reporter myself in my 20s, in Baltimore, 60 Minutes was I would say for the first 20 years of my career like a religion,” Winfrey said, according to Variety. “Your Sunday was complete after Andy Rooney had finished his piece and you heard that clock. So to be a part of this esteemed group of story tellers is one of the great honors of my career.”
Winfrey’s stint on the iconic show began in September 2018 with a story entitled “Divided,” where she assembled a group of Americans from various walks of life for a roundtable discussion on the country’s current political climate. She went on to cover other topics she found to be pertinent, yet decided to end the partnership with the show in late 2018.
Why Winfrey left
Winfrey began working on projects with Apple (as well as continuing her many other endeavors), making it the right time to part ways with 60 Minutes. Winfrey recalled speaking to the show’s now-ousted executive producer Jeff Fager to tell him of her departure. “I said I was going to be working with Apple and that it didn’t mean I would never do something [with 60 Minutes] but I would probably be taking all of my energies and putting them into whatever I wanted to do at Apple. It was an interesting experience for me. I enjoyed working with the teams, and I’m probably going to work with some of the freelance people on my Apple stuff,” Winfrey said.
While there may have been several deciding factors, one simple indicator made it clear to Winfrey she needed to move on. The iconic opening where each correspondent says their name proved to be a bit of a stumbling block for Winfrey. “Never a good thing when I have to practice saying my name and have to be told that I have too much emotion in my name,” Winfrey shared with the Hollywood Reporter about receiving direction for the show’s open. “It’s not that it didn’t sit very well. I did it. I think I did seven takes on just my name because it was ‘too emotional.’ I go, ‘Is the too much emotion in the ‘Oprah’ part or the ‘Winfrey’ part?’”
The media mogul recalled a similar circumstance she had experienced, helping her to realize that her relationship with 60 Minutes may not be the best match. “I had a deja vu moment because I’ve actually lived through this once before when I covered a story as a young reporter [where] the family had lost their home and my boss told me that I reported it with too much emotion,” Winfrey said. “I had too much emotion in the story. I thought, ‘OK, so you’re not supposed to be involved in the story, I get that. You’re a journalist.’ But the same thing is true even with a read [at 60 Minutes]. They would say, ‘All right, you need to flatten out your voice, there’s too much emotion in your voice.’ So I was working on pulling myself down and flattening out my personality — which, for me, is actually not such a good thing… it was not the best format for me.”
Fans are most likely breathing a sigh of relief that Winfrey chose not to ‘flatten’ her personality, continuing to exude the qualities that have made her a legend.