Oprah took talking to a new level

By Zhong Lei (
Updated: 2011-06-07 10:22
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Editor's note: Last Saturday (June 4), we published an American professor's "average-man-on-the-street" views on Oprah Winfrey. Today, we take a look at how a Chinese specialist views her, her show and her influence.

Oprah Winfrey, the most popular American TV hostess, declared an end to the 25-year run of her talk show last month. For the last two and a half decades, Oprah hosted people from presidents to prisoners, from film stars, singers to workers, from white collars to housewives.

When Oprah talks, her audiences and viewers - reportedly about 15 million daily in the US and millions more all over the world - listen. She is one of the most beautiful African American women, her fans spreading across whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians.

Oprah is not only a TV hostess but a preacher and a soul mate. The show has become a kind of teaching and learning in the world's biggest classroom, modeled on actual people and based on personal experiences. The hostess spoke her words like a poet and a professor, or an experienced preacher - her rhetoric philosophical and humorous.

Oprah is a national treasure of the United States, promoting American family values, culture, and lifestyles. She is another typical "American Story", growing up out of poverty and hardship.

Winfrey stands as a symbol, not only in media and entertainment circles but also in the larger society as well. Her value is not in her personal fortune - she started from scratch to become a billionaire - but it is through her talk show that her reputation and influence have been greatest.

Talk is often boring, and listeners are often tired, but this is not the least true with Oprah Winfrey's talk show. Oprah has made the word "talkshow" popular and positive, not only in America, but all across the world. For example, many similar talk show programs in China, LuYu Youyue or A Date with LuYu, and countless others, are just modeled after the Oprah Show.

Will the end of Oprah Winfrey's talk show dynasty hurt or help her future career? It is definitely a big dent to the talk show business. However, there is nothing that lasts forever, or in the Chinese saying, "every banquet has to come to an end." But it has to be said that she chose the best time to retire: the peak, the prime time of her career.

We should learn her art of talking: how she talks with people and communicates with people. Oprah's talk show is not only about talk, but also about listening. She did not simply talk to people, but listen to them. She makes the interviewees feel they are always the main focus and they are always at center stage. She knows how to enlighten and encourage people to talk freely about their most personal experiences, to share their stories of love and success, to speak out about their happiness and sorrow.

Oprah always dishes out life lessons with good humor, so that the audience will not only never forget about them, but learn how to forgive, which is good for promoting social harmony, not only in the US, but also all over the world.

Zhong Lei, professor and specialist in American Literature.