A WBEZ Chicago Exclusive: Making Oprah


MEDIA CONTACT:  Vanessa Grisko | 312-724-8111| vgrisko@grisko.com


The inside story of a TV revolution

CHICAGO (Nov. 10, 2016) When The Oprah Winfrey Show debuted 30 years ago, the host and her handful of producers never could have imagined the indelible impact they would have on television. WBEZ Chicago’s exclusive three-part podcast Making Oprah looks back at the rise of The Oprah Winfrey Show, from scrappy Chicago talk show to national phenomenon and culture-shaping media empire. Making Oprah will be released in weekly episodes on Nov. 10, Nov. 17 and Nov. 22, 2016.

Hosted by WBEZ’s Jenn White, Making Oprah tells the story of a TV revolution from the perspective of those who fought on its front lines: the self-styled “Harponians” – former Oprah producers, Harpo staffers and her hair stylist. The podcast even includes an interview with competitor and TV talk show pioneer Phil Donahue.

WBEZ also talked to someone who knows Winfrey well: Oprah herself.

“On the air, Oprah was so candid about her life and about the show itself. She saw that our podcast would look at the program in a new way – and that her voice was essential to our story,” said Senior Producer Colin McNulty. “She was gracious enough to sit down with us for two extended interviews that revisited her early days on the show, her rise to stardom and the effect she has had on so many viewers.”

“Given Oprah’s grit and determination, the success and dominance of her showsometimes seems preordained,” added Executive Producer Joel Meyer. “But the Harponians took big risks throughout the program’s run, broke down barriers, and kept innovating. Now, Oprah and the staff are telling that behind-the-scenes story in their own voices.”

From the creators of popular programming such as This American Life and Nerdette, the Making Oprah podcast documentary is just another example of the unique, high quality content that WBEZ Chicago is committed to producing for its listeners. The series aligns with the station’s mission to nourish the public conversation by telling the stories that matter, provoke thought, entertain, capture emotion and inspire action.

Some of the compelling moments in the podcast include how Winfrey was discovered, the most memorable and highest-rated moment in the show’s history, the meticulous planning behind the legendary car giveaway, and why Winfrey decided to come to Chicago.

“I will say, I manifested Chicago,” Winfrey recalled. “As I was landing in the city, this feeling came over me [. . .] I remember tearing up and thinking, ‘even if I don’t get this job, I’m going to find a way to be here. This will be my home. This is where I’m supposed to be.”

The release of this podcast series marks the show’s 30th anniversary, as well as this year’s demolition of the former Harpo Studios building in Chicago’s West Loop. Making Oprah chronicles the key events that led to the program becoming the most successful talk show in history and reflects on a 25-year national run that shifted the television landscape, reshaped American culture and left a lasting mark on its hometown.

To listen to the first episode and subscribe to future episodes, visit wbez.org/Oprahor download the WBEZ app in the Apple App Store or on Google Play.


About WBEZ Chicago

WBEZ 91.5 Chicago is the region’s premier hub for public media and NPR programming, consistently delivering high quality journalism and original, unique content on the airwaves and across digital platforms. We are committed to our mission to nourish and drive the public conversation by telling stories that provoke thought, entertain, capture emotion and inspire action. In addition to in-depth investigative reporting from our expanding team of journalists, WBEZ produces The Morning Shift and Worldview and has launched nationally acclaimed programs including This American Life, Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me! (a co-production with NPR) and Sound Opinions. Learn more about WBEZ Chicago, our award-winning programming and on-demand digital content at wbez.orgFacebook, Twitter, and the WBEZ app available in the App Storeand Google Play.