Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Oprah: Huckster or Dupe?

Brian Lowry, television critic over at Variety, discusses Oprah Winfrey's inclusion of psychics, self-help gurus, and other snake oil salesmen in today's column. Mr. Lowry attacks the soft, approving, and non-critical way that Oprah treats theses guests. He is essentially arguing that, given the high esteem with which people view her, she should be skeptical of those who offer her audience "pat answers" to potentially difficult problems.

No argument from me, but Lowry doesn't discuss Larry King's obsession with both psychics and space aliens. No one can deny Larry King's influence, he dominates his particular niche, yet Lowry doesn't use his interviews as a comparison. King, too, presents people like Sylvia Brown with little to no critical analysis. When King did have James Randi on in 2001, Randi challenged Brown to prove her abilities. Since 2001, Brown has been back on Larry King Live. To my knowledge, James Randi has not. Even though Sylvia Brown has never followed through on her promise to prove her abilities.

Why do those who are in trusted media positions so readily embrace people who are taking advantage of other peoples sorrow? Is Oprah, or for that matter Larry King, a huckster or a dupe?

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