Chicago Mayor Blames Media for Oprah Departure

Show to end in 2011 after 25 seasons

By BJ Lutz
|  Thursday, Nov 19, 2009  |  Updated 10:33 PM CDT
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Oprah Takes Over Three Chicago Blocks

AP

U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey arrives for the opening ceremony of the IOC Congress at the Copenhagen Opera House in Copenhagen, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009. Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo are competing for the right to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The IOC will choose the winning city in a vote on Friday Oct. 2 in Copenhagen. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

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Daley: "You Keep Kicking People, and People Will Leave"

Mayor Richard Daley says Oprah Winfrey's reception in the local media likely had something to do with her decision to end the run of her talk show in the Windy City.
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It's the media's fault.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley says Oprah Winfrey's reception in the local media likely had something to do with her decision to end the run of her talk show in the Windy City.

"You keep kicking people, and people will leave.  Simple as that," Daley said Thursday night at a reception for the United Negro College Fund.

Specifically, he cited criticism of Winfrey's decision to kick off the 24th season of her show with a massive party on Michigan Avenue.

"When the controversy came up on Michigan Avenue, and people were criticizing her in the media, the first thing I said is, 'She's paying for everything on Michigan Avenue.'  I said, 'So, why are you criticizing her?'  The merchants loved it.  We had huge recognition around the world when she opened her show.  And so I don't think people realize that if you keep beating people up, well, then people take a different version of what can take place," the mayor said.

He added:

"She loves this city, and I will be talking to her, but again, that became a big rhubarb of the Chicago press: Beat up Oprah."

The president of Winfrey's production company announced in an e-mail that the queen of talk TV would be ending her show at the end of its 25th season.

"The sun will set on the "Oprah" show," Tim Bennett wrote in the e-mail.  Staffers were informed of the decision earlier in the day.

Oprah will make the announcement herself to her studio audience during Friday's show.  The last show will air on September 9, 2011.

Winfrey confirmed earlier this month that she was moving forward with her long-delayed Oprah Winfrey Network.  At the time, however, she declined to comment on whether that would mean moving her show to Los Angeles. 

At the start of this year's season, Oprah closed off the Magnificent Mile, hosting her show from the Michigan Avenue bridge in what was considered a love letter to the city.

A few weeks later, she also pitched in with First Lady Michelle Obama to travel to Copenhagen to try to sway the International Olympic Committee to select Chicago for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.  It was not to be.

Then this past week, her highest ratings in two years with former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin as her guest.

The departure will have a huge economic impact, not only for the staff she employs, but also for the Chicago hotels and restaurants her guests and visitors patronize while they're in the Windy City.

Severance packages will be given to all employees that will have been employeed at least three years by March, 2011.  Some staffers may be placed elsewhere within Harpo, a producer told NBC.

Winfrey started her broadcasting career in Nashville, Tenn., and Baltimore, Md., before relocating to Chicago in 1984 to host WLS-TV's morning talk show "A.M. Chicago."

That show was renamed "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 1985.

A year later, Winfrey established Harpo and her talk show went into syndication. In 1990, Winfrey opened Harpo Studios in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood.

Letter to media partners from Harpo President Tim Bennett:

Dear Friends:

Over the past several weeks, my team and I have had conversations with many of you to help address your questions about the future of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Of course, the one question we couldn’t answer was the one that only Oprah could. And tomorrow, she will do just that.

But before she speaks to her loyal viewers, we wanted to share her decision first with you – our valued partners for more than two decades.

Tomorrow, Oprah will announce live on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that she has decided to end what is arguably one of the most popular, influential and enduring programs in television history. The sun will set on the “Oprah” show as its 25th season draws to a close on September 9, 2011.

We welcome you to share this news this evening with your colleagues and viewers. As we all know, Oprah’s personal comments about this on tomorrow’s live show will mark an historic television moment that we will all be talking about for years to come.

We want to thank you for the partnership and friendship we have shared over the years. Your invaluable support has helped us to create the phenomenon of the "Oprah Show" that we've all been so proud to be a part of for the last 24 years. My staff and I will be calling all of you directly tonight and tomorrow. We look forward to speaking with you.

And, if you think the last quarter century has been something, then "don’t touch that dial" as together we plan to make history in the next 20 months…and beyond.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Bennett
President, Harpo, Inc.

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