I “did Oprah” the other day. What a nice experience. I had not actually seen the show before — perhaps the only living American with this distinction — and was impressed by how much information she and the producers contrived to pack into the hour.
But what I was really impressed by was her reach. Half the country seems to watch Oprah. Indeed, because the show had been taped in Chicago some time before, I got to watch it like everybody else, groaning at the sight of my several chins. At every commercial break, my phone rang with congratulations. When it was over, I went out for a decaf el grande frappucino, and walking down Columbus Avenue ran into an old friend. Not that old — maybe 60, very nattily dressed, someone not unknown in New York. Coming from a meeting with his bankers or something. “I just saw you on Oprah!” he said.
And here I thought people actually worked during the day. Or read books or were glued to the Internet.
Speaking of which, you can find Oprah on the Internet, too. Or at least America On Line. GO OPRAH!
That is precisely where I had found myself, “on stage,” two days earlier. It was a live interactive conference designed, I was told, to answer the participants’ questions and promote the upcoming show. We had 262 guests in the “audience.” That’s not as many as the race car driver in the hour before me (waiting for my turn, I sent in a question about tobacco sponsorship, but got no response). He had about 500. But Bruce Jenner — Bruce Jenner! — had only 19, so I felt pretty good.
Here were these 262 people devoting an hour of their lives to watching me type with two fingers and a sticky space bar. But the technology is young, which is part of its appeal. One day soon they may add voice to this stuff, so you can actually hear the questions and answers. That will speed things up, if you have a fast modem; people obviously speak a lot faster than they type. And then they may add video, so you can actually see everybody. Wow! Millions of people might tune in for something as high-tech miraculous as that. It could be called “Oprah,” and it could air every day at 4PM. They could call this new technology: “television.”