The Media Today

The media today: Oprah 2020? After Trump, anything is possible.

January 9, 2018

The next presidential election is 34 months away, but the shadow field of Democratic candidates considering a challenge to President Trump just got an injection of star power. On the day after Oprah Winfrey delivered an electrifying speech at the Golden Globes, speculation about her possible political future dominated the news cycle.

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The buzz began before she even finished speaking, and was fed by Winfrey’s partner, Stedman Graham telling the Los Angeles Times, “It’s up to the people. She would absolutely do it.” The rumors were given new life—and a grounding in reality—after CNN’s Brian Stelter reported yesterday that the billionaire media entrepreneur’s friends said she was “actively thinking” about running for president.

A few years ago, the idea of “Oprah for President” would have seemed like a fantasy, but after Donald Trump rode his celebrity to the Oval Office, anything is possible. Winfrey’s speech on Sunday, touching on women’s empowerment and social justice, sure sounded like a water-testing of her political possibilities.

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With sky-high name recognition, a string of successful business decisions, and strong favorability ratings, Winfrey has some on the left dreaming of a candidacy that could counter, and best, the very attributes that Trump touted on his way to the White House. The idea of Democrats following the GOP’s lead by entertaining the possibility of a celebrity candidate with no history in politics, however, rubbed some the wrong way. “Hey. Let’s focus on winning in 2018. Thanks,” Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz wrote on Twitter.

If Oprah does run, her campaign will test whether the media adjusts its approach following blanket, sometimes less-than-serious, coverage of Donald Trump’s celebrity circus leading up to November 2016. With a possible field of up to 20 Democratic candidates vying for attention, the presence of a figure like Winfrey would throw a wrench into what’s expected to be a hard fought ideological battle over the future of the party.

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Winfrey, for her part, isn’t speaking, so it’s hard to know whether this is a frivolous overreaction or just the new political reality of the world we live in. As for her prospects, The New York Times’s polling maven Nate Cohn tweeted that he has no idea whether she’ll run, “but who could count her out if she did.”

Below, more on Oprah and the media fire she sparked.

  • A1: Stories about Winfrey’s political future graced the front pages of The Washington Post, The New York Times, and USA Today.
  • Oprah on the issues: Winfrey “remains largely a mystery on a wide array of political and policy matters,” writes Politico’s Cristiano Lima. He digs into her past comments to figure out where she stands.
  • What politicians can learn from Oprah: “Anybody who does run for president could do worse than to study [Winfrey’s] speech at Sunday night’s Golden Globes,” writes The New York Times’s James Poniewozik.
  • WH response: Questions about Winfrey’s potential candidacy reached Air Force One, where White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told reporters, “We welcome the challenge, whether it be Oprah Winfrey or anybody else.”


Other notable stories 

  • Glamour’s new editor is Samantha Barry, most recently the executive producer for social and emerging media at CNN. Barry, The New York Times’s Sydney Ember notes, will be the first top editor of a Condé Nast title with an exclusively digital and television background.
  • Lots of other job news yesterday: Ashley Codianni will succeed Barry at CNN; Katie Rogers is The New York Times’s new White House correspondent; Elaina Plott is joining The Atlantic, as is Reihan Salam; Helen Rosner was named The New Yorker’s “roving food correspondent,” while Hannah Goldfield will be the magazine’s food critic; Veronica Stracqualursi is heading to CNN.
  • Bklyner, the hyperlocal news site, is staying open after telling its readers it needed 3,000 new subscribers by January 1 to survive. The site didn’t quite reach that goal, editor and publisher Liena Zagare tells Poynter’s Kristen Hare, but it got close enough.
  • For CJR, Steve Friess looks at the presence of journalists at the newly opened American Writers Museum.
  • Great lead from The New York Times’s Jonathan Martin: “He is a New Yorker in Washington, far more consumed with the news media and personalities than policy issues. He elides facts, fudges the specifics and dispenses with professional norms in the service of success and status. And while affecting a contempt for the mainstream press, he cannot help dropping the mask to reveal the double game he is playing. I am talking, of course, of the writer Michael Wolff, who with Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House has delivered an altogether fitting, if ultimately unsatisfying, book on the chaotic first nine months of President Trump, another media-obsessed Manhattanite.”

IN THE NEWS: Michael Wolff was the perfect match for Trump’s chaotic White House

Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.