Oprah Winfrey Network Debuts Without Young People, Latinos

Critics still say it's still an ambitious and well-received start.

By Jorge Rivas Jan 03, 2011

Oprah Winfrey launched her much anticipated 24-hour cable channel at noon on Saturday. So far the reviews are good.

"OWN is a place where cynicism takes a holiday and mockery hasn’t yet been invented," said NY Times television critic Alessandra Stanley. Referring to Winfrey’s wishes to have a "no-hate zone" network.

Winfrey said that she wanted to create a cable network without a trace of "mean-spirited" programming. And so far she’s held to that standard with the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), a joint venture between Winfrey and Discovery Communications. Joanna Weiss at the Boston Globe says "it’s inspirational and affecting, brain candy for people affluent enough to worry about self-actualization."

The Oprah protégés will be there: Nate Berkus, Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz will have their own show. Best friend Gayle King will have a 5-day a week live morning talk show.

But there is programming for those who cringe when they hear Dr. Phil’s name too.

Asian-American investigative journalist Lisa Ling will also have a "60 Minutes" meets "This American Life" documentary-newsmagazine show. They’ve also acquired a few film-festival documentary favorites and in the spring, the network will begin what it calls a monthly documentary film club with original content.

In the first season of "Oprah Presents Master Class," Winfrey selected "eight true modern masters" to share their lessons on failures and successes. In a preview shown to journalists, hip- hop artist and businessman Jay-Z posits that "hip-hop has done more for racial relations than most cultural icons save Martin Luther King Jr." He also cites Muhammad Ali as an inspiration "not because he was a a great champion…but because he had the strength to stand up and say ‘I’m beautiful, I’m pretty, look at me’ at a time when our people where considered not beautiful."


Jennifer Mabry at The Root still thinks much of the reported programming are "topics that are already playing out on TLC, HGTV, the Food Network, et al." She’d like to see "original scripted programming aimed primarily at upwardly mobile, upper-middle-class black folk."

We agree on one thing. We’re both put off at the fact that all of Oprah’s protégés — Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Nate Berkus and Rachael Ray —  are white. (Gayle King is a friend, maybe a lover, but not her mentee.)

Despite the long list of new shows, young people and Latinos seems to be missing from the ranks. Hopefully this gap will be filled with a contestant from "Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star" which includes a more diverse set of younger contestants including a Latina journalists who started her career with Telemundo in Los Angeles.