Letters, we get lett...I Mean, E-Mails, We Get E-Mails
...like this one from a reader named Jennifer who pointed out some things about my "What Would Oprah Do?" blog of a few days ago.
The point, for those of you who don't want to scroll back, was that Ellen DeGeneres should've taken a page out of the Winfrey Play Book and refuse the urge to go public with her now global battle against an L-A area animal rescue group. I suggested that the Queen of Media, The "O" Herself, would NEVER have had her flacks making off-camera threats the way DeGeneres' p-r people did, and that Oprah wouldn't have used valuable air time to make the case public, angering some in her audience to the point where they felt compelled to make death threats to the allegedly offending kennel
Jennifer reminds us of the following Winfrey story: "Some years ago Oprah attempted to check into the Four Seasons hotel in Atlanta with two dogs in tow. It was against hotel policy at the time to allow pets and she was informed of this by the staff on duty that evening. She related this story and how her dogs should have been treated as two "small people" on her show. After she got that off her chest, who should phone in but the CEO of the corporation running the hotel. He apologized to her and told her she and the dogs were welcome at any of their properties at any time. Oprah and the audience did the requisite cheering. I have often wondered what happened to the employees who dared say no to the great one and who were only doing their jobs. They were damned if they did and damned if they didn't. If they had not followed company policy they probably would have been fired for that if they didn't get fired for not allowing O. to have her own way."
Point well taken. There's also the now-famous Paris shopping incident--Winfrey's supposed "Crash" moment--in which Oprah wanted admittance to a store at closing time.
I'm no Oprah, and I'm not worthy to carry Ellen's sneakers, but hosts here at The Big Stick often use their real-life experiences as jumping off points for on-air discussions, just like famous television hosts do. Kids. Home repair. Favorite television shows. Movies. It's all in play because it's all very rateable. More often than not, I'm my own punchline, and I'm good with that. I usually have it coming.
It's a fine line to walk, though, between sharing life experience and currying favor because of ones position in the media. It's very tempting to use these 50 thousand watts as a personal intercom or an electronic bludgeon. Favors can't be sought. Revenge can't be exacted. You can't use your job to get your way. You...just...can't. Like Superman, Wonder Woman and the Federal Reserve, your powers should only be used for good--the good of others, not yourself.
Anyone who's ever been behind a mike or in front of a camera can be assured that they'll face such an ethical dilemma--if they haven't already. Your credibility--and, in a lot of cases, your future employment--hang in the balance. I've always found it useful in such cases to ask out-loud if I'm doing the right thing. The fact that I'm even ASKING in the first place usually provides me with my answer.
It would seem Ellen, and before her, Oprah, should've done a little self-inflicted Q-and-A first. But then, who am I to give advice?