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Oprah 300

“Oprah’s career would be impossible without the gains of African American and feminist movements – as well as her own talent for putting her finger on America’s pulse," says U of M professor Catherine Squires.

Oprah Winfrey's impact: "Simultaneously inspiring and frustrating to many people," U of M expert says

May 20, 2011

Next Wednesday, May 25, is the big finale for the Oprah Winfrey Show, after a 25-year run. What’s Oprah’s legacy, both as an entertainment industry powerhouse and cultural icon? A University of Minnesota expert who can comment on Oprah’s impact is:

Catherine Squires, John and Elizabeth Bates Cowles Professor of Journalism, Diversity and Equality, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, College of Liberal Arts

Squires says Oprah Winfrey is one of the first – and possibly the last – black media figures of the post-civil rights era to gain a truly mass audience. “Her success is simultaneously inspiring and frustrating to many people,” Squires says.

“Oprah’s career would be impossible without the gains of African American and feminist movements – as well as her own talent for putting her finger on America’s pulse. But her show’s focus on individualism, spirituality and consumer products can obscure the importance of those movements.”

Squires says it’s no surprise that her popularity ratings have fallen when she dipped a toe into racial politics – for example, when she tried to talk about race after the LAPD beat Rodney King and later when she endorsed Obama’s candidacy. “After each event, she quickly turned back to personal makeovers and product give-aways,” Squires says. “So to many people, she certainly has read or led the zeitgeist for 25 years, but that spirit has largely been blind to issues of social justice and eager to spread the gospel of personal responsibility above all else.”

Squires research and teaching interests include the intersection of media, race, gender and politics. She is the author of numerous books, including “African Americans and the Media,” an interdisciplinary overview of the past, present and future of African Americans in United States media.

To interview Squires, contact Jeff Falk, University News Service, jfalk@umn.edu or (612) 626-1720.

Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit www.unews.umn.edu. Views expressed by experts do not represent the views of the University of Minnesota.

Tags: College of Liberal Arts

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