Posts Tagged ‘Talk show’

Oprah is not your friend

June 13, 2009

I occasionally see a web page or get an e-mail petition imploring TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey to do a show about kids with Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs). I’m convinced these pleas are a wasted effort – Oprah Winfrey is not going to come riding to the rescue.

Why? It would seem that CHDs would be a perfect topic for Oprah’s show. The majority of her audience is female, most of them in their childbearing years, and CHDs occur in 1 out of every 125 live births. It sounds like a perfect fit.

But to understand why CHDs will never be featured on Oprah, you have to understand how that type of show works. No matter the subject, the writers approach it in a limited number of ways. The most used approach is The Host Has All The Answers. Typically, a guest will have have a problem. Oprah is going to listen, and then suggest a course of action. She’ll then call on an expert seated in the audience, who will agree completely. After all, The Host Has All The Answers. It’s all nice and neat and we can be on the way to a better existence in an hour.

Heart Defects aren’t solvable in an hour. A lot of times there aren’t answers – we have ideas about why children are born with bad hearts, but nothing is certain. My mother followed all of her doctor’s suggestions, she didn’t smoke or drink (Never did and still doesn’t, so it couldn’t be due to “residual effects”) and yet I was born with a defective heart. Many other people can say the same thing. So, Oprah, how do we prevent Heart Defects? We can’t follow that line of thinking¬† – because then, our host won’t have the answers.

Another popular approach is I Have A Problem: The host acts a conduit to connect a person with an unsolvable problem with an expert in the field. (Our host will make the initial suggestion or their staff will search for the expert, a variation of the Host Has All The Answers technique.)

That won’t work because a CHD at birth, even if expected, triggers a crisis response. The instant the child is born, the clock starts ticking. Get Oprah involved? I’m sorry, we’re heading for the helicopter pad right now. As soon as we land at University Hospital, we’re going straight to the Operating Room.

I’m highly doubtful that open letters, web pages, or petitions will influence Oprah to present our stories on TV. And I’m worried that if we were to appear, we would be presented as Victims or with a “You poor thing!” attitude. If that were to happen, don’t invite me – I don’t attend pity parties. They never serve good food and the music is crappy!

So no, appearing on Oprah is not high on my priority list.