Chris Rose Takes on Oprah Without Really Meaning To
You can't blame the world for getting the wrong impression, though, following publication of this column Rose wrote for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans about Winfrey's refusal to allow mention of his book on the aftermath on Hurricane Katrina in a show she was doing on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Rose, whose powerful columns on the hurricane's impact in New Orleans made him a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize last year, said Winfrey's people called about including him in her show Wednesday on the 2nd anniversary of the storm. The only catch: she wouldnt allow him to mention his book, 1 Dead in Attic: After Katrina, which not only contained lots of amazing Katrina reporting, but detailed Rose's long struggle with depression, which was the point of Winfrey's segment.
I've already jabbed at the Queen of All Media a couple of times for choosing marquee journalists over local people who know the issues when she does such special episodes. Reading Rose's column about how Winfrey's producers wouldn't let him mention the book or display it on his desk while he was talking, only heightened my disdain for their approach.
(It especially rankles me because I spent time getting to know the Times Picayune's journalists about 18 months ago; they deserved more than a little couch time.)
But Rose has now seen his column become a rallying cry for those who can't stand how Winfrey dominates the book industry. And that's something the wiseacre columnist is not so sure he wants to be a part of.
"I'm getting emails and phone calls from writers across the country saying they're going to buy my book if they have to spend their rent money on it...the anti-Oprah sentiment is driving this book up the Amazon charts," said Rose, calling by cellphone from the Big Easy, where he's spent days talking to big media outlets about his book, including us. "But I love Oprah. All I wanted was for the name of my book to drop from the lips of the Queen of Literature. But I doubt that's going to happen now."
Bad enough that they wouldn't let him mention the book; when the segment was nearly done filming, they also presented him with a release form which barred him from writing about the experience of filming the segment. "I've already spent all day filming this thing, you tell me you're not mentioning the book, then you won't let me at least get a column out of it?" said Rose, who refused to sign the release, kicking off three hours of negotiations with Winfrey's lawyers. "I can't do that."
In the end Rose didn't sign and they still used his interview, without mentioning his book. But Winfrey's Web site does list 1 Dead in Attic among the "Related Resources" on Winfrey's Katrina-centered Web page.
"I'm sure my book's only on that Web site until somebody reads the column," Rose said, laughing.