In Many Markets, Oprah Finale Preempted by Severe Weather Coverage

By Andrew Gauthier 

For a handful of markets around the country, Oprah’s farewell is coming a day late.  That’s because severe weather rolling through the midwest and southeast forced local stations to preempt Oprah’s much-anticipated final show on Wednesday in favor of weather coverage.

Oprah fans in St. Louis, Toledo, Little Rock, and Memphis had to wait until today to watch the finale in its entirety.

While KSDK, WTOL, KATV, and WMC may have upset fans, the stations ultimately feel that their audiences were best served with live weather coverage.


“We understand the importance of Oprah’s final show,” WTOL news director Andi Roman told the Toledo Blade on Wednesday, “but when it comes to tornados and severe weather, that’s the biggest factor that we worry about. Our team of meteorologists is on top of making people safe.”

The news directors at KSDK, WTOL, KATV, and WMC were no doubt influenced by the powerful tornado systems that recently hit Tuscaloosa, Joplin, and Oklahoma City, and the ability of stations in each city to warn local residents of the coming danger.

The live, in-depth coverage provided by Oklahoma City stations earlier this week was responsible for saving countless lives as twisters approached the area. According to the Associated Press:

When three tornadoes marched toward Oklahoma City and its suburbs, thousands of people in the path benefited from good forecasts, luck and live television to avoid the kind of catastrophe that befell Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Joplin, Mo.

Although at least 15 people died in the latest round of violent weather that started Tuesday, schools and offices closed early, giving many families plenty of time to take shelter. And even stragglers were able to get to safety at the last minute because TV forecasters narrated the twisters’ every turn.

Jeff Winget, KSDK’s director of marketing and promotions puts it in clear terms, telling the Riverfront Times, “It was a question of a TV show versus saving people’s lives.”