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Oprah on Her Time at WJZ: ‘Humiliated,’ Embarrassed’ and ‘Sexually Harassed’

The Baltimore Sun‘s David Zurawik has a fascinating 3,500-word piece on Oprah Winfrey‘s first job in TV news, at WJZ in Baltimore.

“I came to Baltimore when I was 22 years old. Drove my red Cutlass up from Nashville, Tennessee,” says Winfrey who in 1976, was hired as the co-anchor of 6pm newscast. Seven and a half months later, after a big promotional buildup, Oprah would experience what Zurawik calls her “first and worst failure of her TV career.”

“I was removed from the 6 pm. news exactly April 1, 1977,” Winfrey says. “The general manager called me upstairs, and I thought it was an April Fool’s joke when they told me, ‘We have bigger plans for you; we’re going to put you on the morning cut-ins.’”

From a surly co-anchor, “I would have to say my memories of Jerry Turner are not fond ones,” to Anchorman-esque newsroom behavior, “Oh my God, I was so sexually harassed,” Winfrey says Baltimore changed her ideal of TV:

“When I came to JZ, I was churchgoing and never cursed. But in a newsroom, everybody is always saying the ‘f’ word or the ‘g’ word or whatever word.”

Oprah would go on to host the talk show “People are Talking” on WJZ for six years. That, and her experience in the newsroom, would forever change the course of her career:

“By the time I left Baltimore, I was solidly aware that I no longer wanted to just do television news. I was very uncomfortable doing television news.”

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