Lance Armstrong was stripped of his 7 Tour de France titles because of accusations of taking performance enhancement drugs. He recently confessed during an interview with Oprah Winfrey that he did take the drugs to win the Tour de France races.
Considering Habermas’ concept of what the ‘public sphere’ is I feel like Lance Armstrong’s interview is a tactic that many politicians use. In John Zaller’s A Theory of Media Politics he states that, “politicians would like journalists to act as a neutral conveyor belt for their statements and press releases.” Politicians tend to use a media platform that would present them in the best light. The reason being that not all journalist have the gusts to ask the hard questions. Not all journalists can get the story everyone wants to hear or read about. Also, journalists tend to have different interviewing methods.
Oprah Winfrey tends to conduct many interviews that empathize with the interviewee regardless of what he or she has done. This is often called The Oprah Effect because of the large audience an influence she has. If Barbra Walters had interviewed Lance Armstrong, it would have gone in a very different direction and would not be to his benefit. Especially when he is trying to regain a positive image to the public’s eye.
Think about it for a few minutes! Would President Barack Obama do an interview with Barbra Walters or Oprah Winfrey if he wanted to discuss something about his personal life? After the Monica Lewinsky affair, would Bill Clinton have done an interview with Barbra Walters? My guess is that most likely each of them would be going to Oprah for an interview not Barbara.
Now if Bill Clinton wanted to speak about his wife, Hilary Clinton, running for president in 2016, he would most likely look for an interview with Barbra Walters, in fact that is exactly what he did! Although it wasn’t aired in her 2012 special 10 Most Fascinating People, Bill Clinton did comment on the fact that he wants Hilary to run in 2016 in an interview with Barbra. Zaller states, “journalists value ‘journalistic voice’ at least as much as big audiences and they care nothing at all about helping politicians to get their story out to the public.”
The way I see it is that Oprah isn’t a real journalist, she never went to school for journalism and is basically an on-air personality. A politician wouldn’t go to Oprah if they wanted to do an interview about serious political issues. In November 2012, Lindsay Lohan pulled out of an interview with Barbra Walters in fear of what questions were going to be asked. If a politician is trying to appeal to the masses they would do an interview with Oprah or appear on The Tonight Show not go on the show 20/20.
Some analysts would agree that politicians attempt to bend public opinion to their benefit through the media. My perspective is that Lance Armstrong did just that when he participated in the interview with Oprah. The interview is to be broadcast Thursday, January 17, 2013 on Winfrey’s network but I’m sure you’ll be able to find it on YouTube the next day in case you miss it.