What Does A Big Unauthorized Biography Offer In The Digital Age?

After 850 interviews for the new Oprah Winfrey biography, what do we know about her that we didn't already know? Not much.

We are told she's a hard-driving businesswoman with little left for her personal life. That may not be news to most people.

Eight hundred and fifty interviews actually sounds like a bit of journalistic inefficiency. How different would Kitty Kelley's unauthorized biography of Winfrey have been after 450 interviews? After 350 interviews? 150 interviews?

Report after report notes this 850 number, as if it were a journalistic achievement in and of itself. Unfortunately, some of the best reporting happens with just one -- or a handful -- of sources.



As a reporter, at a certain point in the process you know when you have a story -- or pretty much the story you are going to get.

To be fair, I haven't read Kelley's book. And as a major media figure, Winfrey should be an interesting topic.

 Financially and culturally speaking, Winfrey does deserve a large-scale examination. But let's be fair: Super-rich people can be boring. And you need a good story - and some context.

 "Off camera she is much more reserved, very, very aloof, she can be icy cold, she is an ace businesswoman, and she now sees herself as a brand really," Kelley said recently in an interview.

A brand? Really? This is nothing media executives haven't already said about Winfrey many times over since the early '90s.

Kelley blames the media to begin with -- which actually is a better story. She says she couldn't find a publisher because so many are dependent on Winfrey and what she does to promote books for the "Oprah Winfrey Book Club."

Winfrey has loyalists for sure, and many have nondisclosure agreements holding them back from speaking about her. But what if, maybe, there was nothing groundbreaking there to begin with?

And, in this information-hungry digital age, where people can speak -- almost always snarkily -- about all sorts of things with immediacy, what did Kelley really think she was going to get?

Wait, this just in...

According to Kelley's book, former "Entertainment Tonight" host John Tesh once dated Winfrey when both were young reporters in Nashville

OK, that's worth about 50 cents for the most avid of Winfrey followers. For the rest of us, we'll wait to read the abstract online or read a few interviews -- free of charge.

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