Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dissed by a Talk Show Diva (the Big O)

A close call with Oprah three weeks ago reminded us all about the flakey nature of the media.

Back in New York, Roo Yori was all packed up and about to put homeboy Hector on a plane to meet Oprah in Chicago when a last-minute call came in from show producers who said: "Never mind."

Hector - who'd been recruited for the show by O's people - had just been stood up after a whirlwind of phone calls, planning and flight arrangements.

Oprah's producers had already invested in a film crew who shot Jonny Justice in a CA library doing his work as a reading assistant dog, but then put the kabash on the entire Vick dog story the morning of the show's taping with Hector.

We were disappointed in a "it figures" way. Canceling guests in the final hour is apparently commonplace with the Oprah Show, although we speculate that bailing on this particular story had something to do with the subject matter. It's common knowledge that Oprah is leery of pit bulls, so the topic of dogs once destined to fight now employed as cuddle buddies might've been too big of a stretch for someone who may not have noticed how normal the dogs have been acting since they came home.

Producers told us that there were "big debates" going on between staff about this story, one of them being whether or not to show sensationalistic fight footage in connection with the warm/fuzzy parts of the story. No wonder they were confused.

The bigger disappointment was felt by the kids, their parents and the staff of the Brisbane library who all re-arranged heaven and earth to get cameras in on a Sunday. That group of people, including Jonny's dad Cris Cohen, kicked into high gear to give Oprah's crew a sneak peek into the J-Man at work with a clip that would've been aired alongside Hector's on-stage appearance. Not easy, but when the world wants to hear the story of bust dog redemption, you make it work, right? Cris told us, "I wrote quite a few sad emails this afternoon to all the folks that banded together to get the library open on a Sunday, and the volunteers that rounded up all the kids. I'm ok with getting cut, but I feel for them. Everyone was so excited about this."

The stinky part? Oprah's crew sent the cancellation notice to Cris and Jonny second hand - no personal phone call, apologies for the near miss or thank yous for accommodating their need-it-now film crew. Poor form, Oprah. You may not get any tail wags from us, but we know our dogs would forgive you.

Below, a photo of Ava, one of the kids who put on her cutest outfit and came out to help tell the story of the little bust dog who could. Thanks for your help Ava. You're truly a star to all of us!

CBS Early Show

On Monday morning - Sept 20 - Jonny Justice and others were highlighted on the CBS Early Show with Dr. Debbye Turner.

They did a great job!


Susan Cava Ruimy said...

What a bummer...Boo Oprah!
However, the cool thing is that Hector probably has no clue and is just happy to be involved in all the excitment! Shame Oprah doesn't understand the way she survived her troubled youth and flourished is the same as these amazing pooches!
Hector & Johnny Justice are still major stars in my book!
Hugs from NYC!

Unknown said...

You are so right about Oprah's attitude about pit bulls I've caught it in the "undercurrents" of her attitude for some time. BUT SHAME ON HER and her team for their handling of this situation. You can bet my next communication this morning will be directly to the Oprah machine! So sorry to everyone caught in this mess!

J.M. said...

Oprah`s loss.
It`s unfortunate because Oprah could have pulled out her Maya Angelou quote AGAIN.

"When you know better(or you`re given a chance) you do better"

At least that applies to the dogs in this case.
Not sure about the human.

Perhaps Oprah never got over the fact that a Pit Bull had to be brought in to teach her Cocker how to behave.

J.M. said...

Meant to add.
Ava is looking very smart and pretty and Jonny is handsome and smart as usual.
Kudos to all the kids.
Who needs the big Oh Oh when you have stars like this.

Unknown said...

I think it would be appropriate to include contact information for people to express their polite disappointment in what transpired. Could that be added?

TheReverend said...

That's ok, I like Pits more than Oprah anyway

Charles said...

I always felt Oprah was a lot of fluff feel good. Now when it gets to doing some hard work on her own biased issues the work stops.

Just my opinion as owner of Princess Fiona APBT Service Dog in Training

vchiumw said...

Oprah is scary and Lame. She's not getting my vote when she runs for the Presidency.

Anonymous said...

Wow, very classy Oprah. too bad that the world revolves around you. However, Ava and Jonny look adorable!

Donna said...

Thanks Rinalia. We were thinking it may be best to just drop it after our little blog-vent. It would've been great to see Hector and Roo win her over, but if she's just "not ready," then forcing the issue won't do anything. Save your great letter writing savvy for more important issues.

Donna said...

Thanks for all the support and shared outrage btw. You guys are da best. :-)

Sarah said...

I haven't liked Oprah for a long time and this just makes me like her even less. I hope she just goes away when her show is over.

Debbie Jacobs said...

This is off the Oprah topic. I just wanted to say that you folks who are working to change the rep of pitties are doing a good job. They are now on my list for dogs to get in the future (I am currently living with 4 dogs and that's enough).

Got a question though. I watched the video of Johnny J and is that a prong/pinch he's wearing? Why? I notice in the videos that he is very cool around people but didn't see him if any dogs appeared on the scene. Maybe you have a video of this which I have missed.


Dianne said...

Oh, who needs Oprah when we've got the blog and Jim's book going in high places. I loved that book! He got so many things exactly right. He's a much better spokes person than O.

Dianne said...

Oh, who needs Oprah when we've got the blog and Jim's book going in high places. I loved that book! He got so many things exactly right. He's a much better spokes person than O.

H Ski said...

What a shame. This is a great story and all the people involved deserve to be highlighted for the work that has been done. All the people and dogs involved are great regardless of Oprah's opinion.

Alicia Rosen said...

So, I have never posted to a blog. But, I was so irritated to read this that I felt compelled to act. I sent an email to Oprah expressing my dismay (I sure she cares that I'm upset! LOL!) followed by emails to Ellen and Rachel Ray (both friends of Oprah's), as well as David Letterman and Kathy Griffen (not friends of Oprah's). Here's hopin' that another program may benefit from Oprah's loss! Keep smilin', Hector! You are a champion!

Diane said...

I have never been an Oprah fan but she has huge mass appeal and is incredibly influential. I hope if another opportunity comes around Hector and Jonny's folks will take it. Not to make nice with Oprah but to for the exposure.

Maureen said...

I guess magnanimously lavishing free gifts on hordes of screaming sycophants takes precedence. They are just dogs after all.

K9Trainer said...

Oprah's an idiot.

<3 and pawprints.

Anonymous said...

What did you expect from the Big O?
She's one of the most prejudice people on the planet!

I would have liked the Pit Bull community represented to her large audience to help the breed. But clearly there's other ways than her negative thinking to reach the masses of people that watch her and her show.

Shame on her, but I think we should NOT be surprised.

ST said...

Here is my letter to Oprah:

I religiously watch your show and I cannot express how very saddened and angry I am to hear about your last minute cancellation with Hector the pit bull and the Bad Rap organization, not to mention the unprofessional way the cancelation was handled and the dissapointment it caused the kids.

THIS IS AN IMPORTANT TOPIC, DOG FIGHTING IS AN EPIDEMIC AND PIT BULLS ARE NOT "BAD" DOGS. Oprah pretends she cares about making a difference yet here she could have made a significant impact and backed out, probably because of fear. So she doesn't like pit bulls huh? WAY TO BUY INTO THE MEDIA HYPE. And I thought she was different than the rest but apparently not.

I will no longer be watching her show after watching it for the last 10 YEARS. I honestly believed in what now seems to be complete lies in how she lives her life.

Joel said...

Come on now, this is at least a little bit funny.

True, it's a lost opportunity for publicity and education. And true, it will deprive me of voluntarily watching Oprah for the first time in my life.

But let's think back over the past three years. Challenges with Hector, in approximate order (and I'm sure I'm forgetting a bunch), have been:

- Not knowing if he was going to be put down by court order
- Not knowing if he was going to be put down by court order (again)
- Not knowing if he could be around humans
- Not knowing if he could be around other dogs
- Not knowing if he could be taught basic commands
- Not knowing if he could ever be placed in a home
- Not knowing if he could pass the CGC test

What's his biggest challenge today? OPRAH BACKED OUT ON HIM! Back when these dogs were first being evaulated back in 2007, imagine if someone had suggested that getting bumped from Oprah would have been an issue.

Oprah, for the 1000th straight week, I will not be watching your show. Hopefully somebody else picks up this story.

But while there is a lot of work still to do, let's let this micro-disappointment be a reminder of all the macro-success.

Jenn said...

Any chance the NFL got wind of the segment? They've put a lot of money into publicly spinning everything when it comes to Vick. He's slated to start this weekend and it wouldn't do to have a show bringing up his past. They covered the shooting at the nightclub he was involved in recently - they quickly had the media referring to it as a restaurant (you know, being open until 2am and charging a cover charge like restaurants always do). It wouldn't surprise me if they had a hand in this as well. They want this kid to succeed after all the money they've poured into him or they have a lot of egg on their face. Maybe I'm giving them too much credit. If Oprah was looking for a reason to not move forward with the show, a phone call from the NFL might have been all she needed.

Donna said...

Well ...... interesting!

I didn't figure this little bit of media gossip would hit so many nerves. Thanks for expressing such a range of feelings here.

We've dealt with a lot of media over the past few years obviously and - despite a few wonderfully decent and down to earth exceptions - overall, we've found them to be a very selfish and spoiled subset of people. So, no, it isn't surprising that a larger show like this would feel justified in squashing a story after spending untold thousands of dollars and lots of volunteer man hours on pre-show prep work. Easy come, easy go. What's crappy is that there is a sense of entitlement "We need x-number of kids to be in a library on x-date to perform with x-dog for our cameras" - and then no sense of accountability once those kids are let down.

This is after all one of the most important animal welfare stories in our history and children showed up to help tell the tale. Oprah's people should be throwing apologies and tickets to Disneyland at these kids for their time and, especially, their empathy for this little dog. But apparently Oprah & Co. couldn't get past the dog to see what the kids were trying to tell her: "Things have changed. The world's a different place now and we don't discriminate like we used to." Poor kids. I hope they don't care, but someone told them they were going to be on television with a cool little dog so how could they not.

Meanwhile - of course there are other media opps lining up and we're as picky as always. Rachael Ray will be doing a follow up on Jonny (he was on her show in 2008) - so that's up a thumbs up. Inside Edition wants to do a story on one of our adopted MV dogs - That's a big thumbs down (Too slimey tabloid-y. Bleh!).

Navigating the media with these dogs has been an adventure in and of itself! Thank god for the people who've shown integrity or else it would be a really rough road.

Anonymous said...

I noted also in my own blog, although it is disappointing that Oprah dropped the ball I am impressed by the very fact that the producers even considered doing this story.

Oprah appeals to Mrs. Middle America and it would have been quite a coup to have the Big O condone our bully babies but nevertheless, her consideration shows how all the hard work of people like Donna & Badrap, is truly changing things for the better for pit bulls.

Keep on kicking ass, Bully lovers!

Anonymous said...

Have you tried Ellen?

Frankly, Oprah is overrated. Ellen is up and coming.

Donna said...

To be honest, we haven't been trying anything ... Oprah's people sought us out ... which is the kicker, right? ... Ask us out on a date, then stand us up.

Ellen did a gig on the Vicktory dogs sometime back, so yeah - she's happening for the dogs.

J.M. said...

How about those kids tell the rest of the world about their experience with Jonny via your blog?
I`d be interested in hearing what they have to say even if Oprah doesn`t.
Class project?

Karen said...

I truly don't understand her thoughts sometimes. You would think a person who has been judged so much for being a women, black, overweight, and molested, would totally side with a dog that is discriminated against in the same manor. Boo Oprah!

who wouda thunk it?? said...

I cant stand that woman! I was just joking at work this week (after hearing she was taking her whole audience to Australia) that if I ever wound up there, it would be the day everybody got a Wonka Bar and a plastic rain hat!! At least Hector (and you guys) dont have to BRIBE people to love you!!! XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

Dianne said...

Yesterday we took in 10 dogs from a HSUS fight bust. The HSUS guy said he couldn't say much except there were 200 dogs in Ohio. When I pointed to my Hector shirt and said I'm a fan of pits, he assured me "Donna and Tim worked with us on this." At least I think that is what he said I was just stunned. So they are safe and will no doubt be pampered. One in particular you might remember a little red dog who loves jumping and was nicknamed "Pogo".

One voice counts said...

I'm with Jenn @ 5:21 pm yesterday. And --umm -- think perhaps another group in addition to NFL. Or maybe better said another group holding hands with NFL. Whatevertheflipping bleep. The good news is Karma likely not 'driving in the slow lane' on this one. Suspect news about this amazing book will now reach an even larger audience thanks to the O factor. That said, shame on you, Oprah. Pitiful.

Donna said...

Dianne - we were so very glad that WARL was willing to take so many of these dogs. Yes, we've been working on the case - although not as much as we would like due to other out-of-state obligations - but we were there and some of those Ohio dogs will be making their way to CA asap. Busy times!

Pogo = Young, silly love. Have fun with him. He'll test your patience but end up a fabulous dog once he gets settled and civilized. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I wonder if this had more to do with the fact that she would rather cancel the wonderful story about the rescue of these beautiful dogs, than to bring more media attention to dirt bag Vick and what he is really all about...I am disgusted that he has been allowed to return to football. And to think Pete Rose is banned from the baseball Hall of Fame for betting on games (never betting against his own team) Oh well, I would have probably missed the show, I am not an Oprah fan, before or after this incident.

Whitley and Tequila said...

Doesn't surprise me about Oprah...on another more important note...received my copy of The Lost Dogs yesterday and read it in one sitting all day today...with a box of kleenex I might add. So well written..all I can say is God Bless all who work in rescue and esp. all Bad Rap volunteers. If only the forgiving/loving nature these pitties show others could be said of some people. There is a reason they are called Man's Best Friend and it is a real statement on the world today that so many continue to abuse and hate them!
Hugs to all the Bully lovers who champion the cause and to the pibbles themselves..hugs and much love!!

Karin in TX

Dianne said...

Saturday pm I noticed two of the Ohio dogs were cowering in their dens, one was visibly shaking. I said something to the HSUS guy and he said they were just getting used to a new situation. On Sunday when I first checked on them, someone had put a crate in the den and one was in there. When I left in the pm, someone had raised the kuranda bed and draped a blanket over it, creating a Jasmine-style tent for them. Seems they have a very special guardian angel watching over them. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm Tracie, Ava's mom (above picture with Johnny). Ava is a dog lover through and through. She has a way with dogs that I've never seen in a child or adult for that matter. She was absolutely thrilled to be going to "read" to the dog. She doesn't really read yet and is often too worried about getting it "wrong" to try. She eagerly nestled up to Johnny and read with pride "How Do Dinosaurs Take Care of Their Dogs?" During the taping she kept inching closer and closer as other kids were reading to him. She just wanted near him.

She doesn't quite understand the whole "being on t.v." thing but was so excited she would be on t.v. just like the movies she watches. We showed her who Oprah was and told all our friends and family. She was really disappointed when we said it was canceled. And of course she didn't understand. Every so often she randomly asks, "Why did it get canceled?" I don't know what to say to her. We just say that it happens sometimes.

She loves telling people she got to read to a dog and would love to do it again. Unfortunately, we live across the bay (about 45 mins) from where Johnny reads with kids. Reading to Johnny was great for her. She wants a dog so badly, but we just can't have one right now. So, this was the next best thing. We're all really sad for Johnny and his "mom and dad." They were wonderful people and so great with the kids. It is obvious they have a passion for these dogs and want the world to know about their worth. I've been very skeptical about pits due to all the media. But, seeing Ava with Johnny and speaking with his "mom" made me see them in a whole new light. Thanks for the wonderful experience, even if Oprah did miss out on learning about this great program!

Unknown said...

Shame on you Oprah. i used to think that you were a great woman. But now you are no longer that woman i thought you were. What you did was wrong and the way you handled the cancellation was not proper. I happen to be fighting for all pits around the world. They are not the monsters that people say they are. The irresponsible owners are the monsters that do this to these beautiful dogs. You need to get to know them then you will find out that they are not a so called bad rap as society say they are. I am so sorry that Oprah feels this way. I happen to be the owner of two beautiful pits that will love and and kiss you to death. I also have many pit bull friends that are beautiful, loyal and sweet dogs. So Oprah, It is your loss. God Bless the family of Jonny. You keep up the good work and never mind Oprah. It is her loss not yours. He is gorgous, You rock Jonny. And Ava I love you picture with jonny. You have a good heart.

Crystal said...

As a journalist AND a pit bull lover, I have to say, Oprah is NOT "the media." Unless, by media, you also broadly lump in TV personalities and pundits. I am tired of the myth about the media being biased and sensationalistic about pit bulls. I hate it just as much as I hate the myth that pits are mean, aggressive dogs. There are good journalists out there, just like there are good pits!

Anonymous said...

This is a real bummer, as we all know when Oprah declares something, the world listens. People live and die by her word, this would have been a big deal.

I've gotten pretty pissed at her show before, once Justin Timberlake was on and talked about his dogs, and mentioned he has a pitbull. Oprah's friend Gail asked, "Aren't you afraid she'll turn on you??!" And he was just kind of like, "no..." But didn't really go on, and nobody else said anything about it. It really really enraged me that horrible misinfo can just be tossed about on air like that. For shame Harpo!!!

Diane; The Dog Diva said...

Well I have never seen an Oprah show, and looks like I neve will!

One voice counts said...

Wee early hours today remembered something one of your two-legged friends said a long time ago. Just go back to the dogs. Think finally --I understand. We here in the deep cotton South love you. You and all the others who stopped being ID numbers and became beings with names and stories because two beri beri cool middle aged men would not stop fighting for justice. And because one beri beri passionate lady would not stop sending her nine page proposal. Great Spirit was watching over all of you when he sent the man who gave voice and lightening poetry and keening music and redemption to you all with his words. Love, Samantha

Anonymous said...

Oprah is ok to talk to child molesters on her show about how they seduce the child, how everything took place, but not ok with showing dog fighting (which by the way, if willing, the videos can be need to actually show it). It tells a lot what Oprah chooses suitable to talk about, the importance of the matter, maybe perhaps what is more gruesome in her opinion...However, the sad truth is that her friend (the lady that she does a show once in awhile, Gaile I think is her name) actually said straight forward during one of the shows that she does not like pit bulls and Oprah did not comment/educate on that at all. So I have a feeling that the all of it was only because so many people feel passionate about the breed, and most importantly dog fighting is getting lots of media attention after Vick's case. She just wanted the piece of it all, and maybe did not like what she found after the research was done - that is, how great the bullies are!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm....Gayle doesn't like pit bulls? I don't like people that have to ride their friends coat tails because they have no life of their own. Wait, isn't that exactly what Vick's boys were doing?

Shut up Gayle, your opinion means even less to me than Oprah's. Not all of us Mrs. Middleclass America's have drank the Oprah kool-aid!

The Lost Dogs is an amazing read! Well done everyone involved. You are angels on earth.

CJ said...

The Irony of Hector's life of late. Amazing to say the very least.
Boo Oprah BUT I do think that the story ought to still be done on a Harpo productions show. Rachel Ray ought to do it. She has a pit bull. She ought to be helping to spread the good word. She ought to be more than willing to spread the good word.
She is a bleeding heart, who loves her pit bull like a child with a HUGE audience.
She gets my vote!

melf said...

Deeply disappointed to see that Oprah has decided not to give equal time to the victims of Michael Vick's abuse.

Agree with Debbie Jacobs. You guys do good work. Even if Oprah does not recognize it, the rest of us do!

bullylover said...

BOOOOO Oprah! You are just like society and believe all the BS that's told about pit bulls and are usually wrong! I can't say enough how much i think YOU SUCK OPRAH! Shame on you and your crew. You should try to learn something instead of believing all the BS and hype seen/heard in the news. Wow, im really pissed off at you and your ppl.

JP's DoG House Chews said...

I have never been an avid "watcher" of Oprah but have caught a few programs. Frankly, I'm glad she is done with it. I think her shows became less interesting as she tried to put herself in the seat of what I think goes! Now her lack of compassion for a cause that deserves everyones attention leaves me "cold". Her last show can't come soon enough for me!

Wyatt said...

It's very unfortunate, that the dogs and their rescuers, did not get the chance to tell their story on Oprah. She really missed the mark on this one.

Wyatt and Stanzie

We are off to send Oprah a note now.

Social Mange said...

The Oprah show was totally lacking in grace and class, handling this so badly. I personally don't watch her, she's a shining example of "famous for being famous".