Mark Bieganski: April 2009 Archives

Someone's having an "aha moment," but is it Oprah Winfrey or the company that's trying to use the media mogul's famous catch phrase?

Winfrey isn't happy her famous phrase -- heard on almost every media platform she dominates -- is being used in a new promotional campaign for the Mutual of Omaha Bank, so she slapped the company with a cease and desist letter claiming she owns the rights for the famous phrase.

Not so fast, says the company, who then filed a lawsuit against Winfrey saying she abandoned any rights she may have to the phrase by failing to "police the alleged mark" when other businesses used it in advance.

According to TMZ , the suit was filed in a federal court in Nebraska on April 22 and lawyers have requested the judge allow the bank to continue with its promotional campaign.

"Harpo has not filed a lawsuit or counterclaim against Mutual of Omaha. We hope to reach an amicable resolution on this issue," a Winfrey rep told TMZ.

A sit-down interview with the grandparents of murdered two-year-old Caylee Anthony and Oprah Winfrey isn't going to happen as planned.

George and Cindy Anthony were slated to head to Chicago to talk with Winfrey in what was being plugged as one of three exclusive TV interviews Winfrey scored for the month of May.

However, after the Anthonys agreed to do a sit down with "The Early Show" on CBS, Winfrey's reps pulled the interview.

"Based on the Anthonys' decision to appear on other programs, we have decided not to move forward with their interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show at this time," a statement from Winfrey's show said.

The interview on Winfrey's show would have been the first time the Anthony's had been interviewed since their granddaughter's remains were found.


Oprah Winfrey has canceled an episode of her talk show that was to mark the 10th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, saying it focused too much on the killers.

The episode titled "10 Years Later: The Truth about Columbine" was to air Monday, the anniversary of the massacre in Littleton, Colo., that killed 12 students and a teacher.

Winfrey posted a message Monday morning on her Facebook page, saying that after she reviewed the taped show she decided to pull it because of its focus on the two gunmen.

She urged viewers to keep the Columbine community in their thoughts.

Winfrey said she would air a program about a mother released from prison in place of the Columbine piece. Her company Harpo Productions confirmed the announcement.

It's one of the first wars of its kind. But in the end, Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher beat out CNN in a battle to gain over one million followers on Twitter.

Kutcher told talk show host Oprah Winfrey on Friday that "there are giant things you can do on this platform at 140 characters at a time."

Winfrey -- who used Friday's live broadcast to send out her first tweet "HI TWITTERS . THANK YOU FOR A WARM WELCOME. FEELING REALLY 21st CENTURY ." -- admitted she doesn't really know what Twitter is -- but spent most of her show responding to messages she received.

Before Winfrey's first tweet, she already had over 75,000 people following @oprah on Twitter.

"Now I've joined Twitter. Here's my first -- it's called a Tweet? I'm stepping into the Twitterverse!" Winfrey said. "It's too cool. I'm still not sure I really get it. I left my building today and my doorman said I hear you're Tweeting today."

Winfrey received tweets from George Stephanopoulos, Jimmy Fallon, Shaquille O'Neal and Ellen DeGeneres, who tweeted, "Oprah Winfrey, what are you doing on here? Shouldn't you be working on our cover?"

Kutcher, or @aplusk on Twitter, had nearly 2,000 followers more than CNN when he reached the million milestone earlier this morning.

"We found out that CNN was on TV and Anderson Cooper was going off on how CNN has to win this thing, so we decided to go live on the Web (to gain support," Kutcher said.

"I didn't necessarily say I want a million people following. What I thought was really interesting was that in some ways this is a commentary on the state of media." Kutcher said. "You -- through your own stream -- can actually have your own voice as loud as a media network. I thought that it was kind of like an uprising of the Internet."

Kutcher waged war earlier this week after noticing that he had nearly as many followers on Twitter account as CNN.

If he won, Kutcher said he would donate 10,000 mosquito nets to stop the spread of Malaria and ding-dong ditch CNN's honcho Ted Turner's house.

During Friday's show, Winfrey pledged $200,000 to buy 20,000 mosquito nets.


If there's anyone who can have almost 69,000 followers on Twitter (as of Friday morning) without a single tweet, you bet it's Oprah Winfrey.

But those caught up in the Twittersphere won't have to wait much longer.

The queen of daytime -- who's already established quite the following on Twitter via @oprah -- will tweet for the first time tomorrow during her live Friday broadcast.

No word yet on whether Winfrey herself will be the one updating her Twitter badge from then on out.

Ashton Kutcher -- who recently challenged CNN to see who'd be the first to get 1 million followers on Twitter -- also will appear on the show.

Happy Monday, everybody! Hilarious.


Oprah Winfrey acknowledged in a newspaper interview published Saturday that she has made several mistakes at her elite South African school, but said she remains proud of its success.

The recent expulsion of four girls and suspension of three others was the second scandal to hit the Leadership Academy for Girls, which opened in 2007 to groom bright children from deprived backgrounds for a brilliant career. A dorm matron is currently on trial accused of abuse and sexual assault.

"I have made several mistakes and one of them was being overprotective of the girls, which has led to an impression that the school is isolating them from society," Winfrey was quoted as saying in the Weekend Argus.

She said she had also underestimated the extent of homesickness among girls at the boarding school.

Last month, four students were expelled and three others suspended. South African media at the time said they were accused of trying to force students into relationships and to engage in sexual contact.

Winfrey herself hasn't given details of the misconduct. But she said in the newspaper interview that it was "insulting" that the family of one of the expelled girls had complained to the press even though she had been warned before about her behavior.

"Those girls in their own testimony during the (disciplinary) hearing said they knew they were breaking the rules and that they deliberately broke the rules," the talk show queen was quoted as saying.

The institution just outside Johannesburg opened with a blaze of publicity in January 2007 with about 150 girls in 7th and 8th grades. The Academy is expected to grow by one grade each year until it reaches full capacity in 2011, with approximately 450 girls in grades 7 through 12.

Winfrey poured $40 million into the 28-building campus, which is spread across 22 lush acres. It has computer and science labs, a library, theater and wellness center, all protected by strict privacy. Each girl lives in a two-bedroom suite -- a far cry from their humble surroundings at home.

It's the fulfillment of a promise Winfrey made to former South African President Nelson Mandela and aims to give poor girls a quality education and prepare them for leadership positions in a country where state schools are struggling to overcome the legacy of white-minority rule.

"The majority of girls are thriving, really fulfilling the dream and vision I had," Winfrey told the newspaper. "They really have exceeded any expectations I had for them."

"In spite of everything that's happened, what keeps me inspired and hopeful is the heart of every girl, because they are wonderful, they are magnificent."

Last week, a rep for Oprah Winfrey told me that her once sick pup -- Sadie -- was back in business. Take a look a new video shot in Winfrey's office and making an appearance is Sadie herself, looking cuter than ever.

But what's up with a bear on the show? Take a look ...

Think you're getting $1 million from Oprah Winfrey? Not so, says the FBI.

The FBI issued a warning today that an "Oprah Millionaire Contest Show" e-mail is merely nothing more than a scam.

In the e-mail, the recipient is told they'll appear on an episode of Winfrey's talk show where $1 million will be given away.

Recipients are told they must purchase a transportation ticket to Chicago and pay to get into the show -- and must send the money to the sender.

Harpo put out a statement on its Web site saying the company and the show "are not sponsors nor do we have any involvement whatsoever with this e-mail solicitation."

Individuals who receive such unauthorized e-mails are encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI at

The statement also reminds viewers that show tickets are free and should never be paid for.

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter

Oprah Winfrey stole the show at Monday night's Olympic gala, and her star power to persuade International Olympic Committee members cannot be overstated, Mayor Daley said today.

"She steals the show any time, to be very frank," Daley said. "She talked to all the delegates. She talked to everybody there. She was very open and friendly about Chicago.

"She told a great story [about] when she came here in '83, how she came off the plane and just fell in love with the city, signed a contract with Dennis Swanson from Channel 7. She's always loved the city. She's an individual you admire because from whence she came. She's been very, very successful, and she gives back into the community. She has a huge impact on the world on many, many issues -- more than anyone else." Daley said Winfrey took pictures with a number of people at the dinner in the Art Institute's new wing, but she wasn't alone in making the city's pitch.

"We had people at every table [who] talked about Chicago with each IOC member," Daley said. "There's a great 'I Will' spirit that we have right here. You could see it last night. And you could see it all during the weekend .People really want the Olympic and Paralympics to come to Chicago in 2016." The biggest-ticket item in Chicago's $4.8 billion Olympic plan is the $976 million Olympic Village that would be built on the campus of Michael Reese Hospital, with help from a tax-increment-financing subsidy that City Hall has yet to quantify.

Daley sought to ease concerns about developer financing.

"The village is gonna be built whether we have the Olympics or not," the mayor said. "You have to understand that We have mentioned that a hundred times. That's very, very important both for affordable housing and market-rate housing at Michael Reese."

"And the amenities are huge for us in regards to federal money dealing with public transportation, security, technology and other infrastructure After that, we think we have a very good guarantee. We think we can deal with any issue confronting us." Among the four 2016 Olympic finalist cities, Chicago is the only one that hasn't given a blanket guarantee against Olympic losses. Instead, the games here would be bankrolled by private donations, with a safety net including insurance and backup guarantees from the city and state.

It's been 25 years since the IOC has awarded the Olympics to a city whose bid did not include a blanket guarantee. But Daley made no apologies for the lack of one.

"Across the world, the national government is everything," Daley said. "They don't have cities like ours. They don't have states like ours. They don't.

They have no power. The power rests in America in communities like ours and states. That's where the power is. It doesn't only rest in Washington Other countries don't have that balance of power." With layoffs mounting, the mayor was asked whether he's concerned about Chicago 2016's ability to squeeze contributions out of financially strapped corporations here.

By then, Daley said, "We hope we're gonna be out of this recession. It's gonna take a little longer than anybody expected. But 2016 is quite far off as compared to, unfortunately, London has 2012 and Vancouver has 2012."

Can Oprah Winfrey seal Chicago's Olympic deal?

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BY LISA DONOVAN Staff Reporter

Strolling into an Olympic gala at the Art Institute of Chicago on Monday night, Oprah Winfrey said she was there to do what she does best: chat.

The talk-show queen was about to talk up Chicago to the 13-member Olympic evaluation team, which is in town to assess Chicago's pitch for the 2016 Summer Games.

"What I'm hoping is we can have a real, honest conversation about how great this city is and the possibilities it will bring not only for the citizens of Chicago, but the citizens of the world," Winfrey said.

A red carpet was rolled out for Winfrey and other luminaries at a Columbus Drive entrance. Winfrey was greeted by a crush of reporters and more than 30 protesters chanting: "Hey Oprah can't you see, we don't want the IOC," referring to the International Olympic Committee's evaluation team.

"It's huge, it's enormous, I don't know what they're complaining about," said Winfrey before heading into a night of lobbying, entertainment by Buddy Guy and Koko Taylor and a dinner by award-winning Spiaggia chef Tony Mantuano.

"It's only going to be good for everybody," she said of the possibility of bringing the Games to Chicago.

Along with about 100 other guests, Chicagoan Valerie Jarrett, President Obama's senior adviser, attended the gala hours after she met with the evaluation team.

She pledged to create a White House office to help coordinate security -- typically overseen by the federal government of any country hosting the Games, if Chicago wins the 2016 bid.

Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro also are finalists.

"President Obama's philosophy is one of embracing the Olympic movement," she told reporters.

Monday was day three of the Olympic delegation's closed-door sessions with the Chicago 2016 bid team, Mayor Daley and others. They toured the city on Sunday.

The evaluation team is assessing everything from proposed sporting venues to the city's transportation system.

The delegation will then report back to the full 107-member IOC, which will announce the selection in October.

The White House also promised to pave they way for global competitors and fans to enter this country for the Olympic games.

In a recorded message to the evaluation team, native Chicagoan and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: "If the city is selected, all the members of the Olympic family will gain entry into the country in a streamlined and expedited process."

The 2016 bid team also laid out its $4.8 billion financial plan for the Games.

The cost includes a $976 million price tag for an Olympic Village south of McCormick Place, which officials say developers will finance.

Officials anticipate $3.8 billion in revenues.

Chicago organizers want to fund the games with private donations, but they have created a financial safety net that includes a $450 million "rainy day fund"; as much as $375 million in IOC cancellation insurance; an additional $500 million in insurance coverage, and a "last-resort" $500 million guarantee of taxpayer money from the city of Chicago.

The state also has set up a guarantee of $250 million.

Asked about cost overruns for other Olympic games, Lori Healey, president of Chicago 2016 told reporters: "We are convinced we will deliver the games on budget, and that we have proven safeguards in our financial plan to protect the IOC as well as the taxpayers of the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois."

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey enters the Art Institute of Chicago for a dinner in honor of the International Olympic Committee's Evaluation Committee Monday night. Sun-Times, AP photos





BY DAREL JEVENS Staff Reporter

On her new cable channel, Oprah Winfrey is giving shows to two regulars on her daytime talker: the guy who helps you get things organized and the woman who helps you get it on.

The TV queen on Thursday unveiled the lineup for OWN: the Oprah Winfrey Network, the cable channel she'll launch next year. It will replace Discovery Health.

Among its offerings:

Dr. Laura Berman, the sex therapist and former Sun-Times columnist, hosting a Chicago-based talk show.

• De-clutter expert Peter Walsh cleaning up people's messy lives with his own team of specialists.

• "Excellent Adventure," following a celebrity and his or her best friend (hello, Gayle King!) as they share an unforgettable experience.

• A series of investigative reports by Lisa Ling, another "Oprah Winfrey Show" regular.

• A whole show profiling people Winfrey admires.

• A documentary series following former competitive surfer Izzy Paskowitz and his family.

There also will be movies and reruns of other channels' shows. A Web site, My, is up and running.

Seven students have been punished for violating the code of conduct at Oprah Winfrey's school for disadvantaged girls in South Africa, the second controversy to hit the fledgling institution since it opened in 2007.

Winfrey representative Don Halcombe said Wednesday that four students were expelled and three were suspended last week from her Leadership Academy for Girls outside Johannesburg.

Halcombe declined to say what led to the violations because there are minors involved. Lisa Halliday, a spokeswoman for the academy's foundation, said it was a confidential school matter and would not "confirm any personal information or disclose any details related to these expulsions."

South African media have reported that the seven girls were accused of trying to force students into relationships and to engage in sexual contact.

"I'm disappointed that several of our students chose to disregard the school's rules," Winfrey said in a statement issued by her production company HARPO. "It's disheartening when any student has to be suspended or expelled and it's a process that involves serious review and consideration. We will not tolerate a violation of school policy and dishonesty."

This isn't the first time events at the elite girls school have upset Winfrey. The talk-show queen said she was devastated after a woman overseeing a dormitory at the academy was accused of abuse and sexual assault months after the school opened. The woman's trial has not yet ended.

The institution opened in January 2007 with about 150 girls in 7th and 8th grades. The Academy is expected to grow by one grade each year until it reaches full capacity in 2011, with approximately 450 girls in grades 7 through 12.

Winfrey poured $40 million into the 28-building campus, which is spread across 22 lush acres. It has computer and science labs, and a library, theater and wellness center. Each girl lives in a two-bedroom suite.

It's the fulfillment of a promise she made to former South African President Nelson Mandela and aims to give poor girls a quality education and prepare them for leadership positions in a country where schools are struggling to overcome the legacy of white-minority rule.


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About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Mark Bieganski in April 2009.

Mark Bieganski: March 2009 is the previous archive.

Mark Bieganski: May 2009 is the next archive.

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