'What is an Oprah?'
Oprah’s first job was as a news anchor for Nashville’s WLAC-TV in 1974. Even at 20 years old she was setting trends: she was the first female news anchor at the channel, and the first female African American anchor.
Two years later, Oprah moved to Balitmore and worked as co-anchor of WJZ’s newscast with Jerry Turner. It was a rather high position for a 22-year-old, but the network ran an ad campaign promoting their new anchorwoman. To build her up, the station decided to have fun with Oprah’s unusual name.
As she told the Baltimore Sun: “I was on the back of buses. I was on billboard. That was the promo on WJZ: 'What is an Oprah?' — done to the tune from 'A Chorus Line.' And [on-camera] people would say things like, 'I don't know. Did you say Opree? Did you say Opry? Did you say Opra? Did you say Opera?' And what happened is that when I arrived, people were expecting this big something. The buildup was so strong. And I'm just a colored girl with a lot of hair sitting next to Jerry Turner, and everybody's like, 'Whaaaaaaaaattttt? That's what an Oprah is? She's not all that?' I could not live up to the hype.’"
Oprah was making $22,000 a year — about $95,000 in today’s money. It was a lot of money, but she wouldn’t get to see all of it.
April Fools, You’re Fired! No, Seriously, Oprah, You’re Fired.
According to Oprah, Turner didn’t want to work with an inexperienced 22-year-old girl from Tennessee. It didn’t help that Turner was a beloved veteran anchor and had a lot of sway. About eight months later, on April 1, 1977, she was fired from her position.
“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,’” she told the Baltimore Sun.
Essentially, she was fired from her high-ranking position and put in a faceless voice-over gig.
But it worked out for the best.