Oprah’s exit isn’t cause for panic

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What will weekdays. be like without Oprah? How will we know which books to read? Will we be forced to choose our own favorite things, with no guidance?

Never fear. Oprah Winfrey, who announced Friday that she will end her daytime talk show when her contract expires in the fall of 2011, isn’t likely to be absent from the air for long. She’s starting a cable network in partnership with Discovery, and the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) will make its debut in January 2011. So it will already be up and running when Winfrey is free to devote full time to it, and she’s widely expected to have a daily show there. In addition, OWN is expected to air 25 years of Oprah shows in repeats.

Winfrey has been a daytime talk fixture since 1986, meaning that she’ll exit on her 25th anniversary. She became a phenomenon when she eschewed sleaze when everybody else was doing sleaze and instead devoted her show to informative, upbeat and/or uplifting topics.

Stations will have more than a year to decide what will replace Oprah. In many TV markets, Ellen DeGeneres may move into the late-afternoon slot leading into local newscasts.

Social networking site Twitter was abuzz late Thursday with the news. Best tweets about Oprah:

— Caseywright: Oprah retiring in 2011? The Mayans were off by one year.

— Rcatlin: Time for Gayle to step up.

— Franklinavenue: Losing “The Oprah Winfrey Show” — bigger blow to Chicago than losing the Olympics. Tough year for our pals in the Windy City.

Thesurfreport: Am I a defective human being because I don’t care about Oprah?

(c) 2009, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.