Harpo Studios generates 130-plus hours of original programming for OWN, and Wishom is behind many of the network’s most popular programs including “Oprah Prime” and “Wanda Sykes Presents Herlarious.” “When it comes to what we’re putting on television, diversity is resisting the urge to give in to the stereotypes and digging below the surface to present a range of experiences, relationships emotions and values,” she says. “Finding a way to tell a great story that mirrors our complicated, non-stereotypical lives.”
What’s the definition of diversity in 2014, and how can the cable industry do better in the area of inclusiveness?
When it comes to what we’re putting on television, diversity is resisting the urge to give in to the stereotypes and digging below the surface to present a range of experiences, relationships emotions and values. Finding a way to tell a great story that mirrors our complicated, non-stereotypical lives. Cable is a very niched business, so it’s easier to just keep doing what’s working, whether it’s diverse or inclusive seems secondary. What most people don’t understand is that diversity takes work, it doesn’t happen naturally – not many people are sitting around going how can we be more diverse? We all have busy busy jobs to do. However, the future of cable depends on our ability to do that – otherwise we’re being irresponsible.
Who has been your strongest mentor, and why?
That’s easy. I’ve worked for Oprah for more than 20 years. Imagine growing up in your 20’s and 30’s and having Oprah as your boss? I always say I am very much “myself” here at Harpo, I’m not a different person at home than at work, and that’s because I’ve grown up being led by a woman who took interest early on in what I thought, how I felt, and wanted my creative input. Career lottery for sure.
What qualities do you look for when making a new hire?
Energy and Outlook. The skills usually gets them in the room, the industry changes all the time…I obviously want to know someone can handle an unpredictable workload and worklife. So then it’s really about how they view life…how they’ve handled challenges, and what type of collaborator they want to be. Are they subdued or a delight to be around? It really does make a difference. You should be unforgettable, and that doesn’t mean being overly positive –it just means they have a calm, confident positive outlook.