Sally Lou Loveman, Director of Audience Services for Harpo Studios and former Audience Producer for the Oprah Winfrey Show, shares her experiences as a television professional working for WTTW/PBS Chicago and now for the OWN-TV Network.
Sally Lou’s mother took her to the syndicated, “Mike Douglas Talk Show,” shot and produced in her hometown of Philadelphia. It was that experience as a fourteen-year-old-girl that solidified for Sally Lou, her desire to “be like the young production assistant on the show that had a clipboard.” Sally Lou, at the time, didn’t know what the lady with the clipboard actually did; she just knew that she loved the entire experience of seeing a TV show with a live audience and had to get into the business.
While in college, Sally Lou heard of the prestigious (paid) Irving Harris Internship opportunity at WTTW and immediately applied. WTTW, the PBS station in Chicago had a reputation for producing national programming for PBS. Irving Harris (of Harris Bank in Chicago) provided the funding for WTTW to hire two interns every year with an annual salary that paid relatively well for an entry-level position. WTTW literally received hundreds of resumes, so the fact that Sally Lou got an interview and the job is a tribute to her qualifications and putting her best foot forward in the selection process.
The internship at WTTW turned in to a staff position that allowed Sally Lou to learn a great deal about television production. While at WTTW, Sally Lou, heard that ABC7 Chicago, the producing station of the Oprah Winfrey Show was going to go “national.” She inquired about possible job opportunities and interviewed for a position that she was sure she was going to get. However, Oprah and the producers selected someone else.
Sally Lou continued at WTTW and got a chance to work on a national documentary that featured Hollywood on-location interviews with movie stars, Mickey Rooney, Dorothy Lamour and Bob Hope in their homes. It was a terrific learning experience for Sally Lou.
About a year later, Sally Lou got a call from one of the Oprah producers and this time she got the job and the clipboard to go with it. Sally Lou worked her way up at Harpo Studios and eventually became Director of Audience Services for Harpo Studios and the OWNT-TV network. Audience Services has the task of making sure the seats are filled – which was no easy task when the show started. The final show on May 25, 2011, originated from the United Center and had an audience of thousands. As Director of Audience Services, Sally Lou had to entertain the audience and prepare them for the topic that was to be discussed for the show. This was easy for shows that are so memorable, like the time Oprah gave each audience member a car and challenging (but rewarding) when the topic was serious (such as a show about pedophiles preying on children).
Sally Lou shared with the students how rewarding her career has been and advised them to never accept a label that someone might put on them. Had she accepted such a label for being “shy and reserved,” she never would have aspired to become a person who went on to entertain and address over 250,000 audience members who attended the Oprah Winfrey Show. .
The Illinois Center for Broadcasting thanks Ms. Sally Lou Loveman for graciously giving of her time to meet with our students.