Oprah Winfrey delivered an oh-no moment on Friday, choking up as she told her audience that after a quarter-century on “the yellow brick road of blessings that led me to you,” she would shut down “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in September 2011.
It’s a measure of her outsize stature that the news buckled the media world: Ms. Winfrey isn’t leaving soon or going very far — by 2011 her new cable venture, OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, should be up and running.
But there was a sense of mourning as soon as the news came on Thursday. And it takes so long to list everything that Oprah Winfrey has done (the talk show, the book club, the Oscar nomination, the magazine, the philanthropy, the Obama campaign, those road trips with Gayle) that it is sometimes difficult to keep track of what she hasn’t done.
This isn’t the first time Ms. Winfrey has closed a venture while it was still thriving. She became a star and a billionaire media tycoon by saying yes to opportunity, but part of her talent lies in her willingness to say no.
Ms. Winfrey told her audience on Friday that she felt it in her “bones” and in her “spirit” that she should pull the plug on her syndicated talk show. Or, as she put it, “This show has been my life, and I love it enough to know when it’s time to say goodbye.”
It’s also possible she knew from experience that running a cable network is not a part-time job. She championed and invested in Oxygen, a high-minded cable network for women that offered documentaries, inspirational talk and soothing yoga. That didn’t quite pan out.
Ms. Winfrey went on to create O, the Oprah Magazine with Hearst. In the meantime Oxygen, which was bought by NBC Universal in 2007, found its way on the low road with shows like “Tori &Dean” and “Dance Your Ass Off.”
Ms. Winfrey blends the mystical and the practical — she said she would leave at the end of her 25th season for the numerical vibe. (“It’s the perfect number, the exact right time,” she said on Friday’s show.) It is also the exact time her contract with CBS, which owns the syndication rights to her show, expires.
She found success by seamlessly mixing philanthropy with crass materialism (car giveaways), lurid exploitation with good deeds.
After all that, Ms. Winfrey closed with a teary valedictory farewell and also promised viewers that over the next months her show would “knock your socks off.”
It was the ultimate Oprah moment. She announced that she was leaving and urged her fans to stay.