Opinion

Murray Bishoff: Monett portrayed well on television

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Monett has been very fortunate with its image in the national media as shaped in documentaries. ABC's "Extreme Weight Loss" program airing this week provided an exceptionally positive picture.

Bishoff

Trainer Chris Powell focused in on the slogan "Pride and Progress" on his first meeting with show subjects Raymond and Robert Delgado. The photos of Monett in the TV show pictured some of the seedier parts of town, but then, the twins had a heartbreaking story to share. The Monett Area YMCA was introduced as the "community center," not surprising since private businesses don't get free promotion on these shows. However, the YMCA looked great in the rally for the twins. It's easy to tell a town that can afford such a facility isn't covered with cobwebs.

The production company handling "Extreme Weight Loss" initially proved very hard to work with, banning photographs at the send-off rally and putting all photos taken under wraps. We anticipated great difficulty in providing any follow-up stories, but publicist Jason Tolbert of Babygrande PR proved to be a dream to work with.

Looking at the show, it became apparent the reluctance to share information ran a bit deeper than simply trying to keep an exclusive story. Unlike a competition, where it doesn't matter how well a person does -- pounds are pounds, after all -- "Extreme Weight Loss" is more like a life-or-death deal. There's no guarantee of success. In fact, with the twins, there was double the chance of failure. The show's producers may have wanted an escape valve, as well as protecting the surprise at the show's end. Frankly, it would have been awful for The Monett Times to provide an advance splash for an experience that ended badly for either participant. Coming in at the end, seeing how solid the twins had become, left no reservations on providing a human interest follow-up.

Monett also came off well in the 2012 "Homeland" documentary, prepared by the nineNetwork of Public Media, the St. Louis public TV station. When the big picture of the community comes through, Monett shines. The community looked inviting in "Homeland," providing opportunities and crowning its first Hispanic homecoming queen. No tweaking was necessary. Monett looked much like it is.

The same can't be said for the two photographers from National Geographic who visited Monett in 1987. The photographers came to The Monett Times and asked to use the office darkroom for a week. Seldom seeing a delegation from a national organization, The Times' management eagerly agreed. These photographers, I'm told, took on a rather high-handed manner, providing no small inconvenience to those who were trying to put out a paper every day. No one was sorry to see them go. Then, when the magazine published the pictorial spread, the photo labeled "Monett, Missouri" was not even taken in town, but in a nondescript country setting, with two teens drinking on the hood of a vehicle in front of a shabby billboard with overgrown foliage all around. Hardly a portrayal of Monett. The Times' staff was livid over that treatment, and the choice of photo. Some vowed no outside media would ever receive their hospitality again.

All they wanted was for Monett to speak for itself. That's what we got in "Homeland" and "Extreme Weight Loss." The Delgado brothers showed themselves as remarkable men, prepared to overcome enormous obstacles.

We're proud to have them represent the community as an example of "Pride and Progress."

Murray Bishoff has served readers of The Monett Times since 1988. He can be reached at times-news@monett-times.com, or 417-235-3135.

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