Good Media Neighbors


Bonnie Hunt InterviewIn this interconnected world I do believe we are all neighbors to each other no matter where we are. But there are different categories of neighbors, like next-door neighbors, corporate neighbors, and even media neighbors.

One of the original and ultimate media neighbors is Mister Rogers, who I mentioned in the first post to this blog. Some people might not know that Fred Rogers was actually a Presbyterian minister. As a young seminarian in the 1950s, he saw the potential benefit television could have for American children. When he was ordained, it was not to a specific church, but to the ministry of children’s television.

Since then there have been many examples of people and organizations who have set out to help society through the power of television. From time to time I plan on highlighting current examples of media good neighbors, but to start off, I’m highlighting a television personality whose show was recently cancelled, Bonnie Hunt.

If you never saw Hunt’s daytime talk show (which you probably didn’t since it never did achieve high ratings), you missed a gem. For two years until May, 2010, it was a fun blend of entertainment and information, all presented with Hunt’s quick wit and charm. There were comedy bits, interviews with the famous and not-so-famous, audience participation, cooking and how-to segments, musicians, stand-up comedians, and even regular contributions from her mom, Alice, via satellite from Hunt’s hometown of Chicago. It reminded me in some ways of the daytime shows I grew up watching, like Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin and Dinah Shore.

Throughout the two-year run of the show, Hunt was always aware of the power she had to promote causes. As a former nurse, one of Hunt’s main interests is in fund raising for cancer research. During the first season of the show she gave guests a chance to raise money with the carnival game of “Ring the Bell,” with each successful strike bringing more donations. Through Ebay she operated “Bonnie’s Basement,” where anyone could buy items celebrities had signed and brought to the show.

An avid dog lover, she regularly featured a segment with dogs and cats needing to be adopted. Many of her own staff adopted some of the pets, but viewers around the country also responded by adopting the animals.

She often invited guests to come on the show who few knew, but who were doing extraordinary volunteer work, or who were raising money for worthy causes.

In the last few months of the show, Hunt promoted “New Lungs for Chuck,” after interacting with an audience member, Chuck Campbell and his family. Campbell, 46, suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and needs a lung transplant to survive. Friends of Campbell’s organized a raffle, offering a home in Florida and a high-end car as prizes. The raffle was possibly going to fall short of the goal of raising the $1 million needed for the transplant, until Hunt began talking it up on her show. Toward the end of the raffle, an anonymous donor stepped in (Hunt herself?) and said he or she would provide whatever monies the raffle did not raise. One day on the show Hunt got philosophic, wondering if the reason for her show, though short-lived, was to help just such a person as Campbell.

Although the show did not resonate with more viewers, it was a positive, uplifting corner of the daytime media neighborhood.