Category Archives: Television

The Today Show President

If Donald Trump becomes POTUS you can give The Today Show a lot of credit, or blame, for it. If you turned on the show on any given week over the last year, roughly the amount of time since Trump announced his candidacy, you almost certainly saw a segment with him being interviewed, discussed or profiled. Of course he’s gotten a lot of play from other networks as well, but The Today Show has ridden him like the ratings pony he is and as a result he’s gotten enough free media attention to negate any fundraising or operational advantage that the more traditional candidates enjoyed.

Interestingly, an article in today’s Wall Street Journal points out that a tactic Trump employed in the 90s to save his businesses has morphed into a winning campaign strategy. From the article:

His success at creating a luxury brand stemmed from building his own celebrity as much as Trump Tower’s fine marble. With Ivana, a former model, by his side, he flaunted his flashy lifestyle and surrounded himself with the rich and famous…

Mr. Trump acknowledged his business was “overleveraged” but blamed falling property values for his financial woes. By then, the U.S. economy was in a tailspin and Mr. Trump couldn’t make debt payments…

Mr. Trump didn’t repay his personal debts to the bank group until 1995. But he proclaimed his comeback as early as 1992 to the media. That year, he told New Jersey gaming regulators his net worth was $437 million to $1.6 billion.

His new business model: He could do deals without taking on more debt by selling his brand and marketing skills.

It was a more conservative strategy that foreshadowed a bare-bones primary campaign relying more on free publicity than fundraising and staff. “Having built a great name and a great reputation and a great brand I guess was good,” Mr. Trump said. “And I get very high ratings…That’s a tremendous advantage. No politician ever had that.”

So there you have it. Trump may seem to be a blustering buffoon, but if nothing else he’s proven the value of a brand and he’s literally taking it to the bank. And to TV, which is where The Today Show comes in.

This morning (July 21, 2016) the show ran a segment about how many times Trump has appeared on the show since the early 80s. It was meant as a lighthearted affair, with comments about how much Matt Lauer’s hair had changed while Trump’s hadn’t, but it inadvertently drove home the point that, to date, the show has had as much to do with Trump’s campaign success as anything else. It also can’t be a coincidence that it’s the flagship show of the network that aired Trump’s greatest branding coup, aka The Apprentice.

While it’s not The Today Show’s job to play gatekeeper of the presidency – after all, this is a show that will transition from a serious news story directly to a segment about celebrity hairstyles – it is one of the most watched shows in the country on a daily basis so it provides a seriously influential platform to anyone who appears. You take away Trump’s appearances on the show over the last year and I’m willing to bet his vote count would have been cut by 10% or more. That’s a BHAG (big hairy as guess) on my part, but I’m sure the number would be significant.

What does this mean for the country? In the short term, it means we have the weirdest race for POTUS in modern history. In the long term, not much. There just aren’t the many orange-haired narcissists who have a personal brand they can utilize at a unique point in history when an angry electorate has on the kind of beer goggles that make that kinda guy look attractive.

International Flocculent Society

You may have heard about the Rob Lowe commercial for DirecTV in which “cool” Rob Lowe is a DirecTV subscriber and “painfully awkward” Rob Lowe is a cable subscriber. You may have also heard that the folks at the International Paruresis Association aren’t too happy that the commercials take aim at painfully awkward Lowe’s shy bladder issues. To them it’s okay to have a little fun with shy bladder syndrome, but they don’t like the idea of sufferers being equated to losers.

I was thinking of this when I saw the Crazy Hairy Rob Lowe commercial. Same format, but instead of being painfully awkward the cable TV Lowe is ridiculously hairy.

As someone who frightens small children at the pool if I haven’t been properly manscaped I have a slight issue with hairiness being equated to loser-dome, so I waited with great anticipation for whatever association represents hairy dudes to come out in my defense. That never happened. I can only surmise that no such organization exists. What a travesty! So I’ve decided that there’s an opportunity to get the word out that we hairy dudes aren’t losers – that in fact we’re positive contributors to our society. Thus, in the near future you’ll soon hear about a grand event – the creation of the International Flocculent Society (IFS).

The IFS will be dedicated to helping hairy men everywhere overcome the stigma that confronts us at every pool, hot tub, beach or shirts/skins basketball game. We’ll have a Hall of Fame – I’m thinking Tom Selleck could be our initial inductee – annual education conferences and a trade show. We should probably look into funding research for hair removal that doesn’t involve lasers, wax or chemicals since I’m sure many of us would jump at the chance to be denuded if for no other reason than we’re sick and tired of cleaning the damn shower after every use.

Whatever. It’s time for the well-haired of the world to be represented and I’m gonna do it!

Who To Trust

One of the real problems we have in the Information Era is that so much information is just, well, wrong. Back in the pre-Internet dark ages we used to be able to easily identify the folks who distributed craziness as news, and just as importantly, the people who accepted that craziness at face value. We simply looked around us while in line at the grocery store and if we saw someone reading the National Enquirer, or one of the other tabloids, and he wasn’t laughing then we knew that was someone who shouldn’t be trusted to walk and chew gum simultaneously. Now things have gotten a little more complicated.

Case in point is how a blogger/nut-job could post a completely unfounded story related to the Ferguson, MO protests and in short order it morphed into a story on a national “news” network (Fox):

In short order Hoft’s story spread throughout the right-wing blogosphere. The right-wing media machine was cranking up. Early in the afternoon of Aug. 19, the right-wing libertarian site Before It’s News cited Mark Dice’s YouTube report, which in turn cited Hoft’s story…

Soon the story had been picked up by pretty much all of the right-wing noise machine, including Matt Drudge, Breitbart, Right Wing News, the Washington Times and the New York Post.

Now that the story had broken into the wild and had been reported by numerous sources — all citing Jim Hoft’s original report as well as each other — Fox News decided it had enough cover to report on Hoft’s bogus story.

They ran the story every half-hour with a flashing “ALERT ALERT” image at the bottom of the screen and cited , yep, Jim Hoft’s report.

Say what you will about the “mainstream media” at least back in the day there was an effort made to be a reputable news source and to prove to readers/viewers/listeners that the news being reported was accurate and had been confirmed by multiple primary sources. There was actually angst about using unnamed sources, and it was done only when absolutely necessary. Were the news outlets perfect? No, but for the most part you could expect that behind whatever editorial slant an outlet might have they were at least supported by verifiable facts. Unfortunately those days seem to be gone.

This is not just a national story. Right here in the Piedmont Triad there’s an increasing level of concern about one local newspaper’s lack of diligence in policing its Letters to the Editor for at least a modicum of accuracy, and quite frankly the quickening demise of local newspapers is more frightening than anything because they have traditionally been the only source of coverage of local governments. Without them who’s going to be the Fourth Estate?

All this brings to mind something my kids learned when they were doing research projects in school. Times had changed from when I was in school. In my day we had to go to the library to review books, encyclopedias, magazines and articles on microfiche (if you’re under the age of 35 look that up and be amazed) for our research. You could be pretty confident your sources were solid because a librarian had vetted those materials, but still we were taught to use multiple sources to support our thesis. Then the internet happened and all of the sudden kids had the ability to do research from the comfort of their own homes, but without the protection of a librarian vetting their sources. So guess what? A big part of their lesson was in learning how to identify good sources of information, and subsequent to that, verifying that information by finding multiple sources. I’m thinking that should become a required course of study in our society, because without it our populace will be led around by its noses by a bunch of charlatans. It’s already happening and it will only get worse.


The Caray Diaries

In my teenage years I would come home from school, flip on the TV and turn the channel to WGN so I could watch the Cubs play. That means I got to listen to Harry Caray get drunk and slur his way through the last few innings on more than one occasion, which might explain why I’m a Cubs fan to this day. (Is there any more tragic team to be a fan of in all of sports?)

I always thought Harry would have been an entertaining guy to hang out with, but after reading this article about his 1972 diary that details all of his stops at various watering holes I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have kept up with him:

A savvy businessman, Caray cut a deal pegged to ballpark attendance, which doubled, largely thanks to his flamboyant presence. It would make him very wealthy, though in 1972 he was still tallying each bar tab.

Saturday, Jan. 1, lists four bars: the Back Room, still on Rush Street, plus three long-ago joints: 20 E. Delaware, Sully’s and Peppy’s, with expenses for each $10.30, $9.97, $10, and $8.95. This in a year when a six-pack of Old Style set you back $1.29.

You needed to cite who you entertained to get the write-off, so on New Year’s Day he lists Dave Condon, the Tribune sports columnist; Billy Sullivan, who owned Sully’s; and Joe Pepitone, the former Yankees first baseman who had been traded to the Cubs.

And so it begins. A chain of old-time Chicago bars — Riccardo’s, Boul Mich, Mr. Kelly’s. A posse of early 1970s sports figures — Wilt Chamberlain, Don Drysdale, Gale Sayers. Plus a few unexpected blasts from the past: boxer Jack Dempsey, comedian Jack Benny…

Jan. 16 something unusual happens. Caray is in Miami, yet there are no expenses, just one enigmatic word, “Super.”

After that break, if indeed it was, comes 288 consecutive days in bars, not only in Chicago, but New York City, and of course on the road with the Sox, beginning with spring training in Sarasota.

The unbroken streak pauses Nov. 3, when all we get is “to K City @310.” The only completely blank day is Monday, Nov. 6 — what must THAT have been like? Then off to the races again.

He’d have lost me around February 1.

What Reality TV Hath Wrought

Every decade or so – maybe more often, but I'm too tired to research it – a movie comes out that seems to capture the zeitgeist in America. Good examples would be 1987's Wall Street or 1993's Falling Down and   after seeing the trailer for Bobcat Goldthwait's God Bless America (definitely NSFW with a few f-bombs and mega violence) I'd say it captures our current reality-tv-fueled society quite well.

Come to think of it MIchael Douglas seems to be in a lot of zeitgeisty movies.

Want to Force Me and Kenny Beck to Shave Our Heads?

Anyone who's been watching WXII this week knows that they're making a serious push to raise food for Second Harvest so that kids won't go hungry this summer.  One of their morning show members, Kenny Beck, has been doing goofy stuff like the chicken dance in exchange for financial donations.  I asked him via Twitter what it would take to get him to shave his head and he said $1,000. When I indicated I might be serious he said he was too, and we agreed to a low setting on the clippers (not bald, but pretty short).

This dovetails nicely with the food drive that my office is doing for Second Harvest and I thought that if Mr. Beck has the guts to do it, then so should I. So here's the deal:

  • If you want to donate to Second Harvest please contact me via email at jon.lowder AT and coordinate the donation with me.  Once we amass $1,000 I'll arrange to get it to Kenny and we'll get his head shaved.
  • Once we pass the $1,000 mark for donations I'll start adding to the tally for TAA's food drive.  If you tell me you're donating in hopes of getting me to shave my head then once we reach another $1,000 I'll get my head shaved too (most likely a high and tight like the Marines). I'll post pictures on this blog, my Facebook profile, Twitter, and anywhere else. It won't be pretty, but it's for a good cause. BONUS FEATURE: The largest single donor actually gets to do the hair cutting on me (can't offer that up for Kenny).

So that's it.  If you want to see Kenny Beck and me get our heads shaved then email me at jon.lowder AT, or call me at (336) 899-0238 to arrange donations. You can also simply mail a check made out to Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina and write "Make Kenny and Jon Shave Their Heads" in the memo field and mail it to me at:

Triad Apartment Association/Attn. Jon Lowder
3407 West Wendover Ave., Suite E
Greensboro, NC 27407

Of course you can mail it directly to the Food Bank, but if you want it to be counted towards our impending baldness you need to send it to me so I can keep track of our progress.

Also, I've also set up my very first Facebook group for the cause. If you visit it you can see one of the worst pictures ever taken of me Photoshop'd to show me bald.  Like I said, it's gonna be ugly.

Claudville, VA Gets First ‘White Space Network’

Tiny Claudville, VA (pop. 916) is just across the NC-VA state line about 15 miles northeast of Mt. Airy and it has the distinction of being the first place in the country to get a "white space network."  From the BusinessWire story:

For the first time in the U.S., unused TV broadcast channels freed up by the transition to digital TV are being used to wirelessly deliver high-speed Internet connectivity to business, education and community users. These unused frequencies are commonly referred to as TV white spaces. Under an experimental license granted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Spectrum Bridge designed and deployed a wireless TV white spaces network to distribute broadband Internet connectivity in Claudville, Virginia. To ensure that Claudville residents can make the most of this new high-speed connectivity, Dell, Microsoft and the TDF Foundation contributed state-of-the-art computer systems and software applications to the local school, as well as the town’s new computer center. As a result, Claudville residents have already begun to reap the benefits of joining the online community…

TV white spaces are vacant channels in the television band and are ideal for sending broadband signals across long distances and for penetrating walls, trees and other objects. These TV white spaces hold enormous potential for expanding broadband access, particularly in rural and other underserved areas…

To discover what white spaces channels are available in your area, the Web site offers a free search tool that lists all open white spaces channels at any address in the U.S. This site also contains white spaces news and information, as well as links to FCC documents and other valuable white spaces resources.

Civics 101

One of the advantages of working at home is that when I take a lunch break I can whip up a quick bite to eat in my own kitchen and then plunk myself down and read the paper or watch the news on TV.  Today I took a late lunch around 1:40 and snapped on CNBC to see what was going on in the market and with the government bailout.  What I saw was fascinating on multiple levels.

First, I saw the bailout vote appear to fail which caused the DJIA to plummet 300 points in about five minutes.  It was nuts and it was something I’ve never seen before, but I was even more interested in watching and listening to the Wall Street pundits react.

What became apparent very quickly is that as smart as these people were about markets they were equally dense in the ways of Washington.  They had no clue how Congressional votes worked.  Luckily they had a reporter that could explain what it meant to leave the vote open and how it was possible for votes to change even after they’d been cast. That news caused the Dow to recover a couple of hundred points.

Then it got really good.  They decided to listen to the House vote live and they came in just as a member of the House asked a parliamentary question and asked the Chair for guidance.  Well I think that caused the commentators’ heads to spin off because when the vote was actually closed a few moments later and the House moved on to another bill they didn’t realize it. They had to wait for an explanation from the reporter and once they got it and relayed it to the audience at large and the Dow and other equity markets took an instant plunge.

I don’t expect people who normally don’t cover government to know every intricate detail or parliamentary procedure, but if I knew I was going to be covering one of the most important stories of the day as it affects my area of expertise I’d make sure I understood at least the fundamentals of how things proceed on the Hill.   It’s pretty obvious that didn’t happen in this case.

I don’t want to be too critical of the financial pundits. Their day-to-day existence requires they be highly versed in finance, not in government.  However, I do find it interesting that they were temporarily flummoxed by things they should have learned in high school civics class. 

For what it’s worth I’ve found CNBC to be some of the best television news going these days. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s head and shoulders above the rest of the "news" channels.  Watching CNN gives me nausea, MSNBC and Fox should drop any reference to news since they’re essentially televised versions of the Daily News, and the networks are pretty much DOA.  I like public television for the overall news, but CNBC seems to be the best for business and finance. 

links for 2008-07-23

Thanks Versus Network

The Davis Cup is back in Winston-Salem this weekend which is pretty bad luck for me.  Since my client’s conference is next week there was no way I would have been able to take in the matches and prepare for my time in San Diego.  Since I’m flying Saturday evening I could have tried to hit the Friday matches but realistically there was no way I could do it.

Instead I satisfied myself with TiVo-ing the matches so that I could watch them while I packed.  All was well until the second match between James Blake and Paul Henri-Mathieu went into a fifth set and a couple of games into the set the announcers informed the television audience that the network (Versus) was going to switch to NHL playoff hockey at 7:00 p.m. no matter where the match stood.  They also informed the audience that if you were lucky enough to have the Tennis Channel you could catch the match there or you could watch it online at

Sure enough they cut to the hockey pre-game show right at 7:00 and thus I missed a thrilling comeback by Blake.  Apparently at 4-4 his serve was broken, then he was down two match points on Mathieu’s next service game before he broke back, and then he held serve and broke Mathieu again.  But I’m just going by what I heard on the sports report because, you know, I didn’t see it.  I was going to gripe about how Time-Warner doesn’t give me the Tennis Channel but does give me 840 shopping channels, and how my buddy Bobby gets the Tennis Channel because he has DirecTV, but from reading the comments on the article about the match at the Tennis Channel site it seems that they blew the coverage anyway so lots of people besides me didn’t get to see the conclusion of the match.

The good news is that Celeste will get to go with some friends to the doubles match today.  That should be a lot of fun, and boy do I wish I could be there.  Of course I’ll set my Tivo, but let’s hope there aren’t any hockey games to cut to this time.