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Doing as the Tourists Do, Canadian Edition: Visiting Banff

Believe it or not, I’d never been to Canada before last weekend.  Wild, amirite?  I mean, it’s literally a two hour plane flight away.  So when the in-laws offered to take us to Banff for a few days over Z’s spring break, I said absolutely.

For those of you not in the know, Banff is a massive national park located in the middle of Canada.  In order to get there, you have to fly into Calgary (very nice airport, and surprisingly large for the apparently limited number of travelers it sees), and then drive about an hour.  If the Canadian flight crew was any indication, Canadians are unfailingly polite and chipper.

I wouldn’t know, because most of Banff appears to be staffed by Australians.  No, really.  I guess they are chasing the snow.  I also met a New Zealander.  But mostly Australians.

Any, here’s Banff:


Not too shabby.  Because I was traveling with a child and parental units, we didn’t venture too far from the tiny town of Banff most of the time.  All of these pictures were taken a few minutes away from the town center.  Here’s some more:



I bet this frozen lake is super pretty when it isn’t frozen, or even when it is partially frozen.  I wonder when the melting happens.  Late May?  June?  Although even frozen, the landscape still had a stark beauty about it.  I feel like I didn’t do it justice.  I don’t have a lot of experience photographing in the snow.

Anyway, here’s another mountain shot.  Mountains are marginally easier:



The kid was super pumped to see snow.  I guess he saw it once when he was a baby visiting Wyoming, but of course he doesn’t remember it.  For the most part, he’s a fair weather fellow who has only seen snow on television.  Canada provided him with plenty of the stuff.  He even got to see it fall from the sky:


I handheld this shot on the way out the door from dinner at a high ISO while there rest of my party tapped their feet in the car.  Go modern technology.

Anyway, you have no idea what a momentous event this was for a seven-year-old.  Snow.  Falling from the sky.  He wants to move there.  Who knows?  If Trump gets bad enough, maybe he will have an opportunity.

Although here’s the thing about Canada: It turns out it’s cold.  I mean, really cold.  I’m the sort of lady who likes her climates somewhere between 60 and 80 degrees Fareinheit.  Which is to say, super temperate.  Because I am a super weenie.  Canada is not super temperate.  Several generations ago, one branch of my family came to the U.S. from Sweden.  Another branch of my family came from a small town in eastern Europe.  I’ve never been to either location, but I’m willing to bet it’s pretty cold there too.  Which means at some point, my family was hardy.  Several generations of American citizenship has produce me, a total lightweight.  I bet I’d struggle to make it through a Canadian winter.

Although never say never.  Because Trump.

Anywho, Banff was beautiful.  I’d totally go again, if the opportunity presented itself.  We’re thinking of trying to drive up there over the summer sometime, which, coincidentally, is what my parents did for their honeymoon all those years ago.  In a van.  With some dogs.  Hey, they were hippies.  It was a thing.

Of course, we’re also telling people that we might go camping in Oregon over the summer.  If you ever read Big Dog and Little Dog, you’ll already have an idea as to how likely that is.  Stay tuned, sports fans.  I’m sure I’ll let you know where we come out on the matter.

Parting shot:



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Visiting Shark Fin Cove in Santa Cruz

I have been meaning to visit some of Santa Cruz, California’s famous beaches for awhile now.  It’s taken me longer to make it happen than I would like.  Santa Cruz is over an hour away from where I live, and requires driving over 17 at night.  I’ve never liked highway 17.

I finally made it out to Shark Fin Cove over Easter weekend.  This enabled me to leave the offspring with my parents.  The offspring always likes a good adventure, but sometimes it’s more relaxing to leave him at home.

For example, climbing down onto a strange beach over a rocky trail is less stressful with only adults present.  Here’s the shot from above:


I’m going to go out on a limb and say that that rock sticking up out of the water is the “shark’s tooth” the beach was named after.

The climb down to this beach was nowhere near as difficult as getting to the Tunitas Creek Beach.  Still, you have to duck under a pipe, and scramble down a path to get there.  The camera and tripod present an added degree of difficulty.  On the other hand, I saw several out-of-shape ladies in flip flops make a go of it, so it’s clearly doable.

The beach has several neat caves and viewpoints, depending on the tide levels.  I liked this one quite a bit:


There’s also some nice views from the rocks on the beach:


It was all very pretty, even with the smoggy, cruddy atmosphere, and the multitudes of tourists.

Here’s the thing, though: It’s been awhile since I’ve been to Santa Cruz, and I can’t even remember when the last time was that I went to a Santa Cruz beach.  I was thus truly saddened to discover that the rock formations at this one were covered with graffiti, and the sand with trash.  Do better, Santa Cruz.  This is why we can’t have nice things.

I also made a trip to see the Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur:


It’s famous for a reason.

The moon was full, which helped with my bridge lighting considerably.  My dad gave me his Nikon d7200 for my birthday, so I used it to take a picture of this:


Pretty slick, right?

One of these days, I’ll do a full post on Big Sur.  As my bridge picture came out blurry, today is not that day.  I’m still struggling with how to focus the Fuji at night.  I’ve got a pretty good handle on how to do it with the Nikon (used in the moon shot), but my Fuji shots are incredibly hit or miss.  Literal shots in the dark.  Yuk yuk yuk.

It turns out there’s also a lighthouse in Big Sur.  We tried to visit it, but it looks like you need to set up a tour to go see it at night.  As I said, a post for another time.



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Photographing Lover’s Lane in San Francisco’s Presidio

I have spent every Saturday for the last few months doing as the tourists do.  This means that once a week I drag my spouse, my kid, and occasionally my dog, to visit some local landmark I’ve here-to-for managed to avoid.  In this spirit, I set out to visit the Lover’s Lane trail at the Presidio in San Francisco, California.

The trail winds through roughly a half-mile stretch of Eucalyptus forest.  It’s a pleasant, non-challenging walk with only a mild grade.  Little Dog, who is more of a sprinter than an endurance animal, and more of a couch potato than a sprinter, found it to be very manageable.

I took a bunch of pictures, but only got one I liked.  So this post is going to be pretty short.

Here’s my keeper:


I think it’s not bad, at least in comparison to my other shots, which were overly busy and lacking in focus.  I find photographing groves to be a tricksy business.  It’s easy for the whole place to devolve into a dizzying mess of lines and contrasts.  Observe:

With all that light and shadow, it’s really easy to lose the point entirely, which to me is the path weaving through the trees.

I had a much easier time getting the picture I wanted once the sky became overcast.  Lower level of difficulty, in my opinion.  Fortunately for me, San Francisco prefers its weather on the cloudy side.  Just ask permanent resident, Karl the Fog.

If you ever make your way to the Presidio, take a stroll down Lover’s Lane.  The walk is easy, and the Eucalyptus lovely and serene, even if they aren’t native to California.

Until next time!


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Adventures in Children’s Media: Timmy Failure, by Stephan Pastis

Plot: Eleven-year-old detective Timmy Failure and his business partner, Total the polar bear (Total Failure, Inc.) tackle cases and schoolwork with a winning and winsome combination of luck and unearned self-confidence.

Child Enjoyment: 8/10  Timmy’s one funny dude.  Also, as a legacy several times over, the child is particularly and endlessly amused by Timmy’s friend’s “Stanfurd” aspirations.

Parent Enjoyment:  10/10  I’m the person who bought it, no pressure from the child, just had to have it.  I read it when the kid is not around.  I’m a fan.

Age Appropriate:  At six-turned-seven, Z is a little young to fully understand how an unreliable narrator works.   And boy, is Timmy unreliable, in all the best ways.  The child still find him hysterically funny.  Clearly, Timmy’s appeal knows no bounds.

Pain Factor:  Really low.  The book is witty, fast moving, embellished with charming pictures by writer/artist Stephan Pastis (of Pearls Before Swine fame) and laugh-out-loud funny.

Story Assessment:  Timmy Failure is the founder, president and CEO of detective agency Failure, Inc.  Once he brought on his business partner, Total the polar bear, the agency’s name changed to the snappier Total Failure, Inc., and there’s been no looking back.  No matter is too small for the intrepid duo.  Over the course of the first book they take on such stumpers as the case of the missing halloween candy, and the mystery of the T.P.-ed house.

The book consists of fifty-nine short, illustrated chapters, through which Timmy juggles his caseload with schoolwork, friendship maintenance, and the management of his long-suffering single mother.  His world is populated by delightful, well rounded characters, including best friend Rollo Tookus (of Stanfurd fame), female admirer Molly Moskins, and rival/sworn enemy Corrina Corrina, aka the One Whose Name Shall Not Be Uttered, aka the Weevil Bun (Evil One).

Timmy may not be a great detective, but he’s sure great fun.   Author/illustrator Stephan Pastis’s voice is distinctive and his narrative style  engaging.  Of course, I may be somewhat biased, as I understand from Mr. Pastis’s bio that he went to UCLA Law School (gooooo Bruins!), and ultimately gave up a legal career to become a comic book writer and artist.  In other words, living the dream.

But seriously.  Timmy Failure’s the man.  Just ask him.

In Summation: The adventures of Timmy Failure are full of humor and heart.  We love him at our house.  I’ll bet you’d love him in yours.

There are currently seven books in the Timmy Failure series, and a Disney feature in the works.  My particular book is a twofer (Mistakes Were Made, and Now Look What You’ve Done.)  You can buy the chronicles of Timmy Failure’s adventures at Amazon, or anywhere else that books are sold.  He’s that big a deal.

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Photographing Pier 7 in San Francisco

It turns out – and I’m not kidding, I had no idea either – there’s a Pier 7 in San Francisco.  I dragged my little family out there after a long day to check it out.  Yes, even the dog came, although she stayed in the car, because it was raining and Little Dog cannot be bothered with that sort of nonsense.

Many of the more famous piers in San Francisco have lovely buildings in front of them demarcating their location.  Pier 7 does not have such a building.  When we showed up at the intersection, in the dark and the rain, my husband looked at me and said, “Are you sure there’s a Pier 7?  Because I see a Pier 5, and I see a Pier 9, and there’s nothing in between.”

Fortunately for our marital relations, Pier 7 really is a thing.  The internet did not lie to me.  Here’s the shot most people come for:


It’s a picture-perfect view, complete with vanishing point perspective, of the pier leading towards the Transamerica Pyramid.  It’s almost like they planned it that way.

This wasn’t the only nifty shot to be had, however.

Who knew?  I certainly did not know.  And it was less crowded than the more famous piers, which is always a plus.  The rain probably helped in that regard.


Take a moment to appreciate the funky smears in this picture where I tried and failed to wipe the water off my filter.  I would just like to point out, though, that I remembered to put my filter on, because rain.  This may be a first for me.  I may or may not have remembered to do it right away.  Baby steps, people.  Baby steps.

And that’s Pier 7!  You can find it conveniently located between Pier 5 and Pier 9.  But without the fancy signage.

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Photographing the Bay Bridge and San Francisco Skyline, as Seen from Treasure Island

As it has been a holiday weekend, I am distanced from my lovely desktop and all of the content contained therein.  I am thus at the mercy of whatever is available on my laptop.  All this is to say that this post will be delightfully short.

The photo below was taken from Treasure Island.  Treasure Island is a small manmade island that connects to the two halves of the Bay Bridge.


We stopped by a few weeks ago on a lark, on our way home from somewhere.   It was a beautiful view.  Here’s a longer exposure:


I think I prefer the sky on the shorter exposure, and the smooth water on the longer one.  I understand that there is a way to combine both worlds through photoshop or some such.  I have yet to delve much into photoshop, so this melding of the worlds will have to wait for another day.

I have been sitting onto this post for awhile, because there’s another angle on this shot that I had hoped to capture before posting.  One of my hobbies is haunting forums and whatnot looking for interesting local places to photograph.   Recently I came across this pretty rad shot in one such forum, wherein the photographer had captured the San Francisco skyline by shooting under the Bay Bridge towards the city.  I wants this picture.  I NEEDS this picture!  I cannot figure out how to take this picture…yet.

As it stands, I have engaged in several reconnaissance missions to try to track the mysterious location down.  I’m pretty sure it was taken from Treasure Island’s sister island, Yerba Buena Island.  Much of Yerba Buena Island is Coast Guard property.  It kind of looks like the only way to get at the location in question is to trespass.  Obviously, I’m not super keen to trespass on government property.  Then again, it’s a pretty spectacular angle on the skyline.  What to do?

I have been giving some thought to contacting the Coast Guard through their unofficial Facebook page and feeling them out on the subject.  Never let it be said, dear readers, that I don’t make every effort on your behalves.  If I am ultimately successful, you’ll be the first to know.


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Doing as the Tourists Do: Taking a Drive Down the PCH

The Pacific Coast Highway (or PCH, as they are fond of calling it in Southern California), runs down the western length of the state.  It is famously scenic, and a must-see for first time visitors.

These pictures were actually taken mid-day (a deadly time for photographs, sadly) as we drove home from Ano Nuevo, where we saw the elephant seals.  Still, I think, the scenery is sufficiently spectacular that it shines through the subpar lighting.

Here are a few angles on the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, as viewed during the day:

There were a number of people parked at this particular pullout appreciating the view.

Funny aside:  for whatever reason, strange men approach me almost every time I’m out taking pictures to tell me about their camera equipment.  No hellos or anything.  They just launch into a laundry list of the things they own at home, things they used to own, things they want to own in the future.   I don’t know what that’s about.  Am I supposed to respond with a list of my own camera equipment?  It’s a mystery.


We next stopped to check out Tunitas Creek Beach.  The picture above was taken part way down the “path” connecting the highway to the sand.


Scenic, amirite?

Funny story:  The parks website mentions that the “Tunitas Creek Beach currently has no facilities and is only accessible via a steep, eroded trail.”  This is no joke.  Getting down to this beach was not easy, especially with my camera and tripod slung over my shoulder, but it had nothing on getting back up again.  Someone had tied a rope at the top which I didn’t notice coming down.  It turns out this rope is a necessary element to the return trip, in that you have to haul yourself up the steep grade using it.  This is a tricky enough process in and of itself, but as I said, I had hand carried both camera and tripod down the beach, which meant that there was only one way it was getting back again.  The other thing I’d brought down to the beach was an uncoordinated six year old.  This was one of those “not funny then, funny now,” parenting moments.  But hey, we all made it in the end.  Moral of the story: when climbing down a cliff to a beach, put your camera in a backpack, in case you need both hands free to haul yourself and your offspring back out again.  Also, bring your spouse.  Spouses are good at schlepping. Or so I hear.

And finally, the place I was most hoping to hit when the light was right.  Fortunately, the stars aligned.  These pictures were taken in one of the fields of wildflowers lining the highway:



How pretty is that?  Sadly, I forgot to turn my face recognition back on, so a bunch of the pictures were rendered blurry and unusable.  The Fuji is not the easiest camera to use to capture a twitchy child anyway; I find the Nikon much easier for that purpose.  Or maybe I’m not yet smart enough for the Fuji.  I can see it going either way.  However, I ended up pretty pleased with the pictures I did get.

And there it is!  Take a trip down the PCH and make a day of it.  There’s no end of beautiful things to photograph along the way.


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Photographing the Carmelite Monastery in Santa Clara

A number of months ago, I came into a little bit of money and bought a nice camera.  I thought long and hard about it before I did, and decided that the only way to justify buying this nice camera was if I really intended to use it all the time.  So, I’ve been using it all the time.  “All the time” for me is “every weekend.”  This is a substantial step up from my previous habit of only taking pictures while on vacation.  I don’t go on that many vacations.

I’ve been finding the process more fulfilling than anticipated, at a time in my life when, it turns out, I could really use some fulfillment.  A cool byproduct of the camera-ing is that it has encouraged me to think about the beauty of the place where I live.

The pictures below were taken at the Carmelite Monastery in Santa Clara, California.  I’d never heard of it before an internet search turned me onto it.

It’s most well known for its olive groves:

Not too shabby, am I right?  It also had all the pertinent religious stuff, of course:


But it’s really all about the lurvely foliage:


The child is always happy to mug for the camera.

Okay, funny story about this next picture.  When I arrived, these people were doing a protracted, incredibly hokey maternity photoshoot in the middle of the longest row of trees.  They posed with everything from the ultrasound photo to a soccer ball (no, really).   I waited over an hour for them to leave, and they never did.  I ended up snapping the picture below with them in it and clumsily editing them out.  Still pretty, but ah, the picture that could have been.



The child humors his mother.


Again with the humoring.

When I got home that night, I was disappointed with my pictures, as I always am.  In the light of day, however, I have to say that the beauty of the place really shines through.  It’s a magical little location, buried deep within the urban sprawl that is Santa Clara.  If you happen to be in the area, I encourage you to check it out.  I think you’ll find it well worth the effort.



The money shot.

An Exercise in Critical Thinking: TV by the Numbers’ Fallon Fixation

This week’s exercise in critical thinking: examining the ways in which the writer of a purportedly factual article can subtly sway your opinion.

I really geeked out on this blog post. You have been warned.

The Case Study: Alex Welch’s weekly articles on late night television ratings

If you ever search for “Late Night Ratings,” you’ll turn up article after article written by someone named Alex Welch for a website called TV by the Numbers.  He or she publishes one such article a week.  Here were some recent headlines at the time I started working on this post a few weeks ago:

You would think, reading these titles, that “The Tonight Show” is the first and last word in late night.  A little cursory research reveals that there are, in fact, a lot of shows in the late night category: “The Late Show,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Late Night,” “Late Late Show,” “The Daily Show,” and “Last Call”, just to name a few.

Still, Fallon’s show is by far the most featured name in the TV By the Numbers article titles on the subject.  It’s certainly the most heavily emphasized if word count within those articles is taken into consideration.

In fact, based on the date I started writing this article in early March, Alex Welch had written only two articles on late night ratings in the previous three months that did not headline “The Tonight Show.”

One was the January 19, 2018 article, “Late-night ratings Jan 8-12, 2018: ‘The Daily Show’ ticks up.'”  The article devotes its most words – and its opening paragraph – to Jimmy Fallon.  The Daily Show gets a short sentence at the end.

The other was the January 23, 2018 article, “Late-night ratings Jan 15-19, 2018: Late Show with Stephen Colbert Rises.”  Once again, it’s Fallon heavy and Fallon front-loaded, while the “Late Show’s” rise, presumably the point of the article, was buried mid-sentence, mid-article in the second paragraph, and just as quickly dismissed as having “ticked up to a .50 after taking a hit the week before.”

Weird, amirite?  I mean, who cares this much, and this exclusively, about Jimmy Fallon’s ratings, besides the man himself?

Comparing TV by the Numbers to Other News Articles During The Same Time Period

The first thing I asked myself is whether Jimmy Fallon’s ratings are legitimately dominating the news cycle.  In order to decide this, let’s check out what other publications were running concurrently on the issue.

A quick, generalized search of the Google News aggregator (again, done a few weeks ago, when I first started this blog post) for late night ratings turned up the following (in addition to a flood of TV by the Numbers, of course), in the order that I found them:

So, not much specifically about Fallon.

I then attempted a search for Fallon specifically.  If you search for Fallon specific ratings articles in the Google News aggregator, you get things like “Songversations, Lip Flips, and Low Ratings: Lessons from a Week of Watching Jimmy Fallon,” on the Ringer, or “Jimmy Fallon Tops Colbert for the First Time Since Last June, Thanks to Olympics,” (February 13) over on The Wrap.

So which is it?  Is Jimmy Fallon the king of late night, or just the king of Alex Welch’s heart?

Examining the Evidence: Subtle Persuasions

There are a number of ways in which this author presents ratings information which, intentionally or not, can sway the reader’s perspective as to whether the shows discussed are successful.

The Importance of Article Titles:

Alex Welch’s article titles subtly direct our interpretation of the ratings presented in the article based on whether a show is mentioned, how often it is mentioned, and order of information presented.

In my sampling of about three months of TV by the Numbers articles, “The Tonight Show” is mentioned in more article titles than any other late night show.  Since these articles are purportedly about ratings, the author is implicitly stating that “The Tonight Show” is the show most worthy of mention, and therefore either the biggest mover of the week, or the most influential.

Additionally, any time an Alex Welch TV by the Numbers ratings headline is shared by two late night shows, and one of them is “The Tonight Show,”  the show order is presented thusly:

If the headline is about two shows rising in the ratings: “The Tonight Show” is mentioned first, and the other show is mentioned second.

If the headline is about two shows sinking in the ratings: the other show is mentioned first, and “The Tonight Show” is mentioned second.

The effect of this tactic is to emphasize “The Tonight Show”‘s appearance of success by mentioning it first, or to minimize the appearance of its failures in the mind of the viewer by mentioning it second.

Leading the Audience Through Order Of Content and Word Count:

The writer of these ratings articles presents content in the same order and manner in every article:

Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” on NBC is always discussed in the first paragraph.  The first paragraph is generally the longest.  Mr. Fallon’s show is granted one to three sentences.  More words are usually spent discussing Mr. Fallon’s show than any other show in the article.

Sometimes this first paragraph closes with a mention of the second tier of network late night shows (“The Late Late Show with James Corden” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”)

The second paragraph of the article is shared by the two other major network late night shows, Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” on CBS, and Jimmy Kimmel’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC.  The second paragraph is smaller than the first paragraph.  These two hosts are usually given one to two sentences shared between them.

Remaining paragraphs are one to two short sentences long, and address any number of other late night shows, such as shows by Conan O’Brien or Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

What’s the point of this structure?  I don’t work there, so I can’t speak to the motivations of either writer or website.  I do know that in law school, when learning to write persuasively, we were taught to front load the information we thought was most critical to our argument, and work backwards towards that which was least important.

Alex Welch’s adherence to this order and word emphasis tells me that he/she and/or TV by the Numbers either believes, or is arguing that: (1) The ratings of Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” are the most important; (2) “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and the “Late Show” are of secondary importance; and (3) all other hosts and shows are of diminishing import.

This is in keeping with the way the website titles its articles, with its heavy emphasis on Mr. Fallon’s show.

Word Choice Matters:

Although these articles present like factual pieces, the information is sometimes presented in a leading way.

For example, consider how the ratings for Fallon and Colbert are discussed in the January 23rd article, which, per its title, is one of the few dedicated to a non-Fallon show (“‘Late Night’ show with Stephen Colbert Rises.”)

“The Tonight Show” was described, in the longer first paragraph, as “able to continue its ratings uptick for the second week in a row.”  It rose two hundredths from the week before.

The smaller second paragraph mentions, halfway through, that “CBS’s ‘Late Show with Stephen Cobert’ ticked up to a 0.50 after taking a hit the week before.”

This presentation is interesting for two reasons:

First, compare how the shows’ relative successes are described:  “The Tonight Show” is described as being “able to continue” a rating rise.  This language emphasizes its past success, and bolsters the idea that this week’s success is part of a trend.

The “Late Show”‘s success, on the other hand, is coupled with the caveat that the rise follows a “hit” the week before.  This language implies that the “Late Show”‘s rise is perhaps a one-off, or maybe a market correction, rather than a trend upwards.

If we back up two weeks, to the ratings that set up this narrative, we get some additional insights into the trend.  The article from two weeks before makes considerable hay (nearly half the article) out of the fact that Fallon “still managed to land on top,” despite being on hiatus, while the ‘Late Show’ returned and “as a result rose considerably,” and Fallon also “climbed back up.”

So another angle on the story of this trend is that, two weeks ago, Colbert and Kimmel saw a rise in demographic viewership due to Fallon’s continued holiday hiatus; Fallon in turn experienced a corresponding decline (while still maintaining a demographic lead), due to being in reruns.  Fallon returned the following week, reclaiming his normal viewership, resulting in a rise in Fallon viewership, and corresponding decline in Colbert and Kimmel viewership.

Two sides to the same story, but the one Welch and TV by the Numbers elected, and the one they usually elect, is the one that pumps up “The Tonight Show.”

Which Ratings to Focus On:

TV by the Numbers focusses exclusively on the Adults 18-49 demo rating.  This demographic is said to be particularly interesting to advertisers.

It is interesting to note, though, that the website never brings up any other rating in their assessments.  In particular, it never mentions that other, oft discussed rating: total viewership.  Mr. Fallon lags behind Mr. Colbert by over a million viewers in total viewership.  Mr. Kimmel lags behind Mr. Fallon by varying degrees week to week, but by a lot less than a million viewers.  For whatever reason, TV by the Numbers declines to discuss the movements of these numbers.

Perhaps this is because total viewership is not newsworthy?  Other publications disagree.  A plain Google search for late night ratings turns up the following (after the TV by the Numbers articles):

So someone thinks it’s worth discussing.

For more information on the weighting of ratings, the history of the 18-49 demographic, and the sneaky ways in which ratings are manipulated to create the appearance of success, check out this enlightening article on Awful Announcing: How ABC Created the 18-49 Demographic in the 1960s to Lure Advertisers from CBS and NBC.

Investigating the Source

This is often where my trips down the rabbit hole lead.  Whenever I come across something that doesn’t pass the sniff test, like these articles from TV by the Numbers, I ultimately go look at the source.

First, I attempted to look into the writer, Alex Welch.  The website provides no biographical information on him or her.  The name is, itself, pretty commonplace.  This avenue of inquiry is a dead end.

Next, I looked at the publishing platform, in this case, website TV by the Numbers.  Some minimal internet sleuthing informs me that TV by the Numbers used to be a website called Zap2It.  It is part of the Tribune Digital Ventures, part of the Tribune Media Company, an organization in the process of being acquired by Sinclair Media.

Tribune Media is reputed to be center leaning, politically.  Sinclair Media, on the other hand, swings right.

Why does this matter?  I can think of a few reasons why someone would want to focus so consistently on Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show”:

(1) Jimmy Fallon is the biggest thing going in late night. I don’t see much support for this.  He’s one of the biggest names in late night, but there are two others equally big, based on other people’s coverage, and viewership numbers: Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Kimmel.

(2) Alex Welch, the writer, is personally most interested in Jimmy Fallon.  Maybe.  I can’t find any information on Alex Welch.

(3)  The publisher has an interest in promoting Fallon.  Stephen Colbert and, recently, Jimmy Kimmel, use their platform to support liberal causes like gun control and healthcare.  Jimmy Fallon used his to arguably humanize candidate Trump by tousling his hair.   If a conservative publisher was seeking to promote a narrative, it seems possible it would want to favor the narrative of public support for the inoffensive, non-political Fallon over the more liberal Kimmel and Colbert.

But what do I know?  I’m just a blogger with a minuscule readership.

So Is Jimmy Fallon Objectively the Most Important Person in Late Night Ratings Every Week?

I’m no expert on this issue, so all I can offer is my opinion.  It does not appear to me that Jimmy Fallon and his show so dominate the national discourse that they merit the continuous, largely positive, coverage that they are afforded by TV by the Numbers.  Mr. Fallon leads the 18-49 demographic, it is true, but lags impressively in total viewership, a metric the site elects never to discuss.  Other publications do discuss it, extensively.  This strikes me as strange.  It’s also notable that other discourse on late night ratings, across a wide array of platforms, is more egalitarian in its coverage.  In fact, Mr. Fallon’s name is rarely the focus, except in articles discussing his show’s decline.

Also, Who is Alex Welch?

Is Alex Welch a person?  Is Alex Welch a computer program designed to churn out articles based on certain parameters and biases supported by the publisher?  Who knows?  On some level, who cares?  All that matters is that Alex Welch and TV by the Numbers are among the most prominent promulgators of late night ratings information on the American internet, and they seem to have a real hard-on for Jimmy Fallon.

In Conclusion: Think Critically, People

Boy, did I go ape-shit on this issue or what?  Sometimes, you’ve just got to go down the rabbit hole.

Addendum 1:  At this point, you should be asking what are my biases?  You have no way of verifying this, of course, but I stipulate that I am not employed by Mr. Colbert, Mr. Fallon, Mr. Kimmel, TV by the Numbers, or anyone else referenced in this article.   I will stipulate to being politically liberal.

Addendum 2: My case study involves articles on late night television ratings.  I am not particularly invested in late night television.  This is likely because I can’t watch it live, having cut the cord a while back.  Curse you, Comcast, and your arbitrarily fluctuating rates.  I have seen most of the people referenced in this post in clips on youtube.

Addendum 3: A license for use of the image for this article was purchased at Fotolia.