That’s (Not) My Wonderful Town

Photo Credit : Ronnachai Palas - Shutterstock

Earlier this year, TV geeks everywhere squealed a little when public radio’s This American Life featured a short piece about a promotional campaign CFAC-TV (now Global Calgary) ran in the 1980s called, “Hello, Calgary.”

The show’s host talked to a former Calgarian who was shocked to learn while the song’s lyrics say “there’s a feeling in the air, that you can’t get anywhere, except in Calgary,” the sales pitch of good-vibes-exclusivity wasn’t entirely truthful.

In fact, it appears legendary TV-news-theme-and-jingle artist Frank Gari made that “feeling in the air” show up in Milwaukee, San Diego, Nashville, Melbourne, and about 160 other cities around the world.  Dubbed “Hello News,” the song is one of the most memorable (and likely successful) syndicated news image/civic pride campaigns to have hit the small screen.

But Calgary isn’t the only place that can feel a little stung.

In the 1960s, people here in Regina likely roamed around town with a bounce in their step while whistling what was CKCK-TV’s promotional song, “That’s My Wonderful Town.”  (How can you not whistle this?)

It talks about everything quintessentially Regina!  The Roughriders… the Saskatchewan Legislature.  The song was about OUR CITY!  That’s MY wonderful town!  Right?

Then… how is this possible?

It turns out that like Frank Gari’s “Hello” campaign about a decade later, “That’s My Wonderful Town” was a syndicated jingle for TV and radio stations which could be localized and customized for places far and wide.  From Lebanon, Pennsylvania to Hobart, Australia… they were all “my wonderful town” – for the right price.

Those of us lucky to have cable in the 80s watched Detroit’s ABC station tell viewers to take a little pride in where they come from.

But I bet you can guess where this is going…

It doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

It’s not just TV and radio stations that get in on the game.  Other businesses license high quality, easily-localized promotional materials.  Take the power industry, for example.

Growing up in Manitoba, “Louie the Lightning Bug” was a staple on TV screens across the province.  Our little friend with the light-bulb-bottom buzzed around promoting the importance of electrical safety.

Louie was a busy little bug that got around.  Originally created for a promotional campaign by Alabama Power back in 1983, the company had trademarked and licensed him for use by power companies across North America a year later.  Here’s Louie pimping the power company in Oklahoma.

For one last kick in the groin to your childhood, try this one on for size.  Many of us children-of-the-80s grew up watching Miss Fran on Romper Room, produced at CTV’s affiliate CKCO-TV in Kitchener, ON.

But – given the way this blog post has gone – you know she wasn’t the only one.  From the same vintage as our beloved Miss Fran (who has lived a pretty amazing life, by the way), here is Miss Molly – host of an American version of the show based out of Baltimore, MD.

Romper Room was localized all over the world.  Aside from versions produced in numerous cities across the United States, the show’s format was sold to Australian, British, Japanese and Hong Kong broadcasters.  (Sadly, no video to show you from YouTube.)

While much of what we watched as kids was copied, pasted and replicated from other places, I take comfort in knowing at least one part of my childhood was homegrown… produced right here on the prairies.

I’ll always be a Size Small kid.  Thank you, Miss Helen!


Featured image credit : Ronnachai Palas – Shutterstock

Nobody kicks a dead dog (2014)

Photo Credit : Shutterstock

My job isn’t much different than that of a preacher.

Well, aside from the content of our words (mine can be a little more risque and biting while theirs are inspirational and spiritual.)

And, the gravitas of our positions.

And, the robe.  I can’t pull off the robe.

Okay, so maybe it is different.

However, we go out every day, put ourselves out on stage, perform a little to get people’s attention, and hope the things we say will create some sort of positive emotional impact with our audience.

Maybe the biggest difference between a guy with a microphone in a radio studio and a (wo)man standing at a pulpit is that while it takes a special kind of heathen to tell a (wo)man of the cloth they stink, the various ways we’ve given the audience to connect with us in broadcasting makes hurling an insult as simple as whipping out a cell phone and hitting “send.”

I hate to give credit to the existence of trolls by writing a piece about them, but they’re one of those things that any of us who work in the media seem to face.

On Sunday, CTV National News anchor Lisa LaFlamme had one such troll hurl an insult at her on Twitter, and she shut him down (much to the celebration of her followers.)


My buddy Seth Armstrong at Saskatoon’s Rock 102 FM also had a bout with a text messaging tough guy a few months ago, taking the conversation from the keyboard to the air.

On Wednesday morning, I had one particularly ugly texter try to get my goat as we talked on the show about a number of topics.  It was a pretty lighthearted show, in fact, including the story about the US snowboarder who wanted to take home a whole bunch of stray dogs from Sochi (posing with the puppies for a picture that’ll make his current fans swoon and newcomers go gaga), and the awesome Aurora Borealis display the night before (it was amazing!)


Unlike Lisa or Seth, I left the texts alone.  In fact, we have the luxury of being able to send them to a digital garbage bin – which is where crap like this belongs.  Not because I didn’t have a comeback, but because I’ve grown to believe the best response is no response at all.

Some experts, like digital mastermind Seth Godin, make it a personal rule not to expose themselves to negativity.  In The Icarus Deceptionhe talks about how writers (in particular) look to reviews and blog comments not to determine the economic success of their work, but rather (to their detriment) feed their egos.

…I realized what I was doing with the comments and reviews I was reading.  I would read thirty of them, and twenty-nine would be positive (sometimes extraordinarily so) and one would be a direct hit job, a brutal takedown of who I was and what I was trying to do.  And for the next few days, all that my lizard brain would let me think about was the bad one…

…I was amplifying the negative at the expense of the positive, not to serve any useful function, not to make my writing better, but to destroy it…

…I haven’t sought out and read a review or tweet since.  This is not cowardice; it’s the act of someone who wants to keep writing and is determined to do it for an audience of his choosing.  Shun the nonbelievers…

(Excerpt from Seth Godin’s “The Icarus Deception.”)

Unfortunately, in my line of work, you don’t have to go seeking out the negative.  It gets delivered to the studio in real time – on a big, bright LCD screen.  Like a heckler in a comedy club, they’re right there in front of your face.

Seth Godin’s advice about “shunning the nonbelievers,” is the right tactic.  But, sometimes, you need another tool in your arsenal to get past the negativity staring you in the face.  That’s where I lean on the legendary Dale Carnegie.

In his 1948 book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” Carnegie wrote a piece titled, Nobody Kicks a Dead Dog.  The story is about how roughly two decades earlier, a “boy wonder” had become president of the University of Chicago at the tender age of 30.  Criticism of the young academic came from all sides – and a friend of the boy’s father told the man how shocked he was at the horrible things being said.

“Yes … it was severe, but remember that no one ever kicks a dead dog.”

Yes, and the more important a dog is, the more satisfied people get in kicking him.

When you are kicked and criticized, remember that it is often done because it gives the kicker a feeling of importance. It can often mean that you are accomplishing something and are worthy of attention. Many people get a sense of savage satisfaction out of denouncing those who are well educated, forthright, or functioning in a contributing manner with work, friends, and the task of intimacy…

“…If you get your head above the crowd, you’re going to be criticized. So get used to the idea.”

Make it a rule to do what you can and put up your umbrella to let the rain of criticism drain off of you instead of running down your neck.

(Excerpted from Dale Carnegie’s “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”)

Combining the advice of Godin and Carnegie, I’ve come up with my own personal guidance for dealing with trolls.  Don’t go looking for the negative, and when it lands square in your face, consider the source.  A response might make you feel better, but it achieves nothing in the long run.  Head up, eyes forward, onward.

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

– Dr. Seuss

In the ultimate example of being handed a heckler and making heckler-ade, I leave you with the hilarious Deepak Sethi.  His takedown of a big mouth at a comedy club in Las Vegas went viral a few weeks ago.  While not my tactic, it is entertaining and fits his craft.  (Note : some may be offended by the language.)

If you’re on my side of the microphone, I’d love to hear how you’ve learned to live with and deal with the texting tough guys and social media sadists.


Featured image credit : Shutterstock

Weekend Playlist : Scenes from a Mall

I’m a fan of great storytelling.  It doesn’t matter the form it takes – audio, video, text… it’s all the same to me.  A great story is a great story.  So, on the weekends, something I’ll make a point of posting up is my weekend playlist.


This weekend’s recommendation is a 2008 episode of the fabulous This American Life – the weekly public radio documentary series that appears on PRI affiliates across the US and is buried at 11pm on Sundays on CBC Radio 1. (Why, oh why, don’t we private news/talk broadcasters throw more money at PRI and liberate it from the corp?)


The episode – Scenes from a Mall – where host Ira Glass and his production team descend on a Tennessee shopping mall two weeks before Christmas to tell the stories of a number of people they encounter.


If you have time for only one story from this episode, it has to be act three’s “Santa Fight Club.”  It’ll leave you gobsmacked.

Here’s to a productive – and hopefully enjoyable weekend…