Is Journalism Being Crippled by the Internet?

Dec 09, 11 Is Journalism Being Crippled by the Internet?

Posted by in Featured, News & Media

On more than one occasion, I have wondered how our species can be so self-absorbed that we seem not to notice anyone else’s needs, yet at the same time be so curious about the worldly happenings that we need to stay up to date with the latest gossip on an hourly basis. Centuries ago, people certainly didn’t go out of their way to find out what went on in that love shack two villages down – they were quite happy tending to their own affairs. What changed between then and now? When did we become so intrigued by events that have little or no direct impact on us, and why? Perhaps it was the availability of information that spurned this interest. The invention of the printing press marked the origin of journalism and with the circularization of newspapers, there began a reason for writers to investigate, verify and report events to a wider audience. As the dissemination of information became easier, the scope of our interest grew wider as well. Since then, journalism has evolved into so much more than just a few pages in the daily tabloid. The internet has given everyone with access the platform to broadcast their writing to the world. But is it always a good thing? At a glance, it certainly seems so. Social networking sites such as Twitter provide real-time updates,and like a Fibonacci sequence, it has the ability to spreaddata faster than any other digital or print media. It is a great tool for warning people against seismic waves, but because it bypasses the verification process of traditional journalism, Twitter also serves as a tool for propagating disinformation. It is akin to publishing a newspaper that has not been proof-read by the sub-editors or verified by the fact-checkers. Sure, the timeliness is a bonus – in fact, one journalist (Mac McClelland) went as far as live-tweeting a rape incidence involving a girl in Haiti – but should we sacrifice accuracy (and maybe even ethics) for the sake of sensationalism...

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What our best interests are

Mar 16, 11 What our best interests are

Posted by in Culture

Psychological egotism is a descriptive claim which says that we always act selfishly, no matter what our claimed or perceived motives are. In other words, there is no such thing as altruism because every seemingly altruistic act ends up being for our own benefit. When we help others, we are in essence making ourselves feel good and virtuous. The psychological egotism position thus discards the idea that one’s motives can be entirely selfless. However, what psychological egotism lacks is the distinction between motives and consequences; and selfishness and self-interest. There is surely a difference between a man who jumps into the sea the minute he sees a drowning child and a man who first looks around to see if anybody is there to witness his heroism before jumping in to save the child. There must surely be a difference between a billionaire who donates a million to charity because of his desire to be recognised for his kindness, and a poor lady who donates almost all of her savings to help the victims in Japan because she truly cares. The degree of difference might be difficult to measure in absolute terms but it is nevertheless, there. It would be incorrect to place someone who gets rewarded as a consequence to her genuine motives on the same playing field as someone whose motive is solely to be rewarded. In other words, not every act which contributes to our self-interest is necessarily founded by selfish motives. To say everyone acts in their actual or perceived self-interest is clearly faulty on empirical grounds as we can easily vest interest in people or things other than ourselves. Furthermore, our decision matrices do not always result in the maximization of our self-interest. If our actions require material sacrifices that outweigh the benefits of psychological rewards, resulting in a net loss, can we then still claim to have acted in our self-interest? Even though the two criteria cannot be compared directly, it is obvious that the payoff is not guaranteed...

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Libel Liability – Ernst & Young

New York’s attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, has filed a lawsuit against Ernst & Young (one of the Big Four auditing firms) over the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The civil case is built on claims of professional negligence and it seeks damages equalling all the audit fees E&Y has earned from Lehman ($150m) plus an unspecified amount. While the penalty itself is of insignificant magnitude (it is less than one percent of E&Y’s global revenue and will most likely be covered by insurance), the action highlights a rather contentious issue – that of an auditor’s liability. Deep-pocketed auditors often serve as scapegoats because there is little chance of wrangling money out of those who are truly responsible. Should the case go to trial, the jury’s behaviour will be (at best) unpredictable. Their lack of understanding of the technical nature of the case at hand, fuelled by the emotional baggage that still lingers in the aftermath of the financial crises, coupled with the outrage at having to serve jury duty in the first place does not bode well for the auditors. Auditors are commonly perceived as the watch dogs of the financial world. They recount bricks and pennies, and are paid quite handsomely for doing so. However, they are not detectives. Their primary role is not to prevent or detect fraud. Auditors are paid to express an opinion – not a guarantee – that the financials are fairly presented in all material aspects. The International Standards on Auditing (S 240) require auditors to obtain reasonable assurance (as opposed to absolute assurance) that the financial statements are free from material misstatements. I think this is the part that most people fail to recognize and accept. The Lehman Brothers used Repo 105 to temporarily undermine its liabilities and reduce leverage long enough to ensure that the balance sheet does not look out of place to its investors. This methodology is in line with the American Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and complies with America’s Financial Accounting Standards Board. Ernst...

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Questioning Young Celebrity Sweatshops

Is it just me or is there an increasing trend in prepubescent kids attempting to make their ways into the limelight these last couple of years? Take Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus for example: one is an attention seeking publicity whore who loves singing soprano and posing for the paparazzi; the other is the daughter of famous country singer Billy Ray Cyrus. Both started paving their roads to fame in their diaper days (in Justin’s case, his mother did all dirty paving) and both seem to be quite the hit amongst teenage girls and creepy old men. But aside from all the glamour, the bling, and the wild partying – are they truly the happy campers they claim to be? Can material possessions and five million Twitter followers make up for their lost adolescence? Historical progression is leaning towards “No”. Look at Macaulay Culkin. He was a product of the much loved blockbuster film Home Alone, going on to star in its sequel and many others such as Richie Rich and voicing for Robot Chicken. But it wasn’t long before he started to burn out (at the age of 14) and saw his career blow up amidst drug arrests and “Jackson molestation” rumours. It would take a few psychology degrees to figure out why we become so vested in the lives of celebrities and it would take an entire evolutionary cycle to stop the vesting. Another child-star-turned-prison-inmate: Lindsay Lohan supposedly had a complete breakdown after prison wardens ripped out her false eyelashes and hair extensions at the start of her 90 day sentence. She was released after only 23 days of jail time. One of the many upsides of being a celebrity – you somehow get treated above the law and rehab centres light up in your presence. Lindsay and Macaulay have by no mean, exhausted the list of “child stars gone awry”. Fame has its price and it is often exorbitant. Children are supposed to have a carefree childhood – one that isn’t...

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On Laughter and Pain

When we see someone slip on a banana peel or trip over her two left feet, we laugh instinctively because it is unexpected and therefore funny. The laughter is generally well accepted as it is the quickest way for the clumsy girl to get over the embarrassment of having fallen in public. She will most probably join the throe of giggles and laugh along with her spectators, communicating that it is “No big deal”. But what happens when the fall is so great that some sort of injury occurs? Do we laugh at the misfortune or do we lean towards sympathy instead? The genesis for this post came from this video clip where a girl was catapulting watermelons and one rebounded, hit her squarely in the face then shattered into pieces. I did not find the situation at all humorous. Ironic, yes – but it wasn’t the sort of irony that would make me burst out laughing for the simple fact that I couldn’t stop cringing. Unlike watching someone get face-blasted in a film, the pain this girl experienced was real. Yet, when I glanced through the first page of comments, majority of the viewers found the clip inexplicably hilarious. Some of the comments were downright sexist and brusque, saying: “That bitch deserved it”, when “the bitch” in question hadn’t done anything remotely deserving of a watermelon head shot. I couldn’t understand why certain people find such an expressed delight in another’s pain. So, I browsed around the internet, hoping to stumble upon an explanation. Unlike instances where the subject of the pain somehow deserved the outcome, the case in point did nothing to warrant the acute payoff. Either my Google-fu wasn’t strong enough, or there simply weren’t many articles dedicated to this topic. In any event, I did find a couple of interesting view points on laughter and pain: German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer argued that “to feel envy is human, but to enjoy other people’s misfortune is diabolical.” Unlike instances where the subject...

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