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Friday, January 20, 2017

Journalism 04 - All journalists need to watch the movie Mad City

In 1997, a movie featuring John Travolta and Dustin Hoffman was released. I recommend this movie to all my journalist friends. It is a must watch.

In 1997, it showcases the effects of post-truth news. They hadn't coined that word yet then. But most of the things you will see in the movie are surreal.

However, it is not a futuristic film. Whatever is depicted is an extrapolation of sorts from the Lady Diana's death which happened in Aug 1997. In the years leading up to it, there were discussions of possibility of papparazi getting killed while chasing her. Sadly, she ended up in that accident.

But it tells you of power of media, the responsibility and the effects.

Journalism 03 - Arianna Huffington on the media

Arianna Huffington spoke to Editor-in-Chief of The Economist Zanny Minton Beddoes on the role of the media.

Some interesting points here:

We can come out of this but it depends on how wise our leaders are going to be.

There is lot less time for reflection.

At the start of election process Trump was given lot of uncritical publicity that was not justified by anything except the ratings.

We have to get back to the world where there is such a thing as truth.

Sometimes there are no two sides to the story - like in climate change. "everything has two sides" gives an impression that there is no truth.

Some comments:

Huffington is right on many counts. I am not sure Huffington Post was above it all though. In any case there is nothing wrong with what she is saying.

Journalists did abdicate their responsibility to dig out the truth. 

Opinion war type journalism
Most of the journalist  deal with opinion war. In an opinion war journalists as one person about their views on some subject or better still some person. Then they go to a person who holds opposite views on the topic and ask them to comment about the adverse remarks of the former. 

This is fine if the debate was based on correct facts or it was about interpretation of facts. But sadly the debate is about "facts" themselves. Or it is pure opinion - with a topic like "What do you think Kim Kardashian do next?" or something.

This makes for a good road-side brawl and gets that type of rubber-necking attention but no further. It does however demean the institution of journalism. 

In case of climate change, this is absolutely true. The whole truth about human action causing warming was reduced to a bunch of opinions on global warming.

Cold-war effect
It is possible that decline of journalism started during cold-war times when the press gave up their values and got themselves a pop-corn and soda and eagerly bought into the cold-war propaganda.

Not all did it, I admit. And some did it because other side would not respond properly and facts were difficult to ascertain. But some did buy into the propaganda completely.

Buy my books "Subverting Capitalism & Democracy" and "Understanding Firms".

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Future Work 01 - Work not education makes people dumber!

How can we ensure that the workforce in a country continues to create jobs, create value and economic and other returns for its people in the current environment? The current environment is quite challenging for the employees. Those laid-off due to automation feel frustrated and find that they cannot find equivalent employment.

Economic value chains are changing rapidly. They are spreading out geographically. Skill obsolescence is quite high too with robots and computers being able to take up quite a bit of work. The profile of jobs is becoming polarised - extreme high value adding jobs (chip designer, chef, super specialist surgeons etc.) and extremely low-end (janitors etc.) Further, it is happening at an unprecedented pace.

On the contrary, the speed at which skills are being acquired and developed is quite slow. Thus, the people who have lost their manufacturing jobs to automation are not quite employable in similar pay-grade in as quick time. Two factors hinder in the process. First, the laid-off people are older and thus slower learners. Second, the skill spread is so wide that betting on the right skill, acquiring it and making a life by using it is difficult. Few unlucky ones have seen their new skills become obsolete too.

This dichotomy is a mismatch between the job profile of the economy and the skill profile of the economy. As the mismatch widens people feel more frustrated.

This wasn't the case in early years because of the nature of manufacturing jobs. The skills gained by the people working in the first factories were about organising and basic skills (turning, fitting etc.) These skills did not become obsolete only their demand did. But today these skills have been replaced by better fabrication machines and instrumentation. Thus, the skills that the workers have are not required.

The job profiles so developed as to reduce the judgement factor within the job. This makes people dumber as Adam Smith notes. Here is the quote from Adam Smith
"In the progress of the division of labour, the employment of the far greater part of those who live by labour, that is, of the great body of the people, comes to be confined to a few very simple operations, frequently to one or two. But the understandings of the greater part of men are necessarily formed by their ordinary employments. The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become. The torpor of his mind renders him not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble, or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment concerning many even of the ordinary duties of private life. Of the great and extensive interests of his country he is altogether incapable of judging, and unless very particular pains have been taken to render him otherwise, he is equally incapable of defending his country in war. The uniformity of his stationary life naturally corrupts the courage of his mind, and makes him regard with abhorrence the irregular, uncertain, and adventurous life of a soldier. It corrupts even the activity of his body, and renders him incapable of exerting his strength with vigour and perseverance in any other employment than that to which he has been bred. His dexterity at his own particular trade seems, in this manner, to be acquired at the expense of his intellectual, social, and martial virtues. But in every improved and civilised society this is the state into which the labouring poor, that is, the great body of the people, must necessarily fall, unless government takes some pains to prevent it."
Thus drained of the vitality of growth, initiative, the determined decision-making, the application of thought and the generation of ideas, such worker is thrown into the open world which values exactly that. So it may have been work and not education, as argued by Sir Ken Robinson,  that makes people dumber.

Monday, January 16, 2017

World War 3 watch 01 - Some developments

Actually, this should the third post but I summarise what I observed in the past.

Probability of war seems to have increased. It is still small but definitely increased. Though it is unlikely that India will be involved in one (we never invaded any country in 5000 years - so we dont have the mindset) But, look how different war-indicating trends are catching up.
  1. China has more males in its population - typically when the pop ratio gets skewed the chances of war increases. Further, income polarization is very high in China. 
  2. Recession will make more people (mainly youth) unemployed and in financially distressed situation - implying combative etc
  3. US-china have classical debtor-creditor problem any strong arm by China will not be taken lightly by US. China believes it may be wronged by the US. If US dollar devalues then you can be sure things wont be easy on this front.
  4. War is by far the biggest domestic stimulus one can give - creates domestic jobs and stuff hence politicians are ok with war in such times.
  5. The typical flash points are visible - Afghanistan Pakistan is now a flash-point. If Us forces are attacked or get in some trouble then we could see drastic actions. Earlier North Korea, Malaysian protests, Demonstrations in Greece were some flash points ( though none as big as Af-Pak)
  6. Religious alignments are getting more stricter - talibanization of SWAT valley in Pakistan is an indicator. To certain degree, Obama election has reduced any polarization along religious lines that we saw earlier in US.
  7. US policies and other global stimuli are going to result in more income polarization. As global inflation strikes the differences will become more evident - I can foresee Mary Antoinette - "if you don't have bread eat cake" statements. 
  8. Usually such conditions are off-set by economic growth (that promotes peace) - but that has near about halted in past few months. Now if things do not improve we could be in for much tougher times.

  1. In 2015 Japanese parliament permitted their army to go aggressive( with US blessings). They have been making ships and aircraft carriers since few years ago displayed in Aussie, Singapore, Japan and US joint exercise - small allegedly helicopter carrier or something. 
  2. Last week I was seeing Singapore Air Force Fighter planes on evening patrols. Also every day they have the another surveillance plane - it is not the boeing posiedon in the air. 
  3. On friday, India announced surgical strikes on terror bases in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. 
  4. Last week, Singapore PM met Japanese PM Abe. Last month he met Obama. Chinese news paper is accused Singapore of siding with US. This week Singapore PM is meeting Narendra Modi.
  5. Last week Japanese PM Abe met Narendra Modi and promised him some military tech and other assistance including manufacturing assistance.
  6. Phillipines has abandoned US and is courting China. Durtete made a statement that he received encouragement from China and Russia on his anti-US remarks.
  7. Last month the International Arbitration Tribunal restrained China from claiming rights on South China Sea.
  8. Last month Austrailia published a white paper on maritime defence highlighting the need to protect the interest in the northern coasts and in the Pacific. Australia does not have any threat from any country in the Pacific save China. It is way far out and super friendly with most of the major powers. It has a love-hate relations with some island countries where China has become active.
  9. US is offering F-16 (yeah the old ones) to India for make-in-India option. (The tech is old but the offer is quite lucrative)

A few more developments are have taken place since then,

  1. Russia unveiled Satan -2 ICBM range exceeding 11,000kms
  2. India successfully tested Smart Anti-Airfield Missile (Bunker busters)
  3. Israel has received its F35s which will be fitted with Israeli tech
  4. Russia launched massive war drill involving civilians.
  5. Russia has also deployed nuclear missiles in Kaliningrad.
  6. Great Britain stated that it will sail its ships through south China Sea in 2017 and station ships and aircraft in 2020.
  7. The US activated the missile shield in Europe last year
  8. The US will be deploying THAAD systems in South Korea soon.
  9. Japan's helicopter carrier seems to be a disguised aircraft carrier.
  10. Chinese second aircraft carrier a replica of first one will be commissioned in 2017 or 2018. The third carrier may be equal to the biggest aircraft carriers of US.
  11. government issued directions in 2015 that certain civilian ships may be used by navies in an emergency to augment its naval supply chain.
  12. US-India have finalised a deal for M777 Howitzer.
While these military developments are taking place, Trump is busy questioning one-china policy, the trade arrangements with China and anti-dumping duties. China detained 9 armoured vehicles headed to Singapore after Singapore conducted some military exercises with Taiwan.

Another event is sustained Japanese visits to countries across the Asia-Pacific. These are being made at the highest level and with consistency.

All these developments are not healthy. Unless there is concerted effort to diffuse this situation, it can quickly get out of hand.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Journalism 02 - Key Events in history of Journalism

 Let us look at the history of newspapers through key/landmark events. I have stated some comments in brackets [ ], whenever I wanted to signal something. This is partial list as of now. Please make suggestions and corrections. I will be happy to edit/add modify and update this list.

131 BCE
The Acta Diurna ("Daily Events") was the first news type of publication. The first form of Acta appeared around 131 BCE. It is more of a Gazette of daily events rather than a newspaper.
Gutenberg Printing press
First advertisement in English paper Mercurius Britannicus about publication of a book
England establishes licensing requirements for press by Licensing Act 1662. It is subsequently protested by John Milton.
First classified ad for runaway servant published in Mercurius Britannicus
The Oxford Gazette is published (Now the London gazette)
House of Commons allows Licensing Act to lapse after campaigning by John Locke.
Mercantile newspapers emerged mainly to support Marine insurance companies and owners and investors of ships about loss of ships, etc.
The first US newspaper publishes paid advertisement, an announcement seeking a buyer for an Oyster Bay, Long Island, estate, is published in the Boston News-Letter. Paid advertising becomes mainstream.
USA passes the first amendment protecting the freedom of speech and freedom of press.
In New York, The Sun began publication September 3, 1833, as a morning newspaper edited by Benjamin Day with the slogan "It Shines for All". This was a penny press newspaper.
The Sun first became famous for its central role in the Great Moon Hoax of 1835, a fabricated story of life and civilization on the moon which the paper falsely attributed to British astronomer John Herschel and never retracted. [Begining of fake news]
Commercial telegraphs are introduced.
Steam powered cylindrical press was introduced with ability to print about 8000 pages per hour.
On April 13, 1844, The Sun published as factual a story by Edgar Allan Poe now known as "The Balloon-Hoax", retracted two days after publication. The story told of an imagined Atlantic crossing by hot-air balloon.
The Reuter agency was established in 1851 by Paul Julius Reuter in Britain at the London Royal Exchange. He used telegraph, Reuters used pigeons to communicate between Aachen and Brussels as telegraph connectivity was not complete.
American Civil War pushed the use to Telegraphs to communicate news with newsroom for printing. Cutting telegraph wires was common counter-strategy. As a response, reporters used inverted-pyramid reporting style popular even today. Embeded reporters collected facts sold to both sides of Civil war. Hence facts were necessarily objective and unbiased. (Good for business). [Note beginning of embedded journalist but note their business models keeping them unbiased]
1870s -
As overland telegraph and undersea cable facilities developed, Reuters expanded beyond Europe to the Far East in 1872 and South America in 1874.
First war of readership - Start of yellow journalism (over exaggerations, lies, fake news etc.) While Pulitzer prize is given to good quality research, Pulitzer himself published exaggerations albeit slight. Though in comparison to his competitor William Hearst, Pulitzer was quite mild. Both together are part of the yellow journalism era.
Movies come on the scene. Mostly silent films in black and white but a new medium is created.
Muckraking magazines—notably McClure's of publisher S. S. McClure—took on corporate monopolies and political machines while trying to raise public awareness and anger at urban poverty, unsafe working conditions, prostitution, and child labour.
Tabloid pioneer, Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe an early pioneer of tabloid journalism. He bought several failing newspapers and made them into an enormously profitable chain, primarily by appealing to popular taste. He began with The Evening News in 1894, and then merged two Edinburgh papers to form the Edinburgh Daily Record. That same year he fitted out an expedition to Franz Joseph Land in the Arctic with the aim of making attempts on the North Pole.
The first comic strip appears in Pulitzer's paper called the Yellow Kid. Stunt Journalism was used to increase readership.  [Note the shift from news to entertainment in a battle for readership]
Marconi patents wireless telegraphy machine precursor to the modern radio which became operational a few years later. By 1900 most navies and armies were using this technology for coordination.
On 4 May 1896, Alfred Harmsworth began publishing the Daily Mail in London, which was a hit, holding the world record for daily circulation until Harmsworth's death; taglines of The Daily Mail included "the busy man's daily journal" and "the penny newspaper for one halfpenny". [Birth of tabloid]
Possibly, sensational news reporting may have pushed the US deployment of USS Maine which was sunk triggering the war. [First war caused by fake news?]
"The Jungle" is a 1906 novel written by the American journalist and novelist Upton Sinclair (1878–1968). Sinclair wrote the novel to portray the harsh conditions and exploited lives of meat packing industries in the United States in Chicago and similar industrialised cities. The book was based on proper investigations and led to laws relating to food and drugs.
On Christmas Eve 1906, Reginald Fessenden used a synchronous rotary-spark transmitter for the first radio program broadcast, from Ocean Bluff-Brant Rock, Massachusetts. Ships at sea heard a broadcast that included Fessenden playing O Holy Night on the violin and reading a passage from the Bible.[38] This was, for all intents and purposes, the first transmission of what is now known as amplitude modulation or AM radio.
Charles Herrold started broadcasting in California in 1909 and was carrying audio by the next year. (Herrold's station eventually became KCBS).
Titanic sank but after hitting iceberg radioed SOS. Soon there was regulations about using radio.
In 1920 wireless broadcasts for entertainment began in the UK from the Marconi Research Centre 2MT at Writtle near Chelmsford, England. A famous broadcast from Marconi's New Street Works factory in Chelmsford was made by the famous soprano Dame Nellie Melba on 15 June 1920, where she sang two arias and her famous trill. She was the first artist of international renown to participate in direct radio broadcasts.
The first radio news program was broadcast August 31, 1920 by station 8MK in Detroit, Michigan, which survives today as all-news format station WWJ under ownership of the CBS network.
BBC is formed
US national radio networks are established.
The Queen's Messenger, a one-act play broadcast on September 11, 1928, was the world's first live drama on television.
Great Depression wrecks havoc and FDR uses radio for fire-side chats. Great Depression also inflicts the first assault on newspaper industry.
During the March 1938 Anschluss, in which Adolf Hitler engineered the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany. Edward R. Murrow immediately sent William Shirer, his reporter on the ground, to London, where Shirer delivered an uncensored, eyewitness account of the Anschluss. Ed Murrow became the first star - on radio and then on TV.
Lowell Thomas hosted the first-ever news broadcast on television in 1940.
Arthur (Usher) Fellig under the pseudonym Weegee, kickstarted what is today called papparazi journalism.
The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953 is said to have been watched by more people on television than heard it on "the wireless". It became the first live outdoor event telecast. Famously, the camera stopped working just as the queen's parade was about to turn onto the road. The cameraman kicked it and it started working resulting in a new term called "technical tap" joined the troubleshooting lexicon.
JFK Assasination brought Television into focus. Murdocuh also converted the Sun from a broadsheet to tabloid in 1969.
The Sun, bought by Rupert Murdoch in 1969, kickstarts the era of Page 3. Page 3, the phrase originates with the publication of a large photograph of a topless, bare-breasted female glamour model which was usually published on the print edition's third page. The feature first appeared in the newspaper on 17 November 1970 and on the official Page 3. 
Nixon tapes scandal brings to fore some of the journalism's best-known people - Bob Woordward, Carl Bernstein, Deep Throat.
Galella v. Onassis, Jacquline Kennedy Onassis obtained a restraining order to keep Galella 150 feet (46 m) away from her and her children. [Papparazi photography/journalism leads to legal impact].
David Frost interviews Nixon and the interviews are aired on television to unprecedented audience. The "Questioning of powerful" by Frost of Nixon by confronting him with conversations and pushing him to explain have set journalistic standard.
Launch of Cable News  dedicated channel for news.
Bloomberg is launched. Bloomberg has turned financial reporting into profitable business model using comprehensive offering through its terminal.
USA Today is launched with colour photos, colour paper, graphics and stylish layouts we know today.
In 1986, Murdoch introduced electronic production processes to his newspapers in Australia, Britain and the United States. This is more on newspaper production side not on journalism side. But Newspaper firms get used to fire people and cut cost theory of business management.
On January 29, 1988, USA Today published the largest edition in its history, a 78-page weekend edition featuring a section previewing Super Bowl XXII; the edition included 44.38 pages of advertising and sold 2,114,055 copies, setting a single-day circulation record for an American newspaper (a record that the paper would beat nearly nine months later on September 2, when its Labor Day weekend edition sold 2,257,734 copies).
Sky News launches in Europe,
Adobe releases Photoshop one of the most important tools in era of Papparazi.
Gulf War catapaults cable news into mainstream
Yahoo launches its web portal - a catalogue of links. Alongwith subgroup of news.
O. J. Simpson trial begins
1995 is launched as a website for classifieds.
Drudge Report was launched as a gossip site on Hollywood and Washington. Andrew Brietbart assisted Matt Drudge the founder. Brietbart also launched his own site which gained notoreity during 2016 election.
Fox News launches in US using conservative bias and slick reporting to gain viewership.
Google's initial launch.
Lady Diana is killed in an accident, allegedly trying to avoid papparazi. Lady Diana was the world's most photographed woman by that time and hounded by the papparazi.
Yahoo News launches most emailed page of the day. Usually news item shared on the internet. This increases reach of the publishers.
Google launches Google News
Facebook is launched restricted to Harvard alum.
LA Times photographer manipulates war images to improve composition
Youtube is created sold an year later to Google.
Celebrity gossip news site TMZ is launched.
Twitter is launched.
Facebook goes global
Kim Kardashian sex tape hits the internet. The Kardashians use this to construct an entertainment business around this. The show itself dovetails with tabloid demand leading to wider coverage in the news media. The difference between the "reality TV" and Kardashians is the amount of coverage it takes up on journalism time. There is often interest in happenings of Big Brother and Survivor but these items do not get covered in news. Kardashian show uses "news" as a tool of their entertainment show.
Christian Science Monitor stops paper edition
Twitter starts setting records for no. of tweets during events. For example, a record was set during the 2010 FIFA World Cup when fans wrote 2,940 tweets per second in the thirty-second period after Japan scored against Cameroon on June 14.
On July 19, 2010, Shirley Sherrod was forced to resign from her position as Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture after blogger Andrew Breitbart posted a selectively-edited video of Sherrod's address to a March 2010 NAACP event onto his website. Reacting to these video excerpts, the NAACP condemned her remarks and U.S. government officials called on her to resign. However, upon review of the complete unedited video in full context, the NAACP, White House officials, and Tom Vilsack, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, apologised for the firing, and Sherrod was offered a new position with the USDA.
News International phone-hacking scandal is a controversy involving the defunct News of the World and other British newspapers published by News International, a subsidiary of News Corporation. Employees of the newspaper were accused of engaging in phone hacking, police bribery and exercising improper influence in the pursuit of stories
Periscope is launched for video sharing by twitter.
The lack of proper debate and malicious campaigning attributed to fake news. Facebook, Fox News contributed to spreading of these fake news stories. President Obama said "If I was only watching Fox News even I would not vote for me."

Using inputs from Mark Grabowski Slideshare presentation, Wikipedia and Google for dates.
Book: The Advertising Age Encyclopedia of Advertising By John McDonough, Karen Egolf

As an investor, I find learning the history of any industry is very crucial. You never know what you will get to know. When I started out I was dumbfounded by one analyst who seemed to know so much history about oil and petroleum. I was pointed to a book called "The Prize", then there was Chaos which told about the development of Chaos Theory. As investors, we understand how business model changed how entrepreneurs made the decisions they did. So when we want to develop a business model for Journalism, we should know what transpired.