Why we should not criticise the Media for “negative” news

No, I am not from the journo fraternity.

The chances are you would not continue reading this piece for two reasons:

  1. The topic does not sound sensational and
  2. Your mind is telling you either you know the answer or you don’t need to know it.

That pretty much sums it up. I can afford to write without bothering about being read. But media cannot. They write to sell so they have to be mindful of what sells. And we all know what sells because we are ones who buy it.

In order to be in a better position to judge media we need to introspect by asking “If given a choice what would we read?”An article on a plight of child labour or B. a news piece on a teenager becoming a target of a sexual assault?

A. A report on the bills passed by the parliament or B. A report on MPs using pepper spray?

A. News of a dedicated social worker passing away or B. News of a Bollywood actor getting injured?

A. News about an Indian grand master winning an international chess tournament or B News about an Indian cricketer scoring a hundred.

If the honest answer of most of us for all the questions is B, expect such items to be a part of the front page. And that’s how it is.

It is not the media that decides what will feature on the front page. It is we.

Reason?

Is a subject of research.

What I feel is that this is one of the outcomes of the info-revolution that has hit the world.

Once upon a time mail marketing was enough to generate curiosity and would result in deals even in the US. Colorful billboards would capture imagination of one and all.

But then Information Technology entered the scene. And it pervaded all aspects of life from entertainment to medicine to telecommunication to aviation and what not.

It started by mesmerizing the young minds with innovative music videos. Then Apple and computer animation happened and Hollywood started putting life into prehistoric beings, aliens (from ET to Terminator to Transformers) and of course the super heroes. Today, Google has turned every one into a one second explorer and gmail has almost killed the word email. Youtube has changed people into channels and has modified the meaning of the word “viral”. Facebook has turned the world into one big meeting place, “whatsapp” has become the verb synonym of “message” and twitter has become the official medium for the world leaders and celebrities even as the world has got used to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

One of the ramifications of telecommunication boom was the explosion in the number of electronic media channels. Even in a country like ours there are numerous news channels. Another was a burst in the number of products and services vying for the same market segment.

All this was giving nightmares to marketers of products and services alike. To reach out to the customers they not only had to advertise but also slice their spending across channels. Of course preference has been going to the channels with highest TRPs. For print media preference parameter had always been the readership.

Among all this change, something remained constant.

Man’s nature.

It retained its tendency to be bored easily and lose interest. It also retained its obsession with voyeurism, pain and suffering.

Sadly the nature of news hasn’t changed over the years.  If you go through the news of 50 years back the only difference would be the technology used by the subjects.

So there was only solution left for the news papers and news channels to remain viable: report not what people SHOULD know but what people WANTED to listen and watch. And thus give them the satisfaction of that satiating feeling “Yes I knew!”

The only sense of empirical authenticity now lies in numbers. Numbers still keep people interested more than the text does. So tell the number of rupees being spent on Kasab and they will fondly read. Filling the news with number of hours, deaths, dollars, votes, is an effective bait to get eyeballs.

Also, these days, people have acquired high regards for “human rights”. Identifying with the plight of the perpetrator and not the victims has become the new mantra to sell news. Still better ploy is to portray the perpetrator as the victim of circumstances and emerge as a true champion of human rights.

The business units that they are, (apart from being the indispensible social institution) media will always try their best to report something that can tickle our benumbed sensibilities.

So before we blame the media for being insensitive we should ask do we have the stomach for the sensitive and not just the sensational.

How to Write a Statement of purpose (SOP)

With a global surge in the inclination for higher education, there has been a rise in the number of applicants for various post graduate and doctoral programs. But it has been more so in the field of management especially for MBA.

This has made selection process quite a challenging task for the top universities and the Institutes. The selectors want to ensure that they get exactly the kind of talent they are looking for.  So the selection process has become multi-stage and multi layered to make the assessment of applicants as holistic as possible. A standard written test score, sound academic record and a statement of purpose have all their share of importance.

For many students, written test and academic record make straight forward sense, but they seem to be at loss when asked to write a statement of purpose. This post aims to familiarise you with the basics of the SOP and the process of writing SOP for MBA.

What is Statement of purpose

As the name indicates the University or the Institute wants to know the specific reasons behind your decision to apply for the program. They also want to know about whether you have assessed yourself for the suitability for the applied program and also whether you understand the benefits  of the program. In short they want to know whether the applicant is clear about where the program exactly fits into his/her larger scheme of things.

So a good SOP should include the following

  1. Career Goal
  2. Your background and experiences correlated with your Career Goal
  3. Appreciation of what the program offers.

Let us understand these one by one.

  1. Career Goal

Career goal is the most important aspect of an MBA SOP or the answer of the question “Why MBA?”.

For most of the under graduates and even graduates these are the most confusing and amorphous words. They mean it to be some kind of prediction and seem to be wary of it going wrong.

To put it simply the career goal is a statement of intent and aspiration and not a prediction. While stating a career goal, one is expected to state the professional level one desires to achieve at the top of his career over the next 15- 20 years.

For example: “I aspire to be at a position of strategic leadership in a Fortune 500 company.” Or “I desire to have my own business in the field of e commerce with a global presence.” Or “I see myself as the leader of a trans national retail organistaion.”

Although a person must ideally decide to prepare for the written test only if there is clarity on career goal front, students often write the test with a vague idea like “a better job” or “everybody does it”. So at the time of application they feel quite uncomfortable in stating a convincing career goal. They should understand that there are no good or bad career goals. There are only clear or vague goals. And to arrive at clarity some bit of research is indispensible.

  1. Background and experiences correlated with career goal.

The objective of including background and experiences is to strengthen the candidature by showcasing your strengths, interests and inclinations.  So it is advisable to include those experiences which logically relate with one’s choice of a particular career goal. This part can include experiences and instances from school and college life – both academic and extra-curricular- , interactions with friends and family, social interactions and also from work experience if applicable.

For example “I discovered my interest in business when I participated in a Business plan presentation competition at my college. Right from doing the research and crunching numbers to presenting the plan and winning the competition, I went on to realise that I have inclination towards identifying and exploiting business opportunities.”

Or

“I derive a lot of pleasure in cooking and fine dining. I even like to give feedback to restaurants on improving the dining experience. In many instances a restaurant owners have appreciated my feedback. Over the years I have developed a desire to blend my interest with my career. “

  1. Appreciation of what MBA program offers

Many students who apply for MBA programs have a misplaced idea about what an MBA exactly offers. They mention words like “personality development or personality enhancement” or “to hone my managerial skills”. While personality development is a by product of life in a B School it is not its express purpose. So what does MBA really offers.

MBA program from a reputed Institute or University offers both inside class and outside class learning. The primary purpose of MBA is to equip the students with key skills and core competencies needed to run and drive the growth of a big business.  In the process the student’s involvement with peers during case discussions and co curricular activities, interaction with visiting Industry experts, and  summer internship provide a boost to various soft skills needed to excel in the corporate. Besides, the alumni connection boosts the placement scenario and strengthens the brand of an Institute. The brand advantage is one of the biggest intangibles offered by a top B school.

Features of a good SOP.

A good sop is one in which the background logically support the career goal and the skills needed to achieve the career goal are the same as those offered by MBA program. Often a word limit – ranging from 100 words to 1000 words – is provided while asking for the SOP. However, if no word limit is provided SOP of around 600 words is highly desirable.  The language should be as simple as possible and jargon should be used only when necessary. Also remember that often the SOP serves as the basis for the subsequent Personal Interview, so you should be absolutely clear about the meaning of special words and the jargon used in the SOP.

Final word

Writing an impressive SOP is a process that depends on decent language skills, proper research and patience to write multiple drafts and edit them for improvement and removing any errors.  The two essential qualities of a good SOP are clarity and conviction.

Why Love Is a Learned Language

An amazing article on one of the most hyped and the least understood emotion: Love

THE KNOWLEDGE DOME

An amazing article on one of the most hyped and the least understood emotion: Love

Excerpt: “Citing famous cases, both folkloric and factual, of human children raised by animals outside civilization, Buscaglia notes that just like we “learn” to be human, we also learn to love. He points to the research of various psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists, anthropologists, and educators, who have indicated that love is a “learned response, a learned emotion,” and laments a fundamental cultural disconnect:”

For full article:

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/06/30/leo-buscaglia-love-2/

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Understanding the Villain – Part II

In the previous post I tried to outline the origin and emergence of the villain.

https://theopiniator.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/understanding-the-villain-part-i/

In this post I shall answer the question raised in the last post:

But what are the oddities  that breed the villain and make some cross the second check?

There can be three possible scenarios:

1. Physical Anomaly

One of the biggest human desires is to be accepted and loved. Any individual at any level cannot live happily in the state of rejection from the society. The problem with a person who is physically at odds with most of those around is that he is most often rejected. Sometimes he may get attention/sympathy/ awe of some docile persons.

So what does a person with a physical anomaly do? He/she tries to impress people and win appreciation and with each attempt finds himself/herself even more isolated.

In some cases isolation is aggravated by insults and insults grow to an unbearable extent.

Then the person is left with two choices. One, to learn live the life of ignominy and two, to create a different world in which more and people willingly or unwillingly not only accept him but also respect him. The latter path leads to the emergence of the villain.

2. Alternative spirituality

God is the supreme power in this creation called the universe. We have to be good to please him and if we do something wrong He punishes us.

What if somebody does not believe in these ideas and rejects them summarily? Instead, he identifies a different purpose of life which is completely at odds with existing notions of right and wrong. Of course the moment the world comes to know about it, it will try to reform the person and try to instil in him the “right” notions of right and wrong.

When alternative spirituality is coupled with superior communication skills, it is possible to attract people who are weak followers of the mainstream faith. Once a person realises the latent power of the masses, he takes it an opportunity to prove that his conception is the true way for meeting the real purpose of life and the villain may be born.

3. Alternative theory of creation or creativity

“Destruction is the end of creation” is the normal notion. Destructive kids are feared and sometimes detested.

What if someone believes that destruction is not the end of creation, it is the essential beginning for a new creation. If he believes that anything that has existed for long must be decaying and must be destroyed to allow and facilitate a new beginning.

Or some other alternative theory of creation or creativity.

The chances are that education and counselling will try to direct his / her creativy in the traditional direction and may succeed. But if such a person is capable enough to move out of the theoretical realm of alternative creativity to devising something destructive (creative) the chances are that (s)he will be unstoppable and the villain would emerge.

But where do we find the villain apart from the fiction and movies?

A simple one but I will answer this in my next post.

Claiming an Education: Adrienne Rich’s Spectacular 1977 Commencement Address

THE KNOWLEDGE DOME

This is a wonderfully enlightening talk.

Excerpt: ” The first thing I want to say to you who are students, is that you cannot afford to think of being here to receive an education: you will do much better to think of being here to claim one. One of the dictionary definitions of the verb “to claim” is: to take as the rightful owner; to assert in the face of possible contradiction. “To receive” is to come into possession of: to act as receptacle or container for; to accept as authoritative or true. The difference is that between acting and being acted-upon, and for women it can literally mean the difference between life and death.”

For full article:

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/05/21/claiming-an-education-adrienne-rich-1977-commencement/

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Why is Political Discourse getting nastier?

BENI SHINDE RAMDEV MULAYAM MAMTA LALU KEJRIWAL DIGVIJAY

Political discourse and election speeches these days have almost become synonymous with scathing and scandalous personal attacks on political opponents.

In fact the language being used by the top most politicians has started resembling the lexicon and tone of the common people chatting frivolously.

It is easy to just scorn at the nasty election speeches and move on. But just like any social phenomenon, this one should also point towards some basic reasons.

  • Does it indicate the desperation for and the pressure of the high stakes?
  • Does it indicate the hunger to stay in the headlines?
  • Or does it indicate crumbling of ethical edifice of the society?

I think that it is a combination of all the three aspects.

Desperation for and the pressure of sky high stakes.

Politics has always been a money spinner. But in today’s era of globalisation, stakes have reached a mind boggling level. Political power is a highly potent ground for wind falls. Spurred by technological innovation, businesses are growing faster than ever. Big businesses are finding it more difficult than ever to sustain themselves. Each buck of the disposable income is sought like the last drop of water falling from bottle in a desert. In such a scenario, companies are willing to do anything to surge and remain ahead. They don’t mind breaking a rule or two and love to have rules mended and bended in their favour.

In such a scenario, politicians –   MPs, MLAs, Senators, Congressmen – assume importance to an extent that would be unthinkable a few decades ago. Corporations use lobbying in the US to ensure that favourable bills are introduced and passed and the unfavourable ones killed. In India, although lobbying is not legal, big money changes hands for the same reasons.

Can you imagine the desperation among the contenders for the post of the CEO of Microsoft? Well, by political standards that job is peanuts.

The political discourse in such a high stake scenario cannot be anything but nasty, aggressive and incisive. It’s better to rant and prevail than restrain and perish.

Hunger to stay in the headlines

Technological revolution has had one more major impact. It has resulted in the contraction of the time span to what remains on the top of the memory. It has also reduced the concentration time span of most of the people.

People these days don’t seem to bother much about the events happening around them. This is because there is a lot that is happening and they can neither afford nor seem to bother about keeping track of these events.

News about good deeds has almost lost its ability to make inroads to the top of the memory and also to grab any concentration. News about catastrophes, scandals, insults is far more effective in grabbing eye-balls. For an example, try answering the following questions:

Can you tell me one view of Donald Sterling?

Give me one reason why you remember Bill Clinton.

What is second name that comes to your mind when I say John F Kennedy?

What is the first thing about Lady Diana that comes to your mind?

Who is the most talked about political figure from the World War II?

What do you know about Tiger Woods apart from the fact that he is a top Golf Player?

What is Lance Armstrong famous for?

In politics if you praise your opponent or mention him/her in a matter-of-fact manner your are very much likely to miss the headlines but if you denigrate a mighty opponent you will almost definitely make it to the headlines and finally to the coveted top of the memory slot. And if you want to win elections this slot is the sine qua non.

Thus political discourse tends to tickle the basic instincts by getting nasty.

Crumbling of ethical edifice of the society

Ethics have evolved. Much that a few decades ago would have drawn censure on account of being unethical is worth only a shrug today. Drinking, smoking, porn, promiscuity, voyeurism, violence have already pervaded the society while the weed is on its way. In fact they have also been glamorised to the extent that non users fear ostracization. Death Race, Hunger games, Game of Thrones epitomize public choice today.

People won’t mind a death race in the political arena too. They seem to enjoy one vicious verbal blow after another. No wonder that political biggies are not leaving any stone unturned in lending edge to their political discourse. No communication can be effective if it is not in the language of the audience. So using the language (even if it is nasty), which is used by the common man has become acceptable, desirable and immune to ethical censure (unless ironically done by another politician).

During elections, politicians become gladiators and the globalised world becomes one big Colosseum.

And offensive and nasty discourse seems to be an indispensible weapon they can wield.