Do event outcomes affect how we rate their coverage? CNN IBN and US Elections 2012

Media feeds on elections. Counting and results declaration is when news becomes a “mass audience” genre, and the US Election results night more globally so is such a mass audience event. As I write, Obama has just been declared victorious. Apart from watching the coverage on BBC, I have been following the conversation in India on the topic on Twitter.

Rajdeep Sardesai, (Editor of CNN IBN , an important national cable news network in India) just tweeted that he was thankful to people for liking their coverage , on the basis of unsolicited instant feedback he received on twitter. Sounds very good!

BUT I couldn’t help ‘speculating’ if this enthusiastic support of the coverage had something to do with the outcome ( Obama’s Victory). Let me explain. Although a small fraction of Indians are really interested in US Elections,  many of them talk about it on twitter and also watch English language news. On average, they support Obama (they are young, globally mobile, have US connections mostly in North East and West Coast). So perhaps a Romney victory would not make them jump with joy. Then they (Obama supporters) may have liked the coverage a little less. Or at least not expressed unsolicited admiration.

I am not taking any credit away from Rajdeep or IBN. I am merely fishing for people’s thoughts on a hypothesis:An outcome of an event favorable to us makes us think more favorably of news media’s coverage of that event. So by corollary – On average, Americans who watched the 2012 elections night unfold on CNN (more liberal)  may rate CNN’s coverage more favorably than FOX News’ viewers (more conservative) would rate its coverage . Thoughts, comments?

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Why people get thrown out of restaurants? A highly ‘tellable’ somewhat embarrasing tale.

A friend recently remarked that this blog had been missing its usual gossipy feel for some time. Well, I perhaps have one of the more bizarre incidents I can recall in recent times. And yes a first person account!

I went with 3 other friends (2 had been once before) to a restaurant in Chicago, which claims to be the oldest Indian food place in the Chicago area. The owner recognized the 2 (who had been before), greeted and we got a table. The place offered an Indian Buffet which we decided to order.  (Of course how these Indian food buffets in Chicago remind me of the late 80s early 90s catered from a tent house food at Indian weddings is another story). Naan was the only bread included in the buffet.

Wanting to have a conversation with other Desis, the owner himself decided to take our order:

Harsh: Can I have roti instead of the Naan
Server: No! Because it takes a separate dough …………..blah blah…but you can order it separately
Harsh looks into the menu for the price …..
Server: Are you a PhD student?
Harsh: Yes
Server: I knew it… that’s why you are analyzing so much! ..

At this stage I lost my cool somewhat..

Harsh: I am analyzing if this is my last visit to the restaurant
Server: What?Why?
Harsh: Most places are able to make this accommodation. I am surprised why you are so inflexible
Server: Well ! Ok if you so insist I can do it a special favor for you
Harsh: I don’t want favors. I will go with what you offer. Just perhaps won’t come here again

A lady came to wait at our table. He asked her if he could have a word with her, and said he would be back with us in a minute.

Server ( to Harsh): I have made a decision. You are not allowed in my restaurant.
Harsh: Thank you, I am happy to leave.
Server: I can serve the other 3 gentleman
Harsh: Absolutely, it’s their choice if they still want to be here

The four of us get up and leave

Server: I have never been so humiliated in life, that too by educated people. I go to Booth (school of Business) to teach ………………

———————

As I said somewhat embarrasing, but highly tellable. Raised a lot of concerns with me. I must mention that at no stage was the tone of voice harsh or the pitch elevated. Also what prompted that “this is my last time’ reaction from me was that he ‘judged me’ by asking if I was a PhD student and he thought so because I was being analytical about the menu.I thought he had crossed his boundary as a client and as a customer I had the privilege of space which he did not allow me.

Anyway I just laugh when I reflect on the whole incident. I wish the restaurant all the best.

Hail the web and the blogosphere: Finally my blog has had ‘real impact’

I have been updating this blog somewhat regularly now. I have often wondered whether I write this weblog for a particular audience . Perhaps the diverse nature of posts (yes I go all over) suggests that I don’t. So why do I then bother to use tags, categories to make my blog more search friendly. However I have been proven wrong and I am thrilled!
Regular readers (sigh!) will remember a few weeks ago I wrote about my rather funny but adorable roommate from Russia, Mikhail Safronov on this blog. I had forgotten about this post altogether. A few hours ago Mikhail came running to my room, excited and blurted out loud ” Harsh, A real Bhains ki Aankh has happened. My parents saw your blog and now are making fun of me and my mom is a little worried that Barack Obama should not see this blog !”

We were amused that how did they get to this post. I used the word-press dashboard to see what search terms had been used recently to get to this blog. And found that someone on 2nd Feb 2010 had used the phrase “northwestern university safronov” to get here. So now Mikhail knows that his parents (or their colleagues) try to stay more informed about their son than his phone calls can inform them. Maybe the economist will elevate his views about a PhD in Media, Technology and Society!

So a piece of content produced in the USA which perhaps appealed to only one unit in Russia – Mikhail’s household – reached there in less than two weeks after it was produced. The recipients had to be just more active in seeking what they wanted to read/view. I hope Mr Safronov gets to read this one too!

Has user generated content killed old ‘media logic’ ?

Recently, at a graduate students’ party somewhere in Midwestern United States, two short and sweet videos got very spontaneously produced.

What intrigues me is that all it took was a gathering of a cross cultural group, some high “spirits” and these two videos got produced .At absolutely no cost, in absolutely no time. Yet a platform like YouTube ensures that they can be viewed by as many people, anywhere as many times – all for free. This is free automatic production and free consumption at its best.

I make no claims that these two videos are potential blockbusters. But then how often does prime time television or cinema for that matter produces hits? With a little bit of costs and promotions some of these nuggets can also assume blockbuster proportions as a fellow media enthusiast writes about Charlie. Charlie is one such success story among thousands.
Remember the funniest group dance. No one created it as a media event. But at 40,000 views, 88 high ratings, and 56 text comments, it has made its impact. It has engaged a larger community than MICA , a communication school in India where this was a dance performed at an annual function.Someone just videotaped and decided to share it online – the hyperlinked society ensured the rest

These are stories that question conventional media logic. The logic which involved high production and distribution resources, and subsidies from advertisers and consumers. In other words,does the concept of Free spell the death of culture industries?

Let me know if you have answers

I am ‘Harsh; Just Harsh’: A Russian Economist

A tale of one my most interesting cohabiting experiences ever. A beautiful insight into the world around me through someone brought up in another world.

“Hindi Rusi Bhai Bhai” – These were among his first few words after moving in as my roommate.
Let me introduce Mikhail Safronov a very Russian, Russian indeed. Eats potatoes for 50% of his dietary needs and the other 50% are met by boiled spaghetti. Here to pursue a PhD in Economics, he is an extremely bright chap. A physicist who switched streams to Econ as his scientist father told him that as an Economist he can return to Russia, but as a physicist he’d rather stay in the US

Now here are a few things he has learnt about the States and the world outside Russia:
1. Barack Obama is some man who gave an extremely long and boring speech during his convocation from New Economic School in Moscow

2. Obesity is a problem in USA because the squirrels are so fat, compared to the squirrels in Russia .After confirming from me that squirrels in India are also thinner, this hypothesis is now a theory

3. Linguistic department at Northwestern is stupid as they refuse to give him an English proficiency stamp, even though he says “Once More” if you address a long question in English. ( Takes immense pride that he was admitted despite 300 in verbal GRE)

4. A South Park addict he learns about American cultural symbols from it, for instance about ‘Fags’ and ‘Hippies’

5. He asks every Indian he meets if they know what ‘Bhains Ki Aankh’ implies

However this takes the cake :

Earlier today I was trying to locate my phone in the house. I reached out for his cell and searched my number. Optimistic that he would have saved it, I found my number saved as ” Harsh Just Harsh” . Amused, I asked for an explanation behind this really innovative name entry. And the explanation instead of writing a last name he wanted to emphasise that “Harsh, Just Harsh” was enough!

Inverse Snobbery Revisited : A midnight Rumination!

Is advocating the use of campus shuttles and shunning SafeRide at northwestern my way of being an inverse snob?

To believe that I am really burning midnight oil, I sometimes make use of the library late at night. Cold October nights at Chicago coupled with the infamous reputation created by the local crime charts, walking back a mile at 2:30 am is not advisable. No prizes for guessing that owning cars is a luxury few graduate students afford. Agreed, second hand cars are cheap so is gas, but overheads like a parking permit (even on campus) and insurance make this an unaffordable luxury for most of us.

Our university understands the need to ship us safely in and around campus late at night, and runs two services. First of these is the public transport option, a plain Jane campus shuttle which runs at designated timings and is free for university fraternity. However there is another option called SafeRide, a privately run fleet of cars, by the university which work like dial a cab, but for free. It is then a no-brainer that saferide is surely the option, as it is ‘on demand’ and also ‘point to point’. No need to walk the last 100 metres or synchronize with the shuttle timings. Not for me, though.

The reliance on private transport, which has led to decline in public transport quality in most cities, is one area where I don’t agree with Americans. And precisely for the same reason I do not use SafeRide, when good public transport(bus) is available why encourage taxis, so what if they are both free. And hence I scoff at most grad students, who in my (voiced) opinion, abuse safride.

I may be correct in theory, but thinking about it in practice, not necessarily so. Firstly both services are hired vehicles that are run by the university. The shuttle is often empty with 4-5 people ( on many occasions I am the only one riding it, of course all others are comfortable in their taxis). So now a 50 seater bus which runs a long distance, for just 1-2 people does not fit within my public transport advocacy framework. A 4 seater cab which operates when called into service, and is often utilised to 50% capacity, is perhaps a better idea.

Despite this, I would still stand by the bus that runs with 1 person, and continue to label SafeRide as an undeserved luxury offered by a rich private university! Am I being an inverse snob, after all ?