Counterpoint: Blurring the Line Between News and Business
Today I respond to Francis’ most recent post: an objection to the L.A. Times’ use of e-commerce links in its online edition to generate ad revenue. In this case, I think the ends justify the means: The L.A. Times still performs a good public service, but since it’s not making enough money, the e-commerce links are justifiable. It may even be a win-win-win situation.
Newspapers aren’t dead yet, and even though different news production models are gaining traction, e.g. government subsidized news, non-profit news, citizen journalist news, etc., the transition to newer media should be as slow and considerate as possible. There are too many cases in human history where our technological prowess has surpassed our judgment.
Newspapers aren’t dead yet, but The L.A. Times may be dying. Its parent company, Tribune Co., has recently filed for bankruptcy. The paper needs more money to produce news, so let’s consider if the paper is really “selling out” by putting e-commerce links into “Health, Image, Food, Travel, Books, Entertainment and Sports articles” and 16 of its blogs.
Contrary to popular assumption, the e-commerce links that appear in the online edition of the L.A. Times do not affect the content of its articles or blogs at all. This method of creating ad revenue has been in effect at the Chicago Tribune for six months and works like this: the company charged with placing the e-commerce links is allowed to read the specified articles and link advertisements to them only after the articles have been published. The advertisers have no editorial control whatsoever and the green e-commerce links are visually distinct from their blue, news-worthy brethren (unlike this one). Any influence advertisers have over a newspaper’s content will not be greatly affected by the new e-commerce revenue model because newspapers have long depended on advertising revenue.
Corporate influence over public goods does make me uncomfortable and it’s necessary to be vigilant against any undue influence. I assume the danger in this case is the threat of self-censorship, but what would it actually look like? Would a reviewer at the L.A. Times decide to praise a bad book so that Amazon can link to it and sell more copies of it online? I doubt it. The sections into which e-commerce links are allowed are ones already largely geared toward consumption. If a reviewer reads a good book, making it more readily available to the public is a natural next step.
The L.A. Times’ pilot ad revenue program is good for the newspaper, convenient for readers and good business for companies like Amazon, which are not evil nor hunt humans for sport.
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Research by neuroscientists at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory helps explain how the brain regulates arousal.
The big day has come: You are taking your road test to get your driver's license. As you start your mom's car with a stern-faced evaluator in the passenger seat, you know you'll need to be alert but not so excited that you make mistakes. Even if you are simultaneously sleep-deprived and full of nervous energy, you need your brain to moderate your level of arousal so that you do your best.
A disturbing interview given by a KGB defector in 1984 describes America of today and outlines four stages of mass brainwashing used by the KGB.
- Bezmenov described this process as "a great brainwashing" which has four basic stages.
- The first stage is called "demoralization" which takes from 15 to 20 years to achieve.
- According to the former KGB agent, that is the minimum number of years it takes to re-educate one generation of students that is normally exposed to the ideology of its country.
When these companies compete, the people lose.
- When a company reaches the top of the ladder, they typically kick it away so that others cannot climb up on it. The aim? So that another company can't compete.
- When this phenomenon happens in the pharmaceutical world, companies quickly apply for broad protection of their patents, which can last up to 20 years, and fence off research areas for others. The result of this? They stay at the top of the ladder, at the cost of everyday people benefitting from increased competition.
- Since companies have worked out how to legally game the system, Amin argues we need to get rid of this "one size fits all" system, which treats product innovation the same as product invention. Companies should still receive an incentive for coming up with new products, he says, but not 20 years if the product is the result of "tweaking" an existing one.
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