Week 9 - Janice, karen, Vanessa and Yannie

Top News of the week: The Sarkozy's rumor

Within social networks on the Internet, every one of us enjoys freedom of speech in order to establish interpersonal relationships or spread news in the community. The news of the rumor about the French President Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni, is well spread on Twitter recently. The rumor has never been supported by any proof or even paparazzo pictures, so this “news” did not gain much credibility among Twitterers until a professional journalist of a French website, Baron, repeated the news on twitter. In this case, the story discusses not only about if information on the Internet, which a communication medium is not strictly regulated by laws in most of the countries, is always true and credible, but also different obligations when each person is carrying when performing in distinct “social contracts”.

It is not a surprising phenomenon that Internet users have become skeptical when receiving messages since there are numerous pieces of false news and even fraud circulated on the Internet and among various social networks. Particularly when the news relate to well-known social and political figures, as well as celebrities in the showbiz, people have already been trained to take those “news” as rumors, which are supported with the same or more dramatic forwarded messages but without any verification. Yet, when pieces of information are spread by a professional journalist or an expertise in the media industry, they will immediately gain credibility in the community with no doubts or challenges.

The possible risk therefore hides in the identity of professionalism. Since professional journalists in the modern world receive a pretty high social status from the public with respect and reliance, reports from them are seldom challenged with further evidence or investigation by the public in order to verify the authenticity and accuracy of the news. It is lucky that the story in this case relates to the Sarkozy’s. To the worst circumstance, it also influences the reputation of the French government and its international image. Yet, if professional reporters utilize their identities and deliberately abet or incite the public to rebel or act against governments or any opposing political parties, social disputes or chaos would likely be aroused. It is ridiculous that the speculation about the President Sarkozy and his wife has not only appeared on Twitter, but also on a tabloid from Europe to Asia. Newspapers, a more credible medium compared with other media like the Internet or TV, unbelievably repeated the same hearsay without proving its accuracy. Hence, the hypothesis above is possible.

To Baron, the news she retwittered (repeated in the Twitter language) could just be a kind of joke and a chit-chat with her friends. Yet, she admitted that this was a lesson teaching every single individual that we should “respect the rules of journalism, wherever you are writing”. Baron’s speech demonstrated that we, as authors or even citizen journalists, should bear the responsibility when enjoying freedom of speech, and as audiences, we should be critical and skeptical enough when receiving messages from any communication platforms. Still, there is more to discuss, what if Baron did not use her real identity of a professional journalist when retwittering the Sarkozy’s rumors? If she had masked herself in another Twitter account that people cannot recognize her journalist identity when posting the speculation, the hearsay would not have gained much credibility and the tabloid mentioned above would never include the “news”.

In England, a similar rumor can become sort of libel and it is bounded by laws which can be applied with equal force to all forms of media, suggested by Mark Stephens, a leading London libel lawyer. Still, there is no such a law in France, so Baron, other Twitterers who helped spread the hearsay and the tabloid cannot be sued anyway. Yet, if there are similar cases over Twitter of which is an international social network, libels from one person of a country against another individual of another nation, could possibly be brought into lawsuits. Controversies on these matters will therefore likely be seen. Before infringement is made upon social stability, harmony and peace, and serious psychological harm is made on humans, some fundamental rules regulating the use of media should be outlined and established.

Relevant links of the news:


Media influence on Politics By Ivan Ann Cherry

The issue of high speed railway has been cooled down a little bit. However, government has a ground breaking move at this issue. It is opening a facebook group that allows people to leave their opinion on the wall to express their thoughts about how they think the high speed railway should be. Not just that, government also did an online discussion forum at a morning. It allowed people to phone in and directly ask Ms Eva Cheng, Secretary for Transport and Housing about the problem of budgeting and relocation of the citizens at Choi Yuen village. However, this online discussion forum had been done once only. And it is broadcasted at morning. It has been blamed that it is not enough for doing once. Also, it were conducted at morning is not appropriate because most of the netizens are active in the evening or midnight. So people said that this online discussion forum is just a “PR show” for citizens to build up a positive image of government that she is willing to talk with citizens and updated to follow the trend of internet. However, the show is not well produced. A lot of loopholes are being discovered.

Until here, I have mentioned a lot about how government does toward high speed railway and how government deal with netizens. The skill that government is using is called “E-engagement”. It is very popular recent years in advertising and politics. For example, a lot of fashion brands opened a facebook page for people to join like H&M. When customers ask something about the store like is there any sales in store, staff of H&M will answer them through the message broad in facebook. And company can post videos and photos of their products on social networking applications as I mentioned like facebook. Through this, customers and shop can communicate indirectly by online network.

For politics, I think the politician who uses it wisely is US president Barack Obama. He uses the internet power to please people to vote for him when he was the candidate of president. After he became the president of US, he uses his own website as a broadcasting device. He posts his morning speech on that and let people see it. It is a better way for delivering government message with visual and audio aids as word is less readable than visual and audio. On the other hand, Obama receives people’s voice through blog. It looks like what Hong Kong government did. But it is more effective for US government because they are not doing a PR show only.

Hong Kong government should learn from others like how retail shops operate their online communication tools and also how to present and be open minded as Obama government. If government really wants to communicate with citizens, they should think and do a research before operating an online forum. Besides, government should learn how to allocate there resources because it used three million to educate civil servants to use facebook. It is ridiculous and government should use the money to help the poor or use it to build a communication system for citizens to raise their voice. It is a waste to use the money in such a stupid way.

Ming Fearon and Jackie Wang, Week 9: News of the Week, “House Approves Health Overhaul, Sending Landmark Bill to Obama”

New York Times link to article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/22/health/policy/22health.html?hp

It’s no secret that the American healthcare system is broken. Unlike most other industrialized countries, healthcare is privatized, making it unaffordable for millions of Americans. When President Obama was running for office, the main issue on his agenda was to implement a universal health care policy. He had an idea to transform the American healthcare system into one more like that of the European Union. This new plan would require almost every American to have to pay for some sort of health insurance, but the costs would be a lot lower for each individual than they are now for those who have healthcare that is not covered by their employers. For instance, Ming’s parents are both dentists, and therefore self-employed: not only do they have to pay for their own healthcare, which costs literally thousands of dollars a month, but they also have to make sure that their employees’ healthcare is subsidized as well. As well as being costly, this system is inefficient. Regardless of having this costly insurance, the co-payments for things as simple as an annual doctor’s check-up are still very high, and some important procedures, such as surgery, could be considered optional or even unnecessary and would therefore not be covered by insurers.
Obama is not the first high-profile politician to try and tackle universal health care. In 1993, President Clinton attempted to implement a similar universal health care plan, and did so with the help of his wife, the current Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton. Needless to say, it did not work, because in 1994, the Republicans took over the House of Representatives and the Senate for the first time in a long time. Politically, Republicans (and those with libertarian values) tend to oppose the idea of universal health care. Therefore, when Obama’s campaign circled around this idea, many people compared it to the Clintons’ idea and insinuated that he would meet the same failure. President Obama has been in office since January 2009 and has since then faced a lot of criticism for not making good on a lot of the promises he made during his campaign, with health care being the main issue. If this bill is successfully made into law, his political clout will skyrocket to unheard of proportions. This is demonstrated by politicians such as Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina stating, “This is the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century.”
Congress passed the bill in a vote of 219 to 212. Much of the opposition was Republican, but thirty-four Democrats also voted against it. Those for it believe that the high cost of privatized health care alienates millions of Americans who simply cannot afford to pay for both health care and the general cost of living. As a result, those for it have taken to saying that health care is not a privilege, but rather a right. The opposed believe that it is not democratic to mandate that each person must have healthcare, and that they should have the right to choose. They complain about the estimated $938 billion cost adding 16 million people to Medicaid (a federal medical assistance program that helps low-income people who cannot afford private healthcare) and subsidizing private low- and middle-income families. However, the bill will provide coverage to approximately 32 million more people, and it will be very beneficial to people who fall into our age category, as parents will be able to extend their health care benefits to their children until the age of 26 (with the previous age generally being limited to 23 at the very most). It will also disallow health care providers from dropping people on the (very paradox) basis that they fall ill. It will also allow small businesses, such as those of Ming’s parents, to get tax credits to help their employees to get insurance. In our opinion, the possibility of universal health care finally being standardized is extremely exciting, particularly because we are entering the age group where we would no longer be covered by our parents’ insurance and will have to think of getting coverage of our own. Like the congress members who were pushing for the bill to be passed, we also believe that health care is a right and not a privilege.

Karen, Kason, Man, Winnie: Week 9 "Theoretical Reflection"

Theoretical Reflection: Minimal Effects Model—“Two-Step Flow of Influence”

Nowadays, with the constant exposure to mass media, we see opinion leaders and spokespersons endorsing for various products and services, from diet plans to fast food restaurants. The minimal effects model and the “two-step flow of influence” model are frequently seen and used in the mass media, especially in advertisements. In this reflection, we have chosen McDonald’s McCafe TV commercial, featuring Moses Chan (陳豪) as an opinion leader in coffee drinking.

Firstly, the minimal effects model argues that the media impact on the public is “weak and short-lived” and aims to “reinforce existing belief”. Meanwhile, the “two-step flow of influence” model explains that the media uses opinion leaders as a “middleman” to influence the target audience. Because the targeted individual is active, s/he can choose what information and messages to accept and ignore. However, opinion leaders often influence individuals easier compared to “one-step” (media influence target audience directly), possibly because people relate more and feel a stronger credibility towards opinion leaders.

With the trend of drinking coffee becoming many peoples’ habit and hobby, last year, the Tsit Wing International Holdings Limited (Tsit Wing), one of Hong Kong’s leading food and beverages supplier, produced and sponsored a special TV program “Coffee Confidential” (品味咖啡), a show dedicated to coffee. The episodes were hosted by Moses, a famous actor of TVB, introducing the development and culture of drinking coffee. Every episode has different themes. By presenting various cultures of making coffee, the history, rare coffee beans, and the making coffee competition in the show, Tsit Wing aims at exciting people’s curiosity and interests in coffee, hoping the audience would drink coffee more often after they get more knowledge of the coffee culture.

“Drinking coffee is not only an enjoyment, but it also represents one’s attitude of life,” said Moses, sharing his opinion about his favorite drink. This TV program gave him an image of a professional in coffee, which also aroused the interest and attention of the public. Because of hosting this program, Moses’ reputation and social status were suddenly enhanced from an actor to a coffee expert, resulting in being selected as a coffee opinion leader for McDonald’s McCafe.

After the broadcast of “Coffee Confidential”, the “coffee expert” image has been labeled on Moses, later becoming the spokesperson of McCafe. Actually, at the beginning of its establishment, McCafe only made use of some cartoon graphics in its TV commercials, and the main elements of the overall campaign was to sell romantic feelings. Recently, McCafe wants to re-position itself as a professional barista. And that is why it hired Moses as its spokesman. In the latest McCafe TV commercials, Moses was presented in smart-casual wearing to give out a friendly but trustworthy image. “Perfect!” he said after tasting McCafe’s cappuccino at the end of the commercials. This seems to give sense of qualifying McCafe’s coffee by the general-regarded coffee expert, Moses Chan.

In addition, some may not know that the sponsor of “Coffee Confidential” and the supplier of McCafe is actually the same company—Tsit Wing. It is believed that Tsit Wing specially sponsored that TV program in order to establish the coffee professional image of Moses in order to break the path for McCafe to reform its image.

Meanwhile, there are many well-established coffee shops in Hong Kong, like Starbucks, Pacific Coffee, and various small cafes. Comparatively, McCafe is just a new business of McDonald’s in Hong Kong. In the perception of some general publics, McCafe may not be as sophisticated as those famous coffee shops. They may even wonder whether McCafe has the capability to provide good quality coffee. This may be one of the reasons why McCafe is lagged behind from Starbucks and Pacific Coffee in terms of sales, reputation, and so on.

However, Moses, becoming an opinion leader, can influence the purchase decision of the general public. Since he is interpreted as a coffee expert, his insights towards coffee will be regarded as an indicator when the general publics are making their purchase decision. Thus, by acting as an opinion leader for McCafe, Moses aims to reinforce his own expertise in coffee drinking, emphasizing McCafe’s high quality coffee to the target customers. Some people will simply switch their choice or begin to try McCafe because they believe in the credibility of Moses. In this sense, the preference of Moses serves as an indication to distinguish between good or bad coffee.

By this sample, we can see that a credible opinion leader can pose an influential effect to the publics. Of course, it is still up to individuals to choose whether to believe Moses’ choice of “high quality coffee” from McCafe, but by using an opinion leader as a middleman, credibility is definitely reinforced. More importantly, a credible opinion leader can boost the confidence and motivation of the publics towards a product.

McCafe TV Commercials:

McCafe Cappuccino TVC 1


McCare Cappuccino TVC 2