← Return to search results
Back to Prindle Institute

The Media and Tragedies: Coverage of Flight 370 and the Sewol Ferry Accident

Turn on CNN.

The anchor is most likely dissecting what may have happened to missing Malaysian flight 370 or the ferry that sunk off the coast of South Korea. The two disastrous events have prompted extended coverage on many television networks.

The question becomes: does the information deserve such extended coverage, or is it merely an attempt at scoring higher ratings?

Malaysian Airlines flight 370 went missing with 239 people aboard. The plane lost all contact with air traffic towers and GPS navigation. Search costs have exceeded $40 million dollars but are expected to reach hundreds of millions of dollars. The U.S. sent a Navy submarine that has covered over 50 square miles of the ocean floor, but the search efforts are expected to cease next weekend. The Sewol ferry sank off the coast of South Korea last week; over 200 people remain missing while only about 175 have been rescued. Crews and divers have scoured the Yellow Sea searching for passengers that could be trapped.
The two stories are heartbreaking yet fascinating from a news perspective – reporters and anchors could entertain “what ifs” for hours. CNN’s ratings have soared since they began covering flight 370 extensively. CNN issued text alerts for many nights in a row: “Watch CNN” concerning the latest updates regarding flight 370. It has been more than four weeks and it is still a top story in newscasts across the country. Critics have said CNN has broken the threshold for too much coverage.

In an article for The New York Times, Bill Carter says CNN’s coverage “has been fueled by a lot of expert analysis based on the little verifiable information that has been available, speculation about what might have happened to the plane and where it might be now, accompanied by all the visual pizzazz the network can bring to bear.” Has coverage become more about a battle of creativity or about reporting on an issue that is pertinent to society? The coverage of the two events calls into question the journalists’ role to report truthfully on matters of public concern. While the two stories are of compelling interest, it’s important for news consumers to be aware of the news stories we are absorbing. Does extended coverage mean the stories are more important?

Take for instance the recent coverage of the Pope’s latest selfie or the addition of “selfie” to the dictionary. Are those stories a matter of public concern? Do they affect the average person? Probably not, but both received national television coverage for a few days. Because of the time and space devoted to coverage of flight 370 and the South Korean ferry, viewers could be misled.

With the addition of social media, television news can add urgency to any story that may not be so urgent or relevant to the average viewer. It is important to pay attention to the reporting methods so that our perception of a story isn’t blown out of proportion.

Suzanne Spencer is a senior intern at the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics. She is an English Writing major from Lafayette, IN.

Cost of a Resume: Competing to Get the Job

If education is competitive, getting a job is even more competitive.

Most college students are pressured to join clubs, to play on teams and to take on leadership positions. We’re told that travel experience, studying abroad and having an internship or two will set us ahead. All of this, of course, on top of your degree of choice from whatever school you were accepted to. Each of these in and of itself takes some type of competition—and a LOT of money.

Most of us at DePauw University are willing to take on the competition. We accepted it back in grade school, and we knew it wouldn’t be easy. I’ve discovered though, that many of my peers and I had no idea how much it would cost. This brought into light a whole new type of competition, a financial one.

If your loans aren’t consumed by tuition, maybe they’ll help you pay for the experiential learning we’ve all been told is vital. If you’re lucky, work-study, family or possibly a part-time job can make it happen. Gaining the finances necessary to accept internships or partake in study-abroad, experiences which I’ve been told are crucial in the competitive job market, can be a struggle. There may be a lot of resources and aid available for those who cannot afford to egregiously fill the Education, Experience and Skills sections of their resumes, but it can take twice the work, an achievement that’s left off of the resume.

For instance, as an art student, I often struggle to afford all the supplies I need to complete my projects. For a double major, it’s nearly impossible to hold a job on the side, and for athletes, partaking in international travel generally isn’t an option.

Therefore, I think it’s very important for students, especially those of a lower socioeconomic status, to think critically about which experiences will benefit them most—personally and professionally. Make sure you know why you’re working so hard; make sure it’s worth it. One great experience could make it worthwhile.

In my experience, an unpaid internship turned out to be much more worthwhile than a sought after winter term experience abroad. The internship didn’t sound as exciting; however, in the end, it was much more rewarding. I very much enjoyed my winter terms, but I hadn’t thought them through enough. For my last winter term, I ended up planning my own trip, which was the most rewarding of all.

Plan accordingly and know what you want to achieve. This way, you’ll quickly gain the experience, skills and education you need to do what you love regardless of your financial situation.

Competitive College: Does competition help or hinder our academic performance?

“What obligations do we have to our adversaries? Do virtue and integrity enhance or impede our quest for victory? Is competition an obstacle to or an essential component of a meaningful life? How should competition be effectively regulated?”

These questions and others will be addressed by visiting students and scholars from across the country in this year’s Undergraduate Ethics Symposium, which will take place at the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics April 10-12. The topic for the symposium is “Virtue and Victory: Ethical Challenges in Competitive Life”, a topic that is very relevant to our everyday lives as university students.

Competition is glorified in our culture as healthy and a necessary way to “separate the wheat from the chaff” and drive people to do their best. Those who participate in athletics likely benefit from the motivation of competing against others, and competition is a key part of the American economic system. In many ways, it is built into almost every aspect of our lives. As students, we feel pressured to excel in the classroom in order to get a good job after graduation, a Fulbright scholarship, a Teach for America position, or a spot in a graduate school program. We know that all of these outcomes are ones we will have to compete for, and this can add a level of stress to our learning that would not otherwise be there.

However, competition in academics is not always a good thing. In fact, several studies suggest that competitive learning environments can actually hinder a student from doing as well as she is capable of doing, and may impede her from learning as much material. The book Top Dog by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman talks a lot about situations where competition drives people to excellence, but also has examples of when competition can be a hindrance. One such example is an experiment in which two almost identical tests are given to two groups of Princeton students after they took a questionnaire designed to make them feel like they had been lucky to get into Princeton. One of the tests was called an “Intellectual Ability Questionnaire”, and the other was entitled an “Intellectual Challenge Questionnaire”. Students who took the test with the more threatening title, the “Intellectual Ability Questionnaire”, got scores that were 18 percentage points lower than the other experimental group. By manipulating the level of competition perceived by the students, the experimenters obtained significantly different performances.

Academic performance depends on a multitude of factors, and because we can feel that our academics reflect our intelligence, a characteristic that we perceive as a set value and innate, competition in academics can actually be demoralizing and hinder a student’s progress. However, this is not to say that students should not have goals in mind when they set out to learn. But confidence and interest are essential parts of academics, and competition can dull both of these. Cooperative learning methods, on the other hand, like group discussions and group problem solving activities, can be an effective alternative to classes that are set up to increase competition. Our grades may affect what we are able to do after we graduate, but while we are at school, it may be more effective to focus on why we enjoy what we are learning instead of constantly comparing ourselves to others.

The A-Listers: Can College Rankings Define a School?

How important are college rankings? As prospective students size up educational institutions, what is it that attracts them, their parents? Time and time again, we’ve seen DePauw’s name on the top party school list across the nation, but does that invalidate the academic standard we hold ourselves to? A new list was recently published by the Business Insider that appears to cast a redeeming light on “party schools.” Is this enough to simply put aside all the images we have created in our minds about the type of environment DePauw cultivates? Some believe so.

Based on the return on investment, DePauw is number ten for schools most worth your money. Generally speaking, a bachelor’s degree costs about $192,600. The return on investment winds up at an estimated $312,800 – just over $100,000. Their methodology? “…PayScale looked at salary data for employees with bachelor’s degrees, not including any jobs that would require a graduate degree…The net cost of each school was determined by looking at graduation rates, financial aid, and campus costs…”. The ROI was calculated by finding the total earnings and subtracting the cost of the bachelor’s degree and average earnings over someone without a college degree . In my mind, this calculation provides a fair comparison of the economic gap in lifestyles between someone with a bachelor’s degree and someone without.

So, while administration, faculty, and even students are getting hyped up about the “outrageous party ranking” DePauw has received, it is not a single, defining status. DePauw University has a facet of attributions that cannot all be confined to article rankings. The success of DePauw students speaks on behalf of the university’s caliber and we should not look solely to the Princeton Review or other outside sources to define our institution or decide if it is a place we want to invest in. For students paying their own way through college or for those with a stronger need for financial assistance, the ROI rankings seem to hold much more clout. One might be willing to take out loans, work, etc. in order to attend a university with a higher ROI rate in hopes of securing a solid job for the future. In this sense, the party ranking might be overlooked.

This begs the question: can all that DePauw offers be quantified? Some have explained that the DePauw experience is unique in its liberal arts education, 10:1 student-faculty ratio, and more. All of this plus DePauw’s high academic ranking speak great volumes while others choose to interpret the prevalent party scene as a negative aspect of our campus that takes away from its prestige. I say the opposite. DePauw represents a group of intelligent individuals capable of balancing both studious and social aspects that come with being a college student pursuing and landing prosperous careers.