TIME was, if I wanted a glimpse of gritty reality, my best bet was a newscast.
Today? Virtually any sort of event - from a local bar fight to the hanging of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein - seems to find its way to YouTube, or some other on-line video-clip site.
There, it will be viewable uncensored and on demand. You might find this convenient. Entertaining. But consider this: The YouTube phenomenon may well be the death of privacy.
From now on, any time I slip up or commit a faux pas, who's to say it won't be caught on video and posted on a video-clip site? Take the now-famous "Bus Uncle" case last year. An at-times crude argument between two men on a Hong Kong public bus appeared in full on YouTube.
There, but for the grace of Heaven, goes any one of us. So how should we respond to this new fact of the Internet era? There seem to be four ways to go.
RESIGN TO IT
1. We could simply resign ourselves to it and accept, as Dr Cherian George put it, that "individuals can suddenly become unwitting celebrities".
But the assistant professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information made a further point - one that suggests we might not want too quickly to just throw up our hands.
The issue is this: It seems that ordinary folk are more likely to be caught out.
As Dr George put it: (They) "don't have the means to protect their privacy; they depend on buses or trains as opposed to cars. They go to pubs and not exclusive clubs...
"Ordinary people have no choice but to be in public. They are vulnerable to intrusions of privacy."
And so long as you are in a public place, there are no laws here that provide you with a right to privacy.
Think, for instance, of the 17-year-old who was stoned to death earlier this month by a mob in Iraq. Footage of the incident appeared on YouTube.
There is no privacy, it seems, even in death.
2. One way out is to believe that video clip sites are a passing fad.
But there are two reasons to think YouTube and its ilk are truly revolutionary.
First, coupled with the spread of camera phones, they have allowed even children to become reality-TV producers.
Once you've captured digital footage that you think others might find interesting, video-clip sites make it easy to upload it and - voila! - make it available to the whole Netiverse.
And you can do this while still, if you wish, staying personally anonymous. It's not like you are yelling out at a street corner.
Under such "risk-free" terms, it turns out loads of people have inner kaypohs that get unleashed.
The second reason is that access to the footage is made absurdly easy. The address (or "link") of a clip is easily distributed. Sites like YouTube even help you browse and track the most popular clips.
There is no need to install extra software or wait for a file - potentially with a virus lurking - to be downloaded.
3. So let's take it that YouTube is here to stay.
Suppose, now, we hope to affect what gets posted through "moral censure" or "user education". Already, video-clip sites routinely remove pornography, for instance.
The idea is that we try - through discussion or debate - to convince those who post clips to respect the privacy and dignity of ordinary folks.
Now, the obvious initial question is whether this would work, given human nature and natural curiosity.
But there's another point - and, again, it is about fairness. If a posted clip is seen as infringing business interests - or intellectual property rights - lawyers can get into the act.
As they did after fans of the US show Battlestar Galactica posted entire episodes on YouTube.
Or when a Clarke Quay night club asked that clips of its dance shows be taken down.
In that case, the marketing manager of Gotham Penthouse was quoted as arguing that "over-exposure may lead to replication of the concept and choreography".
"It could hurt business."
Is it not incongruous that the bottom line of companies can be protected, but not the privacy of ordinary Joes?
Indeed, as a lawyer, Mr Daniel Lim, pointed out, any "intellectual rights" that might apply to, say, the Bus Uncle case would "belong to the guy who took the video".
4. On the basis of our discussion, should we then be in favour of some privacy law?
Mr Lim - who has been practising technology law for more than 10 years - acknowledges that there is no other obvious legal recourse at the moment.
There is one legal move you might try, he suggests.
If your moment of idiocy makes it to YouTube, you might try to argue that it is defamatory - in that the video is not a "fair portrayal" of your character and has the result of harming your reputation.
But suppose we wanted to go one step further. How might a moderate introduction of a right to privacy work?
Perhaps it could be made to apply only to situations in which persons are especially vulnerable.
For instance, Dr George says he is "especially concerned about accident victims... (and other) situations in which someone has had something happen to them".
In the past, he noted, photos or footage would have been taken by media professionals, who could be counted on - more or less - to "know the limits of good taste".
But in the "new scenario where everyone is armed with camera phones", do we really want the results of "very tasteless intrusions...to be spread online"?
Dr George himself is still hopeful that education of the online community will be enough.
But a limited privacy law might identify general scenarios of special vulnerability: Accidents.
Intentional humiliation. Scenes of violence. (This would take in cases like the stoning incident in Iraq.)
The age of the persons might play a role. In such a scenario, there would be no privacy issue if the persons involved were not identifiable.
But even if they are, there need not be any blanket ban. But the clip, in its entirety, might need to show some redeeming point to include such footage - for instance, in the context of an exploration of domestic violence.
This is just a first stab at a compromise. So what if I have an argument with a friend, then find the incident on YouTube?
Well, maybe we don't always have to take ourselves so seriously.