Hafta letters: Data suppression, Twitter battles, coverage of southern states
NL Dhulai

Hafta letters: Data suppression, Twitter battles, coverage of southern states

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

By NL Team

Published on :

Hi Team NL,

In these trying times, I hope you are not compromising your health while doing the excellent work you are doing. I am a postdoc at Cornell working on climate change and its impact on water resources for improving resilience and adaptability. I am also a longtime subscriber with my nagging request to you to cover more environment-related news in India, especially during this pandemic, as several regulations are being constantly curbed down around the globe.

A couple of things I want you to discuss in detail :

1) Countries in South America are facing a Covid-19 mismanagement-induced economic meltdown, quite similar to India. But there, people are protesting despite the systematic oppression of the state machinery. Why are we not seeing anything like this in India?

2) Another aspect of this ongoing pandemic is data suppression. Several reports have come out showing how Covid-19 case data has been engineered to fit the narrative of reopening the US. In India, we hardly heard any doctor or scientist speak out about the shifting goalpost of the official Covid-19 cases at the beginning of each lockdown. Please follow up on the report by Reporters' Collective on this data goof-up in the country.

Stay safe,

Best,

Sudarshana

***

Hi Hafta team,

My name is Farook. I'm a subscriber from Kerala working as a data security consultant for Cisco.

As you have had a very detailed discussion on second names, I thought I would share a few interesting observations I have had on this:

1) Once when I was talking about Mr Vajpayee in college, an ABVP friend told me that we should call him Atalji instead of Vajpayee, because calling him by his second name is part of Western culture, not ours. The same guy used to refer to Mr Advani as Advaniji, not Lal Krishnaji.

2) Most Keralites don't have a second name (except, of course, Nairs and Menons), but initials like KV, VT, K, MT, and all (for example, KV Kammath, TN Ninan, AK Antony, etc ). These initials are generally short forms of the house in which they were born, or where they lived. School and university certificates mostly have initials only. It's only at the time of passport application that they use the full form. One of my friends lost a connection flight because he couldn't understand his own second name when it was announced.

3) Channels like Times Now and Republic call leaders of the NDA and its allies by their second name, and Opposition leaders by their first name. Like Fadnavis, Modi, Jaitley, Advani for the governing alliance, and Rahul, Manmohan, Mamata, Sonia for the Opposition. They even use nicknames like Diggy (Digvijay Singh) and Sidhu (Siddaramaiah).

When they switch sides, channels also change. For example, Uddhav Thackeray was "Thackeray" before 2019. Now he is simply "Uddhav". When Mr Arun Shourie was a Modi supporter, Times Now used to call him Shourie, and after he became critic, they started calling him Arun. I remember Times Now running a ticker when Mr Arun Shourie criticised Mr Arun Jaitley, saying: "Arun slams Jaitley" . From the ticker itself, viewers would know who is powerful and who is not.

4) These channels also call Mr Pinarayi Vijayan "Pinarayi", assuming it is his first name. Technically they are correct, but his given name is Vijayan, and the surname is Pinarayi. He is the only Opposition politician who tricked these channels to call him by his surname.

5) Modi supporters in Kerala are now religiously using "ji" for Modiji, even though "ji" was never part of Malayalam. But they will never call Mr Amit Shah "Shaji" because Shaji is the name of a very popular contract killer character in a Malayalam movie, so that name is almost synonymous with "hitman" in Kerala.

Keep up the good work. Always a fan and well-wisher.

Farook Kalpana

***

Dear Niku, Manisha, and everyone else on the panel,

I've been following Newslaundry ever since I was a young, impressionable teenager. One summer while I was in engineering college, pursuing a degree I did not want, I discovered "Clothesline", "Can you take it" and "I agree". It felt like I found a friend in Madhu and Niku, and it was a great summer.

Fast forward many years, your podcasts, including Hafta and Awful and Awesome, became my co-passengers while driving to and from work. This lockdown changed a few habits. Pehle aapki baatein gaadi chalate sunte, ab bartan ghiste hue sunte hain. Washing vessels has become more pleasurable now that this conditioning has set in.

Manisha, Newsance is phenomenal. I'm sure primetime news sponsors beyond Sensodyne will look to move on from sponsoring this hate speech spewed on TV. Mehraj brought along with him a great new dimension to the Hafta and although I don't always agree with his thoughts, I can understand where he is coming from. Anand's self-deprecating humour and Raman Sir's stories of his past make the Hafta even more enjoyable. I really miss Madhu on the panel, though!

Thank you for everyone. I hope you continue to grow and hope to be a larger part of your journey.

PS: The launch timing of the HOMP podcasts could not have been better. Maza aa gaya!

Warm regards,

Shubham Chawla

***

Hi NL Team,

This is G (would like to keep my identity anonymous). I am a subscriber of NL for the last three years. I work in a technology division of an investment bank front office, or a "casino bank", as people from Abhinandan's community may like to call it :)

It is been my weekly Sunday early morning routine to cycle around the hills in my city until Hafta finishes. So the more you talk, the more it helps me to keep my health going.

I appreciate the practice of naming/shaming "the brand" sponsoring fake news debates on TV. Helps me to kick them out from my life.

Without wasting any more words, let me jump to the points I thought:

- I always share your work with many of my friends and family. This is my observation based on their feedback/reactions. Some of the people agree with the stuff you say/write, accepting not being aware of other side of the story. But at the same time, it makes them realise that the choices they have been making for governance, based on incorrect data, and everything is not hunky-dory in this country, where they have to live. They were more happy earlier in their ivory towers. Thus, they turn away from being a subscriber.

According to me, some of the discussions literally gives a feeling of hopelessness about the situation around us. This might explains why you have more subscribers from outside of India? I could be wrong, but would like to know NL team's opinion. Can we add some positive news section every week, about the good work happening around us?

- In continuation with above point, I feel most of the people have already chosen their sides and are hardly interested in facts. People watching shows of the Arnabs/Amishes of the world know that these people are talking bullshit and theirs is no journalism. But they continue it because it lends support to their confirmation bias and also gets them entertainment.

Even Abhinandan has to appear on such shows sometimes (feel really sad for him). In such a scenario, though models like NL would continue to survive with their good work, I am a bit sceptical whether it will make any impact on a common man's life through their journalism. Am I wrong or expecting too much from you?

- Once upon a time, there was a discussion in Hafta about gender diversity among subscribers. If I am not wrong, there are fewer female subscribers. Is the same pattern continuing? Any plans to improve it?

Thank you for all work you guys do. Keep it up.

G

***

Dear NL Hafta panel,

I was summarily disappointed at your devotion to Cyclone Amphan stories in Hafta 277. Having presumably recorded your show on the previous Friday, there is no excuse for a dearth of information, if for ground reports, when it comes to the biggest news story of the past few weeks. Even after mentioning how some foreign media have devoted 5-7 minutes on Amphan, such as BBC, what could possibly be the reason for Hafta not to take the time this story deserves, to discuss the vast implications and devastation the cyclone has met on tens of millions of Indian citizens, not to mention our neighbours too.

At this point, I wonder if there is not a tendency of Newslaundry to not commit to a story unless there is political capital to be earned? It would certainly explain your insistence on not covering events of natural disasters and the effects of climate change affecting the most vulnerable populace, who incidentally stand to lose the most while having contributed the least to climate change (in fact, I'm not the first subscriber to mention this). If I could be even more sceptical, there is an argument to be made that as long as NL subscribers stay unlikely to be affected by events of global scale, there is all the incentive for you guys to keep publishing rants that entertain only armchair political experts (myself included).

Maybe this is where the idea of a subscriber-driven model breaks down? This might be worth discussing: Can a subscriber-driven media platform meaningfully disseminate dialogue that the subscribers have no interest in, or even feel icky talking about?

Awesome of Manisha to give out a shout to Contrapoints; I've been a subscriber and fan for a couple of years now. In fact, around the same time as I started with Newslaundry.

Cautiously looking forward to continuing to be a subscriber.

Saahil Ognawala

***

Hi all,

Can you please stop using a word which has no meaning — monkey balancing — or else get the dictionaries to add it as a word?

Why? Because it is unfair on the monkeys. Google it and check!

Anyway, the rant was more to do with the fact that it’s being used as a placeholder for literally everything. What happened between Yogi and Priyanka was petty politics.

I think the media has forgotten what its two primary objectives are :

Provide the general public with accurate information. Period. And provide all the facts, not the facts that you think the public should hear. Let the public decide and analyse what it is. If we want an opinion, we will go read one ourselves.

The news needs to be credible and has some form of checks. In addition, this credibility also comes with the credibility of the journalist. It’s inevitable. For example, Madhu might have been controversial on a lot of issues but her journalism credentials could not be questioned. But I can’t say the same for a lot of star journalists on either side.

Barkha’s body of work: the bunker goof-up, 26/11, Radia. I doubt a BBC, Guardian, Post would recruit her if they knew these blemishes. Your thoughts ?

This is just one example.

Question for Raman Sir specifically (since he is the one with the best source on this): Did they really find a Shivling and some other temple residues in Ayodhya ?

Anand, can you please categorically say out loud that you are not a right-wing person. You are just somebody who brings out facts that other people fail to acknowledge. It’s annoying; just because somebody has a differing point of view doesn’t mean he is from the opposing camp.

Best regards,

Dhiraj

***

Dear team,

It was very disconcerting for me to see the NL team fighting and debating on twitter with Swarajya this week. We are all humans. So, let's try to create a good dialogue instead of getting the whole discussion down to Twitter battles which ends nowhere. An email exchange could have worked or better, invite one of their reporters on record for a word, maybe Hafta too.

Unless you all don't behave nicely, no one will be ready to sit at the table. Every media house makes mistakes. NL does that too. Admitting it is not wrong. But Twitter battles make admitting very difficult.

With NL vs NL out, I hope, "NL" vs "Others" is also done in a manner where one can disagree and still remain calm and cordial.

No more Twitter battles, please. It brings out the worst in people.

Thank you.

aapka apna inder

Inderpreet

***

Hello Hafta team,

I am a new subscriber. I really enjoy the Hafta every week. Especially Mehraj.

In fact, I will be waiting for it every week.

My query is I don't see a lot of coverage from southern states especially Andhra Pradesh where I am actually from. I would be happy to see some coverage about how state governments are performing. We see a lot of shit in local media. In fact, the nuisance in local media is nothing less compared to Republic or Zee. Hope you find someone to write from each state in the coming time. I will definitely subscribe for a year once my income is more stable.

Stay safe people. Keep doing good work like always.

Regards,

Saiteja Veluru

***

Hi guys, Nijwm here. Been a subscriber of Newslaundry for a while now and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Like many others, I feel proud to be a part of this family, long may it continue.

Two thoughts I wanted to share:

Anand Vardhan had described the Pulitzer prizes for journalistic photography as aesthetic appeal. I respectfully disagree. There have been hundreds of photojournalists who've laid down their lives covering conflicts and wars and, along the way, highlighted injustices or just the brutal truth about reality. Recently, I've become familiar with the works of people like Marie Colvin, Chris Hendros, and Tim Hetherington (by the way, I highly recommend the movies documenting their lives and careers), who all died while doing their journalistic work in combat zones. There are hundreds of others like them.

I felt it's a serious disservice to people like them to dismiss the Pulitzer Prizes as aesthetic prizes. Journalists do not necessarily do their work as acts of bravado, but as commitments to their profession of highlighting truths. Their work is a testament to the great lengths human beings can go to scale great heights that ordinary beings cannot even aspire to.

Secondly, Hafta has done a lot of comparison between the American media and Indian media, specially comparing the Fox model and their imitations in India. I'm curious to know what the differences are. For example, recently, I've heard Fox channels heavily critical of Trump and his rambling conduct during the coronavirus crisis. Do they afford the indefensible while Indian TV channels don't give a shit ,taking the government's side when it's blatantly wrong to do so? It does throw up the questions of morality, ideology, patronage, sponsorship, advertising, etc, with regard to Indian media and American media. I'd be great if the panel could address these issues.

As always, thanks for keeping media independent,

Regards,

Nijwm (can be pronounced "Nijsm" as in "organism" although that's not perfect)

Can also call me "Nijjy" if that's easier.

***

Hello Team NL,

This is Pratyay. From getting a one-month subscription just to binge-watch all the Haftas to getting myself a one-year subscription, I have come a long way since I got a job in January 2020. In the process, I have also convinced at least many of my friends to subscribe to NL.

I am a 24-year-old mechanical engineering postgraduate and got a job a few months back. Now, almost three months into the lockdown, my employer has forced me to take a salary cut even though most of the work has been continuing from home. This is happening across all sectors. Many young people, across gender and caste lines, are losing their jobs or are forced to take a pay cut. I consider myself lucky that I got the job in the first place though.

It baffles me how successive Indian governments mushroomed engineering colleges across the country just to produce engineering graduates without imparting the necessary skills that are expected out of an engineer. I think someday NL should do a piece on the pathetic condition of engineering education in this country.

Coming back to Hafta, Mehrajji's innate ability to cite references to caste system for every other malaise is very commendable. It clearly shows that perhaps he needs to read some classics on Indian history and how caste system evolved to its present-day form. I recommend him to read Ramdhari Singh Dinkar's Sanskriti ke chaar adhyay, in the hope that Mehrajji reads it and finds it fruitful. I do have to add that Mehrajji is truly a wonderful addition to the Hafta, even though I don't agree with many of his views.

I urge Team NL to consider inviting J Sai Deepak on some of the Hafta discussion depending on the issue to be discussed. He is a Supreme Court advocate and has taken part in many public talks. His views on many contemporary issues are well circulated in YouTube and other social media platforms.This is just to prevent NL from becoming an echo chamber by engaging with people who have a completely different perspective of looking at things.

Keep up the good work NL.

Pratyay

***

Hi,

I am a subscriber for the past one year. Your team is doing a great job.

In NL Hafta 277, I would like to add that people in power abuse it no matter which caste they belong to. Until people accept power with humility, it's difficult to change.

As per today's numbers , the mortality rate in Tamil Nadu is 0.7 percent compared to 0.55 percent in Kerala. Tamil Nadu is a big labour-importing state, yet the mortality rate is very less. National media is not paying enough attention. Everyone talks about Kerala but Tamil Nadu is getting neglected. I hope you guys at least try to find out the reason.

Ashok

Newslaundry
www.newslaundry.com