Newslaundry, in collaboration with the India Data Portal project of the Bharti Institute of Public Policy, ISB, is organising a series of monthly webinars on specific datasets created by the platform, an open-access portal for journalists to use, interact with, and visualise information, data and knowledge on agriculture and financial inclusion.
The third webinar, titled “How data can help cover India’s caste reality”, was organised on November 27.
Moderated by Mehraj D Lone of Newslaundry, the webinar included as panellists Meena Kotwal, journalist with the Shudra; Dilip C Mandal, Editors Guild executive committee member; Cynthia Stephen, independent policy researcher and journalist; and Ashwini Chhatre, executive director of Bharti Institute of Public Policy.
Ashwini starts by underlining the significance of data in anchoring the discussions on caste. “The more data we can use to strengthen our arguments,” he says, “the easier it will be for discussions around caste to be grounded in the reality that we have in front of us.”
Mehraj asks Dilip how datasets, such as those made available on the IDP, can help journalists cover caste. “I think doing journalism without data now is not possible,” Dilip replies.
He, however, points to the lack of comprehensive data when it comes to caste. “We are a strange country in the sense that we are afraid of data, we do not know many upper castes or OBCs there are in this country. And without having this data, doing data journalism in India is almost impossible.”
Identifying a key problem with the Indian media’s coverage of caste, Cynthia says, “The mainstream media is willing to look at Dalits as victims, but not as achievers. Very rarely you will see positive stories on the Dalits. So this sensitivity that there are other sides to this has to be understood.”
Asked about the importance of teaching data journalism to journalists covering caste, Meena says, “Even reporters like us aren’t fully adept at data journalism. While we can learn on the job, what about the newcomers? It is very important to have a separate practise to train them on how to source and understand authentic data.”
The panellists also discuss the importance of diversity within media organisations, and the need for comprehensive data on various caste groups in the country.
Text by Diksha Munjal.
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