When I started EastMojo, I had several ideas in my mind, and several questions cropped up simultaneously. Who will speak for the region? This question, perhaps more than anything else, remained in the centre. It was not as if the region did not have its representatives. But even then, they received a platform only, and if the mainstream media thought it was ‘deserving’ enough. So, while those with the know-how of all things northeast knew about the region’s never-ending political turmoil, few, if any, knew of, say, the challenges of the urban expansion of our cities.
In 2022, I can say that while we still have miles to go and hundreds of stories to convey, at least we have helped make a seismic shift in who tells our stories.
The second edition of Oxfam India-Newslaundry’s Report ‘Who tells our stories matters: Representation of Marginalised Caste Groups in Indian Media’ was made public last week. The report made for grim reading for those advocating for equal representation for all communities: around 90% of leadership positions in print, TV and digital media are occupied by General caste groups, the report said. Now, let me be clear: for those who have been associated with this industry for long, this is neither new nor surprising.
The control of a few castes over knowledge and information dissemination in Indian newsrooms is perhaps its biggest legacy.
And that is where EastMojo has emerged as a hope. In just four years, EastMojo has become a flagbearer of how digital media platforms are ushering in a revolution in who tells our stories. In an expanse where scheduled tribes remain either completely invisible or worse, used as a garnish to boast about fake diversity, EastMojo has brought in a change few others can even imagine.
Allow me to return to the two reports: one on caste representation and one on gender representation. As the report on caste notes: “Less than 5% of the articles were written by people from SC/ST categories and 10% belonged to OBC.” But when you dig deeper into the report, you see that STs fare even worse than SCs. Now, I will not make the mistake of pitting one marginalised group against the other; rather, I am merely highlighting that even among marginalised communities, perhaps no group is as invisibilised as the STs.
Hence, we at EastMojo did feel a touch of pride when the report showed that while STs made only 0.9% of all bylines among digital media platforms, at EastMojo this number stood at 16.1%. Imagine the numbers without EastMojo, then. And this goes beyond numbers for us: four out of eight of our full-time correspondents are women, which brings us to how EastMojo has also contributed substantially to improving women’s representation in digital media.
At just over 41% of female authors, sure, we are behind other publications like the Mooknayak, Newslaundry, Quint and Scroll in terms of top decile authors. But it must be highlighted that within women’s representation, scheduled tribes women barely had 1% share. In EastMojo, this number stood at over 9% (Page 48 of the report).
The two reports have been widely circulated and rightly so: these are important debates without which we cannot call media organisations democratic, and a media organisation that does not work towards gender and caste equality is just a fiefdom of those in power, destined to do everything to keep themselves in power. I have focussed on digital media because as these reports show, despite our small size, digital media platforms like The Mooknayak and EastMojo are doing what the media moguls have been unable to do. And we will only get better with time.
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