In a recent conversation with The Logical Indian’s Co-founder and COO, Anurag Mazumdar explained how the publication is practicing the ethics of media in the truest sense. Mazumdar also expounded how they practice editorial responsibility and ethical standards within the journalism profession.
Q: The Logical Indian claims to be an independent media, tell us a bit more about it. Does this editorial independence come at a cost? How do you navigate the external influences, if any?
A: The Logical Indian has always been independent of corporate influence or the influence of the advertisers. This gives us the liberty of churning content that is relevant, timely, unadulterated and balanced. At a time when consumers repose limited faith in news and media organisations are often torn between reporting the news and preserving the interests of their funding partners, The Logical Indian faces no such dilemma. Our team of young reporters from all across the country sit and deliberates, arriving at a comprehensive list of news stories that matter and deliver the same.
The new-age media tends to work with a wide range of advertisers and thus revenues are fairly distributed. Platforms are also relying on micro-donations and subscriptions which enables them further to sustain. However, coming to ethical standards and values, the intent matters the most more than anything else. We are glad to co-exist with new-age players who are fairly strong with their advertising policies and standards while compared to the traditional mainstreams.
We have had several such instances. Just to quote, one such instance was when one of the largest conglomerates and our existing client expressed their disappointment when we covered a story which sheds negative light into them just because we actively engage with them on advertising campaigns. Our stand has always been clear on this – we don’t have different lenses. We highlight the good, we talk about the bad too and we ensure our coverage is always responsible and fair for all which means including the corporate communication team’s response in the coverage. We just can’t do anything beyond that and are very firm with our stances. That’s when the gentleman said ‘but that’s not how we work with other media houses’ and we said, exactly, we stand out, maybe not one among them.
Q: Define Logical Indian for us. The content you produce gyrates around serious kind of journalism and has somewhere given the entertainment feat or sensationalism a back seat. Being professionals, how certain are you aware of the tension between market competition and professional values and attempt to manage it as best as you can?
A: It’s been an attempt since our inception, to report on stories that inform, educate and inspire. We believe in sense, not sensationalism. The ecosystem has got enough readers who want to consume responsible content and we have been able to bring all of them together. We have successfully created our niche. From diversity in stories, to video content, from effectively using technology, to maximum utilization of social media, we are continuously learning, unlearning and growing. The market competition has little to no impact on our values and practices.
That said, we keep an eye on every platform to identify good storytelling techniques, latest trends, the underreported stories. We imbibe the best practices of all, keeping our values and beliefs intact.
Q: Tell us about your audience, do you have a citizen journalism model? Fake News has been a menace lately, how do you ensure the best practices to overcome challenges such as fake news at the organisational level?
A: For us, not everything is news.
At The Logical Indian, the news is always handpicked. A lot of thought goes behind what gets covered and what gets dropped. As newsrooms are shrinking with fewer resources on the ground, the user-generated content is gaining prominence. We believe in being a democratized and approachable media but we keep enough layers in-between to ensure accuracy and validity of the information. Our readers whom we refer to as ‘community members’ also get to play an important role in suggesting the content to be covered by the publication. This happens through facebook groups, direct feedback, messages and emails. They bring us news and if worthy of public attention, we verify and cover it.
The Logical Indian is not entirely about user-generated content but more so a platform to give voice to those who are unheard. We always remain accessible which also gives a sense of ownership and belongingness to our readers. For example, we are often among the first to receive information about any form of unrest/protest going on at any part of the country esp within the student/job aspirants community. Most of these conversions take place on Twitter and Emails. We ensure we don’t miss out on any such requests/tags/emails.
Currently, Fake news is not just not limited to citizen journalism, every major newsroom is falling for it and battling it. We take our time to verify each news item before publishing. Accuracy is our primary concern, not speed. Within the organization, we conduct periodic sessions on fact-checking which are even attended by the design/creative team and not just the sub-editors or journalists. We also have a dedicated fact-check category on the website so naturally, a lot of focus goes into fact-checking. In addition to this, we independently conduct workshops on Media Literacy and Fact Check at various institutional levels. We have brought it into the culture and fundamentals of our reporting and routine. We are also associated with Google News Initiative and Facebook Journalism Project and collectively trying to do our bit to make the generation more informed and less ignorant.
Q: You configured yourself as a national media news platform, your content is usually for the English-speaking audience. So, how do you look after reaching to the rural audience that demands a lot of attention?
A: It is our constant endeavour to go beyond national reportage. English being our primary medium of communication, limits our reach. To mitigate that, we already have a dedicated publishing portal – Tarksangat to reach the Hindi heartland. It is our endeavour to report majorly from rural area/hinterland and we are working closely with partners such as ByteDance(Helo & TikTok) who have got a massive penetration into the regional. This is helping us to reach out to that segment of the audience who were never there on facebook or twitter. And they are already deprived of meaningful content. So there’s a good vacuum to be filled for new-age media publications like us with responsible content.
We are having a collaborative approach towards this currently, example, working closely with partners like change.org or hyperlocal platforms such as video volunteers to source and share stories. We are leveraging our vast NGO partnerships too to disseminate our content. A lot more to be done and achieved in this front.
Q: The Logical Indian has established itself as a socially responsible brand, tell us about your ethos and value system? What kind of positive impact you were able to create, share some instances with us.
A: Social responsibility is in the company’s ethos. What we do here as a part of our daily job is out of the sheer sense of responsibility to deliver meaningful and responsible content to the generation because this generation deserves more than Taimur’s cute pics. Our editorial team often go beyond work-hours to do justice to a story being told. Only a sense of responsibility can drive this passion and nothing else.
What drives this sense of responsibility is the visible impact which we witness with our stories. Our ‘My Social responsibility’ content category has resulted in multiple positive changes. Till date over hundreds of Individuals, self-help groups and non-profits received over millions in donations from the public and corporates and received the attention/recognition from the authorities, post our coverage of their story.
One major highlight from the early days of our impact is when a man in Pune started a Food Bank in his locality and posted about it on his timeline citing a reference to a two-year-old story by The Logical Indian which was about a young woman from Chennai who had been running a Food Bank. He expressed how that one story was strong enough to ignite that action in him. We were so content that day and ever since, such instances keep us going!
Besides, with the help of our digital community, we have run/amplified several social campaigns some of which have even seen policy level changes and we were able to get laws passed from the Supreme Court of India (Good Samaritan Law(road safety laws) campaign, Stop Acid Attack campaign and more. Another major highlight in our impact is when we funded (crowdfunded INR 32 Lakhs in less than 9 days with the help of our digital community) to send The National Women’s Ice Hockey Team to the world cup in Feb 2017. They were deprived of the attention and funds and that’s when we decided to do our bit. For the first time in the history of Indian sports, a national team was sponsored by the people of the state.
The Logical Indian community raised over INR 1.9 Crs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to support the migrant crisis and frontline health care workers. 5m meals were served and over thousand stranded workers were safely moved to their homes.
We have always attempted to make the most out of social and digital. Looking back at our footprints, it seems perhaps we did pretty well. We are working hard to scale this impact across geography.