Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Word of the day

‘Chuddies’ is now officially part of the Oxford English Dictionary. Last year, the dictionary issued an appeal to readers around the world for regional vocabulary suggestions. Therefore, Indian English language update now includes the uplifting phrase, ‘kiss my chuddies”—a signature phrase used in the BBC serial ‘Goodness Gracious Me’. Also included is the very handy ‘dof’ from Afrikaans which means “stupid, ill-informed or clueless.” Feel free to use it in the next heated political argument at the dinner table.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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How Indians consume daily news

A new Reuters Institute study of English language news users reveals we are avid online news consumers who don’t really believe the news we consume.


The study: The Reuters Institute surveyed 1000-plus English language news consumers in India using an online questionnaire. The sample is therefore made up of more affluent, urban Indians who are more likely to be online—and therefore younger and better educated.


The big picture: The overall lay of the media consumer landscape looks like this:


  • We are a mobile-first market: 68% use their phones as the main device to consume online news compared to 17% who use their desktop. Compare this with the US where only 39% said the same.

  • Most of us do not go directly to websites, or even rely on app alerts. We find most of our news via search (32%) and social media (24%).

  • We heavily rely on Facebook (52%) and WhatsApp (52%) as our primary sources of news. But we fret about being judged by family and colleagues for the news we share. What worries us most about sharing or commenting: getting into trouble with authorities (55%).


The trust factor: Here’s the funny thing about us Indians. Even the most casual news user consumes news from more sources than most other nations. But we don’t trust most of it.


  • We are more likely to trust news we find via search (45%) and social media (34%) than the rest of the world.

  • That said, only 39% trust ‘news they use’, and 36% trust ‘news in general’. And non-partisan Indians are far less trusting than those with strong ideological loyalties.

  • Also 57% worry whether the news they read is true. Among our top worries: hyperpartisan content (51%), poor journalism (51%), and false news (50%).

  • The most trusted news brands are the ones which have been around the longest: Times of India, followed closely by Doordarshan. (Yes, many still consume DD News, more than the Indian Express, but less than the BBC. Who knew?)

  • And unlike other countries—think Republicans and Fox News—there isn’t a strong correlation between partisan loyalty and trust in a news brand. There are a few exceptions such as Republic TV (BJP) or NDTV (UPA), but these are negligible.

  • This also may explain why news sites with a clear ideological tilt have relatively small audiences: For example, Scroll (5%) or OpIndia (4%).


Why does this matter? Here are the key takeaways for us in this study:


  • We are overwhelmingly reliant on third party platforms for news. And yet only 26% of us know that algorithms control the news we see and consume. Algorithms are influenced by two factors. One, who pays the platform to be ‘seen’ by users. Two, which post gets heavy engagement—it’s usually the kind designed to provoke outrage. This is why Facebook continues to have a ‘fake news’ problem.

  • We worry about fake news and don’t trust the news we consume. Yet we share it widely and without verification, especially through WhatsApp. In other words, we ourselves have become the ‘fake news’ problem. And that’s something to think about during this election season.


Learn more: The full Reuters report (in pdf) is here, or you can check out the summary. Broadsheet did an explainer on the BBC study on fake news in India. We also looked at the virality of hate in the context of the Christchurch attacks. Neiman Lab has the results of a NewsWhip study on the new Facebook algorithm and why it continues to favour ‘angry’ content.

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rocking your power suit without a blouse

This is what devastation looks like: Cyclone Idai swept through great swathes of Southeastern Africa killing at least 400 people—while thousands others may have been swept out into the sea. Another 600,000 have been displaced, and the UN has deemed the situation a level three emergency on par with war-torn Yemen and Syria. New York Times has the photos. CNN has the drone footage of the aftermath.


This is what the worst Indian constituency looks like: In Singhbhum, Jharkhand, 67% of the children are underweight. More than half are stunted and a third suffer from wasting (low weight-for-height). This is a place where a six-year-old cannot sit up without assistance. And yet child nutrition is not even an election issue. This is a must read that forces each of us to question the health of our democracy—more so in the lead up to the elections. And no, the photos aren’t from some distant ‘third world’ nation suffering from a famine. (Mint)


The Jussie Smollett story grows ever more bizarre: The actor accused of staging a racist attack on himself was slapped with 16 felony charges. Now, prosecutors have dropped all of them, declaring: “After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr Smollett's volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case.” Smollett performed 16 hours of community service. (CNN)


No spacesuit, no spacewalk: NASA’s plan for an all-female spacewalk has been cancelled because… wait for it!... “the agency doesn’t have enough spacesuits that fit the astronauts.” How many does it need? Two. Though to be fair, being in space apparently adds inches to your height. One of the female astronauts is two inches taller since she headed to the International Space Station. (The Guardian)


Unsafe at any height: There have been a number of stories about sexual harassment of passengers on airplanes lately. Here’s how you can stay safe. (New York Times)


Eat, pray, love, love, and love again: Author Elizabeth Gilbert has a brand new man. She went eating, praying, loving etc. after her first divorce, found her second husband José Nunes along the way. They divorced in 2016, and very soon after she fell in love with her best friend, Rayya Elias. She was dying of cancer at the time, and passed away a year ago. Gilbert’s latest beau: Elias’ former lover turned good friend, Simon MacArthur. She announced the happy news in a long Instagram post nicely telling all potential haters to eff-off—along with other stuff like: “Your heart is a giant cathedral. Let it open. Let it love.” (People)


This is what wearing a suit looks like: these days. Both shirt and tie are optional, apparently. (GQ UK)


Chowkidar Tejasvi Surya’s definition of patriotism: is a little suspect. Surya is BJP’s newly announced candidate from Bangalore South—a fact that made him sooo awesomely happy, he tweeted, “OMG OMG!!! I can't believe this. PM of world's largest democracy & President of largest political party have reposed faith in a 28 yr old guy to represent them in a constituency as prestigious as B'lore South.” We assume this is just rewards for his recent speech where he declared, “The left liberals may not like me saying this. But this election is a test of the common Indian’s patriotism. If you are with Modi, you are with India and if you are not with Modi, you are anti-India. That’s it.” Hmm, we’re not sure of Surya’s understanding of either ‘patriotism’ or the phrase “world’s largest democracy.” (His words sound even more astonishing when you watch the clip.)  


This is what living with endometriosis looks like: for 14 long years, summed up in a brilliant comic strip. (The Lily)


This is why everyone loves Keanu Reeves: Ok, here’s the background you need to appreciate what you’re about to see. Reeves and his fellow passengers were stranded when their flight from San Fran to LA was diverted to Bakersfield. There were many discussions about this unexpected setback. Then they all decided to take a van to LA instead. Now feel free to enjoy the highlights.  


Because we know you love pretty photos: Here is some gorgeous eye candy from the shortlist for the Sony World Photography Awards. Just the sheer range of subjects and styles is worth clicking through. (Daily Mail)


A flight full of surprises: Passengers on a flight to Dusseldorf from London had a bit of a rude shock when they landed… and the flight crew announced, “Welcome to Edinburgh!" Yes, this happened. (BBC)

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Everything we don't know about human desire

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A True Story About True Love 

This is a story about Dawinder Singh and Neetu Rani, a couple from a village in Haryana who fell in forbidden love. Risking their lives and against all odds, they eloped—only to find life’s greatest battles were still ahead of them. Can their relationship survive intense social pressure, death threats, and financial exploitation? This is a beautifully written long-read about the realities of being young and in love in India.

Read: The Newlyweds | Harper’s Magazine

Sex, Love etc 2

Another True Story About True Love

Jake Naughton traced the first five years of his relationship with Juan Anibal Sosa Iglesias in photographs. They capture a very real everyday kind of love in all its messy and mundane intimacy. Think of it as a visual story of what it is to fall in love and to fight to stay in it—in the midst of the bickering and the boredom, the tenderness and the misery.

See: This Couple Challenges Clichés about Love | Artsy

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