Originally posted on my personal blog on January 1, 2021

Today, I complete five years in journalism: one year at The Hindu (my first job, straight out of university), two years at the Hindustan Times — which overlapped with a five-month fellowship at the Wall Street Journal — and two years as a freelancer.

“Data journalist” was my official job description in full-time roles. But I find that term redundant and I don’t like to use it anymore: all journalism should be data-informed and evidence-based. I prefer calling myself just a “reporter”. In part, this identity shift — primarily in…


Originally posted on my personal blog

“There is a lot of uncertainty in figuring out how this will work out,” reads the seventh point in my journal entry titled “On Quitting”, dated 13th January 2019 — the day I resigned from my full-time job at the Hindustan Times.

After two excellent years at HT — where I got the chance to learn from and collaborate with a bunch of talented and hardworking journalists, where editors gave me the opportunity to hone my craft, space to write meaningful stories and nominated me for an amazing fellowship at the Wall Street Journal


Samarth Bansal (Y11) and Ashutosh Ranka (Y13)

On November 2, IIT Kanpur turned 60. The Institute was celebrating its foundation day, and one of us was at the campus during the festivities.

In his speech, Abhay Karandikar, the director of IIT Kanpur, recounted the glorious history of the institute and anticipated a promising future. But private conversations with students reflected the campus in sharp contrast with the director’s remarks.

All is not well. Over the last few years, various administrative bodies have systematically instilled a culture of fear among students. Dissent is met with punitive action, student opinion is disregarded…


NaMo app, the personal mobile application of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is as vulnerable to communal propaganda and fake news as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter.

Originally posted on DisFact, my weekly newsletter about Indian politics, policy and the economy. Subscribe here.

“Of the total 40,000 rape cases in India in the last ten years, 39,000 had a Muslim rapist. Still, Congress and Rahul Gandhi say that Hindus are rapists and terrorists. Shame on Congress and Gandhi family!” read a post shared by Sanjay Gupta in August in a Google Plus group called “Narendra Damodar Das Modi”. …


Welcome to DisFact, a weekly India newsletter. I am Samarth Bansal. If you like this post, sign up for weekly updates. Here is a list of all previous issues.

Today: Climate change.

  • Are countries meeting the targets set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement? What about India?
  • Climate finance: The ongoing tension between the developed and the developing world as officials across the world meet in Poland for climate talks.
  • What do the ongoing protests in France tell us about the political challenge of combating climate change?

Background

In 2015, world leaders from nearly 200 countries signed the landmark Paris climate…


On 9th August, around noon, my friend from IIT Kanpur sent me a text message: “You have to see the IITK Alumni Association group on Facebook.”

I already had. No one who is a part of the group could have possibly ignored it — unless Facebook’s algorithm thought otherwise. It was unlike anything else I had seen in the group. Ever.

I am talking about posts from Mr. Naidu Bogineni, a 1982 alumnus who pursued his MTech in material science from IITK.

IIT Kanpur

On Thursday, Naidu announced his nomination for the upcoming election of the President of the IIT Kanpur Alumni…


Chris Spatola (@Chris_Spatola), an analyst at ESPN, is the closest to what the median verified Twitter user looks like.

Here is why:

  1. Chris the second most common first name among verified users. 1,520 users share that name.
  2. He has around 10,800 followers. The median for verified users is 10,521.
  3. He follows 582 accounts. The median for this group is 539.
  4. He has tweeted 5,552 times. The median is 5,407.
  5. Like most verified users (~20%), he has not specified his location.
  6. He tweets in English — like 76% of verified users.

For this analysis, I used the data released by Jason…


A sting operation by a news organisation called Cobrapost exposed the rot in sections of the Indian media.

The sting “claims to have revealed a deeply engrained bias towards the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) within many of India’s leading media groups, as well as a willingness among some of the country’s most senior media executives and journalists to take money in return for pushing a political agenda,” the BBC reported.

Cobrapost’s website says its recordings show that some of the country’s leading news organisations are willing to “not only cause communal disharmony among citizens, but also tilt the electoral…


I wasn’t aware that Facebook allows users to download their data until I heard Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony in the US Congress last month.

So last weekend, when I reactivated my Facebook account after ten months, that’s the first thing I checked. The data archive, 900 megabytes in size, includes my location history, phone contacts, chat messages archive, status updates, history of all likes and comments among other stuff.

The data is shared as a collection of web pages. There is an index.html file to help users navigate through the data trove.

The best part: all HTML files can be easily…


P Sainath, the former Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu, is one of my favourite Indian journalists. He is known for his reportage from the Indian hinterland, especially in bringing into light the issue of farmer suicides and agrarian crisis. Sainath now runs People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI), a volunteer-run rural journalism platform in India.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjI9GhKqtxk

His insightful commentary on the political economy of the Indian media highlights the perils of corporatisation of the news industry. Sainath’s core argument is that the “Indian media is politically free but imprisoned by profit.” …

Samarth Bansal

Freelance Reporter. Programmer. I write words and code. More: samarthbansal.com

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