Managing Director and Co-Founder, The Quint
Meet Ritu Kapur: Unveiling the Path to Media Literacy in the Digital Age
Ritu Kapur is Co-Founder and Managing Director of The Quint. She has now joined forces with FactShala and MediaWise to advocate for media literacy in India
By line: Kritika Kamthan
January 9, 2023
Ritu Kapur is a name synonymous with journalism prowess and innovative media launches in India. Recognised as a thought leader who has spent the last two decades empowering newsrooms and building storytelling platforms for social change, she is now starting a new mission: helping people understand the importance of media and information literacy as a FactShala Ambassador.
Joining hands with FactShala as an Ambassador in collaboration with MediaWise, Ritu – along with other trusted journalism voices – is set to lead a video series aiming to equip people with vital media literacy skills to discern truth from falsehoods online. Designed as a micro-learning format and catering to viewers’ busy schedules, the videos, which will be produced in multiple languages with support from the Google News Initiative, will empower the audience with research-backed media literacy skills to sort fact from fiction online.
Ritu’s journey through journalism and entrepreneurship has been marked by a fervent belief in the transformative power of storytelling for societal change. From her early experiences in drought hit villages of Rajasthan to leading The Quint, a mobile-first digital news platform, Ritu’s dedication to amplifying unheard voices has been unwavering. Apart from driving innovation at The Quint, she also started their fact checking vertical – WebQoof and citizen journalism vertical – My Report. WebQoof has emerged as a pioneering force in fact-checking, debunking misinformation with rigor and precision. My Report, a testament to her visionary leadership, empowers citizen journalism, amplifying diverse voices and driving impactful storytelling at scale. The initiatives demonstrate Ritu’s continued commitment to shape these verticals, setting new benchmarks in the pursuit of truth and amplifying the power of information in the contemporary media landscape.
Her dedication to addressing misinformation is rooted in real-world consequences, as she witnessed the tragic effects of baseless rumours inciting violence. Through FactShala and Mediawise, Ritu aims to empower individuals with the skills needed to navigate this information landscape, ultimately fostering a more media-literate society.
We caught up with her in an email exchange to reflect on her commitment to democratizing information, empowering viewers to navigate complexities and make informed decisions. As a media literacy ambassador, she advocates for critical thinking and believes in equipping audiences with the tools to discern truth from falsehoods, fortifying our collective pursuit of an informed society. Ritu’s new role as FactShala Ambassador, cements her tireless efforts to cultivate a media-literate audience, fostering a landscape where knowledge fuels discernment and empowerment.
You have been in media and journalism your entire career. How and when did you know this was the field you wanted to work in? Was there a pivotal moment that defined your decision, and if so, will you share?
My journey into the world of media was ignited during my college days while working with social activist groups in drought-hit villages of Rajasthan. Witnessing untold stories and diverse realities, I felt compelled to pursue Mass Communication, initially aiming to become a documentary filmmaker. When I completed my Masters’ in 1991, there was only the state run television – Doordarshan, and job options were few. The industry was male dominated and I kept changing jobs, freelancing on documentary films for a while, working on video magazines for children and doing short projects. But with the Gulf War of 1991, satellite TV beamed into India and the Star Network launched 5 TV Channels. There was finally the opportunity to do independent quality work and I became a founding member of the company Raghav (my husband) launched, then – TV 18. Soon after, a small team, of which I was a part, started experimenting with shooting and editing styles and The India Show became an iconic programme. Gradually I started leading this team.
You entered the industry at a time before smartphones and social media. In your observation, how has the spread of misinformation adapted to the digital age?
With 60 percent of the population in India being under 30 years, information is being consumed largely on mobile devices. This digital savvy audience (with ever-changing consumer behavior) is redefining how media is produced, distributed, and consumed. Video content on mobile devices is making information accessible to even the uneducated citizens. Social media platforms have democratized content creation, ensuring that even rural India is engaged in making and sharing short form videos.The impact of social media and mobile devices is reshaping how information is consumed and shared, especially among India’s predominantly young population. Unfortunately, this digital revolution has also birthed challenges, blurring the lines between reliable news sources and user-generated content, leading to the proliferation of misinformation.
You are now a FactShala Ambassador. What does this role mean for you?
This role symbolizes a chance to empower digital content users with tools to combat misinformation proactively, emphasizing the importance of media literacy and prebunking. I am really excited to partake in the upcoming video series which will highlight several aspects of media literacy, empowering individuals to discern facts from fiction.
How do you think media literacy can help individuals in the fight against misinformation?
I firmly believe that media literacy enables critical evaluation of information, understanding biases, recognizing manipulation techniques, and fostering civic engagement for a healthier democratic discourse. The big picture is that people must participate in democratic processes and when you can check information carefully, see biases and spot manipulation, you’ll be better equipped to differentiate between the truth and falsehood.
What is the one piece of advice you would give someone who is new to media literacy?
I think making fact-checked content and media literacy as engaging and discoverable is critical. It is pivotal to combat misinformation, and perhaps it is time to make truth as attractive as falsehood.
What are your hopes for the future?
My hope is vested in integrating media literacy into education to equip everyone with skills to navigate the digital landscape, combat misinformation, and harness technology for a more informed society.
Ritu Kapur’s journey as a media literacy advocate underscores the vital role of empowering individuals with the tools to discern truth in an age inundated with information, misinformation, and everything in between.
FactShala India Media Literacy Network is a collaborative news and information literacy program run by DataLEADS with support from the Google News Initiative. It’s a collective of 250 journalists, media educators, fact-checkers, non-profit workers and community radio stations, who are on a mission to empower people in non-metro cities and rural areas and also youth and students with the skills required to critically analyze online information and spot misinformation.
MediaWise is a digital media literacy initiative based at the nonprofit Poynter Institute. The program teaches people of all ages and backgrounds how to responsibly engage with online content in the age of information overload. The program was created in 2018 to empower people to find trusted sources and make sense of the vast amount of information at their fingertips. It brings simple, yet effective, digital media literacy tools to people where they are — whether they’re on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter or TikTok or in one of the nine countries where MediaWise operates.