Say Hi to Mura!

In 2017, I decided to leave CNN-IBN, a place that had been home for more than half a decade. “Don’t quit” was the advice I received from nearly everyone from the industry.

Why? Since I had made it on-air, I was expected to stay there. It was the ‘sweet spot’ that nearly everyone in a TV newsroom was told to aspire for.

Many well wishers volunteered to make me see sense in staying back “Why are you quitting?! You look so good on-air!”.

While I had made up my mind to leave, that statement meant to convince me to stay is what reassured me in my exit.

I left that ‘sweet spot’ to help pilot data journalism projects across multiple newsrooms in India. During the last two years, I’ve had the opportunity to learn things about journalism that have little to do with mass media, big newsrooms, first news breaks and conventional storytelling. Why did I choose to learn new things? As my friend Lakshmi Sivadas puts it succinctly— In a non-linear world, it does not pay to be linear sources of information gatherers and distributors.

In my previous post, I talked about why I decided to become a Tow-Knight fellow — understanding how people consumed the news outside of big newsrooms was important to me.

Over the course of my interviews, I learnt that there are students in India who consume the daily news with the sole purpose of learning from it to clear the general knowledge sections of various exams. I am hoping to build Mura, my project as a Tow-Knight fellow as a news-based learning tool that can help this community.

Mura is a Telugu word roughly translated as a “hand’s measure”, used here to inspire taking one small step at a time.

Keeping this in mind, I envision Mura to be a virtual mentor that teaches students from the news and tracks their learning. For this, I built my first prototype in April and had 10 people test it.

Based on the feedback, the key takeaways have been both for understanding the technology needed to build this, as well as figuring out a conversational voice for Mura to be an effective learning tool.