Through the Looking-Glass

The Readers’ Editor writes: Why did Scroll change its home page design?

Often design changes are carried out just for the sake of change. Not here.

For more than three years, Scroll.in had a unique look. Clean, no clutter and with a genuine scroll feel about it. It was such a joy to read as you took in the large photographs and the large text amidst plenty of white space. Readers went from top downwards, from one article to another without having to right-click or navigate hyperlinks.

Of course, as new sections were added, these got their own pages and could be accessed separately from the menu at the top. But the unique scroll down feel remained all these years.

Then a few weeks ago, we saw a change. Not a radical overhaul, but a substantial change nevertheless, which, in some ways, ended the uniqueness of Scroll.in’s design.

The home page now has three new elements: (i) Cover Story, (ii) Editor’s Picks and (iii) The Latest. Below this, you have the layout of stories as before – one below another. But the overall change is unmistakable.

In addition, on the right, each section has its own listing – a vertical listing in place of the horizontal banners that were earlier another unique feature of Scroll.in.

Why the change?

Readers would have noticed earlier that there were times when there seemed to be no reason for why an article was on the top and a more important one somewhere in the middle. There was a reason, but a not very good one: articles went to the top as and when they were published and moved down later in the day. So a reader who checked in a few hours after an important article was published would find it only if she scrolled down. Sometimes, she may even miss it altogether.

This was okay in the beginning when only a few stories were published every day. But now Scroll.in publishes – hold your breath – as many as 70 articles a day. Clearly, a top-down chronological presentation of such a large volume is a disservice to both its readers and writers. Scroll.in needed to present a hierarchy. The new design does just that.

Naresh Fernandes, Editor of Scroll.in, said, “The new design allows us to fix a ‘cover story’, as well as three other significant articles atop the page [the Editor’s Picks]. This allows us to signal to readers what we think is important, or interesting enough to merit their attention, as soon as they visit the site.”

I think this makes sense. The old design may have had its elegance but its elegance was beginning to act as a constraint on letting readers know what the major story at the time was, pointing out the more interesting of the new articles on the site and also listing the latest in news.

Often design changes are carried out just for the sake of change. Not here. As the Editor said, “The guiding principle of our design is no longer chronology but seeks to highlight stories that our editors have determined to be significant.”

We can allow ourselves a bit of wistfulness for the old design, but the current design retains elements of the old and makes the entire site more functional from the reader’s point of view.

Matters of caste

Now to turn to one comment by a reader and then a comment of my own.

Kartik Das asked if Scroll.in should not place the words “upper” and “lower” within inverted commas when referring to castes. I see Kartik Das’s point but I do not think it is necessary. When Scroll.in or one of its writers talks about upper castes, they are not saying that the upper castes are innately superior in any way. That the caste order is iniquitous is now accepted and in this unfair caste hierarchy there are some whose castes have traditionally been seen as superior. When a writer uses the prefixes “upper” and “lower”, she is denoting the position of castes in this iniquitous hierarchy. It would be a different matter if an article on caste was being written for a non-Indian audience. Then I would say the words should be placed within single inverted commas, at least in the first usage, and a suitable explanatory note offered. But one does not have to do that for Indian readers.

Can’t spin India loss

To end on a different note, on sports which evoke so much passion and, at times, disappointment. Those who are old enough to remember the time when the Indian cricket team was more of a loser than a winner on the field will recall the post-match rationalisations, justifications and self-consolations like, “We played well in the second innings.” Something similar seems to inform this article on Scroll.in on the thrashing India received at Pune over the weekend. It goes through various arithmetical and verbal gymnastics to argue that India did not play as badly as the score line suggests. Er? When a cricket team loses a five-day match in under three days and does not score more than 125 runs in either innings, no level of sophistication in the analysis can paper over the sharpness of the result.

The team, which was on a winning spree before the Pune game, may well pick itself up after this loss, but sportswriters could avoid trying to make it less of a beating than it was.

Readers can write to the Readers’ Editor at readerseditor@scroll.in.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.