From Courier to Chronicle

Even in this age of internet, reading a newspaper in the morning is a habit that most of us are yet to break. For a person in Chennai, The Hindu is more or less The Paper. It might be interesting to know that Madras had a string of Newspapers right from 1785 onwards with The Hindu reaching its exalted position only by late 1950s.

The first Newspaper of Madras was The Madras Courier, the first copy published on Oct 12, 1785. It was started by Richard Jhonson and was published as a weekly paper. It was followed by The Madras Gazette and The Government Gazette. The Madras Courier survived for 36 years before folding down.

The next newspaper to arise was The Spectator, started in 1836. The Spectator became Madras’ first daily newspaper in 1850. The competition to The Spectator came in the form of The Madras Times, started in 1859. The editors of The Madras Times quarelled with its proprietors and started The Madras Mail in 1868. The Mail soon became the leading Newspaper of Madras. Its first offices were in Moore Street and then they occupied the first floor of what is now the Honkong Shangai Banking Corporation office in Rajaji Salai. It moved to the current premises next to The Hindu in 1921.

The Hindu was started in 1878 by six young men of Triplicane Literary Society to counter the English press arguing against appointment of T. Muthuswami Aiyer as the first Indian Judge of Madras High Court. The first editorial declared loftily “Press does not only give expression to public opinion, but also modifies and moulds it”. The founder editor G. Subramania Iyer quit the paper in 1898. The other founder Veeraragavachariar decided to sell the paper in 1900s and it was bought by the paper’s Legal counsel, Kasturi Ranga Iyengar. Under his stewardship the paper prospered and is now the leading paper of the city.

The famed Indian Express group too had its beginning in Chennai. Ramnath Goenka took over the loss making Madras edition of The Free Press Journal and converted it into Indian Express. In 1940, its premises were burnt down in a fire accident. The Hindu, its competitor helped the paper back to its feet again by letting Indian Express use their printing press temporarily.

The Mail, which was formed by the merger of the earlier mentione The Spectator, Madras Mail and Madras Times had its golden period under the editorship of Arthur Hayles till 1955. On his retirement, the paper(which by now was owned by the Amalgamations Group) went into a termimal decline finally shutting down in 1981. Only the front portion of its building remains as a landmark on the Mount Road.

The Hindu reigned supreme in the 1980s and 90s, with the Indian Express group too facing management issues after the death of Ramnath Goenka. The entry of Times of India was rumoured from late 1990s but till day it remains just a rumour.

If the entry of Deccan Chronicle in the Chennai market was a surprise, then their rapidly outpacing Indian Express as the number two paper was an even greater surprise. Aggressive pricing and marketing along with the perceived political bias of The Hindu led to a sizeable number of readers switching to Deccan Chronicle.

From Courier to Chronicle, the city has been served by various English Newspapers. A little more variety would add spice to the market is what I feel.

24 Comments so far

  1. Navneeth (unregistered) on November 24th, 2007 @ 1:39 pm

    Hi Chenthil. Long time, no post? Thanks for the history lesson. So, which paper do you subscribe to?


  2. Chenthil (unregistered) on November 24th, 2007 @ 1:47 pm

    Thanks Navneeth. Why, I subscribe to The Hindu of course :-)


  3. little Ram (unregistered) on November 24th, 2007 @ 6:03 pm

    While I have remained a ‘The Hindu’ loyalist, I do feel that the political bias is getting a bit pronounced lately. I am not sure if having an independent press is too lofty an ideal. Still, I am sure that some good competition will stir things up and lead to better journalism.


  4. Parthasarathy (unregistered) on November 24th, 2007 @ 7:00 pm

    I dont believe that The Hindu is biased politically. It has remained the gold standard for good reporting. But of course, it does ask uncomfortable questions quite boldly, making it appear as if political sides were being taken. Till today, if it is to be news, it has to be reported on The Hindu.

    As for Indian Express, it shifts loyalties without end. I still remember the article it carried bad mouthing Moopanar with fanciful allegations – on the day of state elections. Its hate campaign against the Nehru family is legion.

    DC is new, and is like what ‘The Sun’ was to the UK some 15 years ago.


  5. Murali (unregistered) on November 24th, 2007 @ 8:47 pm

    I was hooked with “The Hindu” for its Sports Column.


  6. MR (unregistered) on November 24th, 2007 @ 9:12 pm

    I used to be a fan of The Hindu when I was younger but I feel these days that their writing style is poor, boring and stodgy. Must definitely look at the Chronicle to see if they are any different.


  7. ramki830 (unregistered) on November 24th, 2007 @ 10:27 pm

    Chenthil Nathan, that was a nice article. But are not Hindu’s best days already behind it ? This is 2007 and the younger generation esp those below 30 arent willing to wait till the next day morning to know what is happening around. The Internet/24 Hour Televisions – Rediff/CNN-IBN et al have already grabbed a substantial part of the audience and what Hindu can claim as a core audience is really those above the age of 35, those who arent still comfortable with the new age media like web/satellite television. Add to it vernacular media which is also now available on the web (dinamalar, dinakaran, dailythanthi etc), so maybe Hindu’s monopoly is silently fading away.

    As far as Hindu’s ideological bias is concerned, Outlook India and CNN-IBN are able to have their ideological beliefs and at the same time provide a relatively less biased news coverage. Hindu’s N.Ram can learn a thing or two from them (assuming that he is willing to learn from others).


  8. sachin (unregistered) on November 24th, 2007 @ 11:15 pm

    I appreciate the journalistic talent and quality of the hindu. But somehow its a little neo conservative and its choice of color, and type setting gives it the appearance of a monotonous/serious paper.

    I suppose as and when the [bold] Times of India [\bold] is introduced in Chennai, it will appeal well to the younger generations as it manages to strike a good balance between class and jazz.


  9. Ravi (unregistered) on November 25th, 2007 @ 12:33 am

    Good post Chenthil .. I wonder where you get these information from .. Please continue the good job ..


  10. Navaneethan Santhanam (unregistered) on November 25th, 2007 @ 4:44 am

    Brilliant post! I’d love to see more of this stuff in the Metblog.


  11. Ram (unregistered) on November 25th, 2007 @ 8:23 am

    Hindu – it is red now and has replaced Blitz and Karanjia!
    They have their own circle to boost! – The Karats, the Bengal Reds, Achuthanandan and Krishna Iyer — and activists Arundhati Roy, Medha Patkar, Shabna Azmi — and to show their secular feeling Prince of Arcot and of course Subramaniam Swamy!!


  12. Lavanya (unregistered) on November 25th, 2007 @ 11:47 am

    Chenthil – welcome back! lovely post too.

    btw, question – was it you who mentioned that The Hindu owns the Mail building on Mount Road?


  13. Mr.Mojo (unregistered) on November 25th, 2007 @ 2:33 pm

    Hindu was pretty much the morning religion for me. But after I did some time in the UK and got back, I find myself cursing the lack of choices. If you liked the Hindu, then that mostly eliminates The express and DC. And I wouldn’t really look forward to the Times having lived in Bangalore for quite some time. I guess it wouldn’t hurt if a band of biggies from across the pond are allowed in…


  14. Ganesh (unregistered) on November 25th, 2007 @ 9:02 pm

    Excellent post, Chenthil ! Would love to see more posts like this. As a former Chennai-vaasi, the Hindu was _the_ paper during my heydays. Now-a-days it is just another leftist mouthpiece. Having said that, it still beats the competition by miles. Not sure about the Chronicle, but sensationalist tabloids like Times of India cannot hold a lamp to the Hindu. Just goes on to show the deplorable journalist standards today.


  15. Regu (unregistered) on November 25th, 2007 @ 10:41 pm

    Times Of India: Its actually more like femina magazine than to be called as newspaper
    TV Channels – CHHIBN, NDTV, Times ow – biased to the core. cant get neutral voices
    Hindu – Biased to an extent, but still is the best
    Yes Ofcourse competition would add some flavour, but defenitely I dont want Times of India and the likes. I dont want to see womens body in news paper. For that I can look for different magazines


  16. Dilip Muralidaran (unregistered) on November 25th, 2007 @ 11:00 pm

    Nice post chenthil. I personally of course am not affected by any of this since i dont read the newspaper and the press on the whole is in my bad books for eternity.

    Nevertheless a nice post talking about the history of newspapers in chennai.


  17. Nilu (unregistered) on November 26th, 2007 @ 10:08 am

    Chenthil,

    I expect a similar post on the evolution of Tamil newspapers.

    On a different note, David and Nandhu, please note the comments for this post and decide for yourself.


  18. sachin (unregistered) on November 26th, 2007 @ 10:25 am

    For those of you hooked to google news and retuers, you will notice that most of the news is reproduced in the hindu the next day.

    Thus as far as i am concerned, i am more interested in local news and analysis in our newspapers.

    I feel the Hindu is found lacking in that area by a far margin. Although many of you may concur that DC, TOI and HT are sensationalist, they are actually much better at generating localised content.


  19. Anonymous Coward (unregistered) on November 26th, 2007 @ 5:39 pm

    Parthasarathy said: //I dont believe that The Hindu is biased politically. It has remained the gold standard for good reporting.//

    Sorry son your belief is wrong. The Hindu is the most politically biased newspaper in India. Sadly it is no longer is the gold standard for good reporting.

    They like reporting about China, CPI(.), Central Committee, Politburo and like to tow leftist line.

    More than their bias I dislike their dishonesty.
    When HC crticised WB govt for mishandling Nandigram, The Hindu said Judiciary is overstepping..

    You call that unbiased? I call it BullSh…


  20. david (unregistered) on November 26th, 2007 @ 7:37 pm

    Nice post Chenthil, and a great one to mark your return. Informative and interesting too. The Hindu is undoubtedly a good news paper, but I share the views of many as to its bias and leanings towards the Left. It erodes the credibility of an otherwise good paper.


  21. Parthasarathy (unregistered) on November 26th, 2007 @ 9:56 pm

    Anonymous…

    In India, it is all right to say ‘right’ or ‘left’. But actually, there are no real ideologies or economic policy differences. What is in a name? There are only religious fundos on the right. So where is the question of being ‘rightist’ or ‘leftist’? If you say the Hindu is a party paper, I could nt disagree more. Remember it is run by ‘natural rightists’ and it hounded the Rajiv family for more than a decade on Bofors. As for the left, there is hardly any left in Tamil Nadu! So what are we complaining about really? Just by repeating that a newspaper is biased, does not prove it is.

    The Hindu still remains the gold standard for news reporting. DC or IE are amateurs by comparison. I do agree that the standards of its english may have fallen though.


  22. Chenthil (unregistered) on November 27th, 2007 @ 7:32 am

    Hi all, thanks for the appreciation. I was travelling through out the weekend, so couldn’t respond earlier.

    Let this post not be used to discuss the merits and demerits of The Hindu. I have been critical of The Hindu in my personal blog often, but this post was just to trace the evolution of English newspapers in the city. And like it or not, The Hindu is a major part of that history.

    The main source for this article was as usual, Mr. S. Muthiah, the noted historian of the city. And some amount of googling too helped.


  23. Karthik Thirumalai (unregistered) on November 28th, 2007 @ 12:23 pm

    I agree with a few others here that Hindu was and remains in maintaining it’s journalistic standards. It’s in-depth analysis is second to none among world newspapers. Honestly, I would rather have this then ‘The Sun’ type of “NEWS” being dumped by the conglomerates in US and UK. News is not for fun, there are things that need to be taken very seriously and “Tabloidzation” of news is not the way to go. I don’t believe in the leftist crap like communism/socialism, but rampant corporatism isn’t good either and Hindu provides the counter-balance to the opening up of Indian markets and it’s effects on the people who are left behind in the economic boom.


  24. Anonymous Coward (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2007 @ 3:36 pm

    //As for the left, there is hardly any left in Tamil Nadu! So what are we complaining about really? //

    Sorry Mr.Parthasarathy, I have to disagree. We are not talking about some tamil daily. We are talking about The Hindu which calls itself India’s National Newspaper. So no question of Tamil Nadu here. Move on

    //Just by repeating that a newspaper is biased, does not prove it is.//
    Just by repeating that Hindu is unbiased does not make it unbiased.

    //I do agree that the standards of its english may have fallen though.//
    I was talking about honest reporting not the standard of its english. However nice the grammar the lies will be lies.

    //but rampant corporatism isn’t good either and Hindu provides the counter-balance to the opening up of Indian markets and it’s effects on the people who are left behind in the economic boom.//

    Mr.Thirumalai.. if you are looking for some newspaper to help the cause of people The Hindu is the last thing on that list. This monopolistic company has filed numerous frivolous complaints against DC to the Audit Bureau and TOI was supposed to come to chennai in 2006, still they are not able enter the chennai market.

    And to make the facts straight, Indian market is not fully opened up and people who are left behind belong to the sectors which are not liberalised.



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