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.