The Hindu is a leading English-language Indian daily. With a circulation of 1.17 million copies, The Hindu is the Third largest circulated English Daily in India after Times of India and Hindustan Times and slightly ahead of Economic Times and has its largest base of circulation in South India, especially Tamil Nadu. Begun in 1878, it was founded on the principles of fairness and justice.Headquartered at Chennai , The Hindu was published weekly when it was launched and started publishing daily in 1889.
The Hindu became, in 1995, the first Indian newspaper to offer an online edition. The Hindu is the most circulated periodical in India with a circulation of 1,102,783 copies, according to the Registrar of Newspapers for India (The Sunday Times of India is second with a circulation of 1,038,954 copies).
The Hindu is published from 12 locations – Bangalore, Chennai, Coimbatore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kochi, Madurai, Mangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Tiruchirapalli, Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam. According to Indian Readership Survey 2008, Round 2, The Hindu has a readership of 5.2 million.
The first issue of The Hindu was published on September 20, 1878, by a group of six young men, led by G. Subramania Aiyer, a radical social reformer and school teacher from Thiruvaiyyar near Thanjavur. Aiyer, then 23, along with his 21-year-old fellow-tutor and friend at Pachaiyappa’s College, M. Veeraraghavachariar of Chingleput, and four law students, T.T. Rangachariar, P.V. Rangachariar, D. Kesava Rao Pant and N. Subba Rao Pantulu were members of the Triplicane Literary Society. The British-controlled English language local newspapers had been campaigning against the appointment of the first Indian, T. Muthuswami Iyer, to the Bench of the Madras High Court in 1878. “The Triplicane Six,” in an attempt to counter the dominant attitudes in the English language press started The Hindu on one British rupee and twelve annas of borrowed money. Aiyer was the editor and Veeraraghavachariar the Managing Director. The first editorial declared, “the Press does not only give expression to public opinion, but also modifies and moulds it.”
Three of the students soon left the paper and took up careers in law, while Pantulu continued to write for The Hindu. The founders of the newspaper maintained a neutral stance regarding British rule, and occasionally, as in an editorial of 1894, held that British rule had been beneficial to Indian people. “However, it was equally convinced that the Anglo-Indian Press should be challenged, despotic bureaucrats condemned, and the abuse of power exposed,” writes historian S. Muthiah.
Initially printing 80 copies a week at the Srinidhi Press in Mint Street, Black Town, The Hindu was published every Wednesday evening as an eight-page paper, each a quarter of today’s page size and sold for four annas (1/4 Rupee). After a month of printing from the Srinidhi Press, the newspaper switched to the Scottish Press, also in Black Town. The earliest available issue of the paper is dated June 21, 1881. In 1881, it moved to Ragoonada Row’s ‘The Hindu Press’ of Mylapore, with the intention of making it tri-weekly. This plan did not materialize until it moved to the Empress of India Press, where, starting on October 1, 1883, is was published on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening; it continued maintaining the same size as before.
The offices moved to rented premises at 100 Mount Road on December 3, 1883. The newspaper started printing at its own press there, christened “The National Press,” which was established on borrowed capital as public subscriptions were not forthcoming. The building itself became The Hindu’s in 1892, after the Maharaja of Vizianagaram, Ananda Gajapathi Raju, gave The National Press a loan both for the building and to carry out needed expansion.
Its assertive editorials earned The Hindu the nickname, the Maha Vishnu of Mount Road. “From the new address, 100 Mount Road, which to remain The Hindu’s home till 1939, there issued a quarto-size paper with a front-page full of advertisements – a practice that came to an end only in 1958 when it followed the lead of its idol, the pre-Thomson Times – and three back pages also at the service of the advertiser. In between, there were more views than news.” After 1887, when the annual session of Indian National Congress was held in Madras, the paper’s coverage of national news increased significantly, and led to the paper becoming an evening daily starting April 1, 1889.
The partnership between Veeraraghavachariar and Subramania Aiyer was dissolved in October 1898. Aiyer quit the paper and Veeraraghavachariar became the sole owner and appointed C. Karunakara Menon as editor. However, The Hindu’s adventurousness began to decline in the 1900s and so did its circulation, which was down to 800 copies when the sole proprietor decided to sell out. The purchaser was The Hindu’s Legal Adviser from 1895, S. Kasturi Ranga Iyengar, a politically ambitious lawyer who had migrated from a Kumbakonam village to practise in Coimbatore and from thence to Madras. Kasturi Ranga Iyengar’s ancestors had served the courts of Vijayanagar and Mahratta Tanjore. He traded law, in which his success was middling but his interest minimal, for journalism, pursuing his penchant for politics honed in Coimbatore and by his association with the `Egmore Group’ led by C. Sankaran Nair and Dr T.M. Nair.
In late 1980s when its ownership passed into the hands of the family’s younger members, a change in political leaning was observed. Worldpress.org lists The Hindu as a left-leaning independent newspaper. This political polarization is supposed to have taken place since N. Ram took over as editor-in-chief. Joint Managing Director N. Murali said in July 2003, “It is true that our readers have been complaining that some of our reports are partial and lack objectivity. But it also depends on reader beliefs.” N. Ram was appointed on June 27, 2003 as its editor-in-chief with a mandate to “improve the structures and other mechanisms to uphold and strengthen quality and objectivity in news reports and opinion pieces”, authorised to “restructure the editorial framework and functions in line with the competitive environment”. On September 3 and 23, 2003, the reader’s letters column carried responses from readers saying the editorial was biased. An editorial in August 2003 observed that the newspaper was affected by the ‘editorialising as news reporting’ virus, and expressed a determination to buck the trend, restore the professionally sound lines of demarcation, and strengthen objectivity and factuality in its coverage.
In 1987-’88 The Hindu’s coverage of the Bofors arms deal scandal, a series of document-backed exclusives set the terms of the national political discourse on this subject. The Bofors scandal broke in April 1987 with Swedish Radio alleging that bribes had been paid to top Indian political leaders, officials and Army officers in return for the Swedish arms manufacturing company winning a hefty contract with the Government of India for the purchase of 155 mm howitzers. During a six-month period the newspaper published scores of copies of original papers that documented the secret payments, amounting to $50 million, into Swiss bank accounts, the agreements behind the payments, communications relating to the payments and the crisis response, and other material. The investigation was led by part-time correspondent of The Hindu, Chitra Subramaniam reporting from Geneva, and was supported by Ram in Chennai. The scandal was a major embarrassment to the party in power at the centre, the Indian National Congress, and its leader Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The paper’s editorial accused the Prime Minister of being party to massive fraud and cover up.
In 1991, Deputy Editor N. Ravi, Ram’s younger brother replaced G. Kasturi as Editor. Nirmala Lakshman, Kasturi Srinivasan’s granddaughter, became Joint Editor of The Hindu and her sister, Malini Parthasarathy, Executive Editor.
In 2003, the Jayalalitha Government of the state of Tamil Nadu, of which Chennai is the capital, filed cases against the paper for “breach of privilege” of the state legislative body. The move was widely perceived as a government’s assault on freedom of the press. However, The Hindu emerged unscathed from the ordeal, scoring both political and legal victories, as it instantly commanded the support of the journalistic community throughout the country, as well as the national government’s political leadership.
The younger generation of The Hindu’s editors have also contributed much to its commercial success. They built a modern infrastructure for news-gathering, printing and distribution. On the look of the newspaper, editor-in-chief Ram writes, “The Hindu has been through many evolutionary changes in layout and design, for instance, moving news to the front page that used to be an ad kingdom; adopting modular layout and make-up; using large photographs; introducing colour; transforming the format of the editorial page to make it a purely ‘views’ page; avoiding carry-over of news stories from one page to another; and introducing boxes, panels, highlights, and briefs.” Major layout changes appeared starting (redesign by Edwin Taylor) and starting Apr 14, 2005 (redesign by Mario Garcia and Jan Kny). The focus of Garcia’s redesign was on “giving pre-eminence to text, including (where appropriate and necessary) long text, but also by enabling photographs, other graphics, and white space to have an enhanced role on the pages; by giving the reader more legible typography, an efficient indexing or ‘navigation’ system, a clear hierarchy of stories, a new and sophisticated colour palette; and by offering the advertiser better value and new opportunities.”
The Hindu, like many other Indian publishing houses, is family-run. It was headed by G. Kasturi from 1965 to 1991, N. Ravi from 1991 to 2003, and by his brother, N. Ram, since June 27th 2003. Other family members, including Nirmala Lakshman, Malini Parthasarathy, Nalini Krishnan, N Murali, K Balaji, K Venugopal and Ramesh Rangarajan are directors of The Hindu and its parent company, Kasturi and Sons. S Rangarajan, former managing director and chairman since April 2006, died on 8 February 2007. Ananth Krishnan, who is the first member of the youngest generation of the family to join the business has been working as a special correspondent in Chennai and Mumbai since 2007.
The Times, London listed The Hindu as one of the world’s ten best newspapers in 1965. Discussing each of its choices in separate articles, The Times wrote:
“ The Hindu takes the general seriousness to lengths of severity… The Hindu which is published in Madras, is the only newspaper which in spite of being published only in a provincial capital is regularly and attentively read in Delhi. It is read not only as a distant and authoritative voice on national affairs but as an expression of the most liberal – and least provincial – southern attitudes… Its Delhi Bureau gives it outstanding political and economic dispatches and it carries regular and frequent reports from all state capitals, so giving more news from states, other than its own, than most newspapers in India… It might fairly be described as a national voice with a southern accent. The Hindu can claim to be the most respected paper in India. ”
In 1968, the American Newspaper Publishers’ Association awarded The Hindu its World Press Achievement Award. An extract from the citation reads :
“ Throughout nearly a century of its publication The Hindu has exerted wide influence not only in Madras but throughout India. Conservative in both tone and appearance, it has wide appeal to the English-speaking segment of the population and wide readership among government officials and business leaders… The Hindu has provided its readers a broad and balanced news coverage, enterprising reporting and a sober and thoughtful comment… has provided its country a model of journalistic excellence… has fought for a greater measure of humanity for India and its people… has not confined itself to a narrow chauvinism. Its Correspondents stationed in the major capitals of the world furnish The Hindu with world-wide news coverage… For its championing of reason over emotion, for its dedication to principle even in the face of criticism and popular disapproval, for its confidence in the future, it has earned the respect of its community, its country, and the world.