When I was growing up in Delhi, the two major English-language papers were The Times of India and The Hindustan Times. The latter was, at the time, regarded (by the people I knew) as superior in classified ads, and in little else. The ToI was the "serious" paper; but by the mid-80s its decline was already becoming apparent, and its concern was clearly with selling the product rather than being newsworthy. So when the Hindu started publishing in Delhi, it was a breath of fresh air. It never topped the circulation charts but it rapidly found a strong readership, not just among south Indians.
Some months ago we stopped buying The Hindu because of their ludicrously biased coverage (both news-wise and editorially) of the Nandigram affair. We switched to Deccan Chronicle, a far worse newspaper than I ever remember ToI being, but I still prefer it to The Hindu.
Today the Hindu's Reader's Editor discussed the latest controversy about the Hindu's biases: its recent coverage of Tibet. It's worth reading in full.
This quote from the Editor-in-Chief, N Ram, says it all:
The Dalai Lama's statements were edited because he isa separatist and tended to justify the savage and murderous riots in Lhasa.
So presumably the Hindu would have edited statements from Gandhi, who was a separatist. And note the weaselly words "tended to justify" -- did he justify the riots (I haven't seen a news report of this) or didn't he?
Today, also, The Times of India entered Chennai. I am tempted to subscribe. And I am very interested in seeing what this does to the circulation figures of The Hindu. As far as I can tell, The Hindu has now alienated the following classes of readers:
- Readers interested in local news who don't like the blatant pro-DMK slant
- "Traditional" (conservative) Tam-Brahm readers who believe they don't find enough respect for their religion or culture
- The Hindutva right-wing, for the same reasons as above
- The liberal left, who are appalled by the coverage of Nandigram and Tibet
- People who want new and original reading matter, not rehashes from The Guardian and The New York Times (which are now available online to anyone)
Is there anyone left out above?
The ToI has two paths to building its readership: first, building a quality product; second, pandering to as many of the disenchanted categories above as possible. I think the latter will be easier.