The first newspaper in India was published by James Hicky in January 1780. It was called the Bengal Gazette and announced itself as “a weekly political and commercial paper open to all parties but influenced by none”.
Bengal Gazette was a two-sheet paper measuring 12 inches by 8 inches, most of the space being occupied by advertisements. Its circulation reached a maximum of 200 copies. Within six years of Bengal Gazette, four more weeklies were launched in Kolkata (then Calcutta).
Madras Courier was launched in 1782.
Bombay Herald was launched in 1791.
Bombay Courier was launched in 1792. It published advertisements in English and Gujarati.
In 1799, the East India administration passed regulations to increase its control over the press.
The first newspaper under Indian administration appeared in 1816. It was also called Bengal Gazette and was published by Gangadhar Bhattacharjee. It was a liberal paper which advocated the reforms of Raja Ram Mohan Roy.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy himself brought out a magazine in Persian called Mirat-ul-Ukhbar. He also published The Brahmanical Magazine, an English periodical to counteract the religious propaganda of the Christian missionaries of Serampore.
In 1822, the Chandrika Samachar was started in Bengal.
At the same time, Bombay Samachar was started by Ferdunji Marzban. It gave importance to social reform and commercial news in Gujarati.
The first Hindi newspaper Oodunt Martand was published in 1826 from Bengal. However, it could not survive long because of its distant readership and high postal rates. Its place was soon taken by Jami Jahan Numa, a newspaper that was pro-establishment.
In 1832, Bal Shastri Jambhekar launched at Anglo-Marathi newspaper from Pune.
A large number of short-lived newspapers were brought out in this time. Some were in Indian languages like Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Urdu and Persian.
The Uprising of 1857 brought out the divide between Indian owned and British owned newspapers. The government passed the Gagging Act of 1847 and the Vernacular Press Act in 1876.
After 1857, the pioneering efforts in newspapers shifted from Bengal to Mumbai. Gujarati press made great progress under the efforts of Ferdunji Marzban and Kurshedji Cama.
Marathi journalism followed close behind with a distinctive educational bias.
In 1861, Mr Knight merged the Bombay Standard, Bombay Times and Telegraph and brought out the first issue of Times of India.
In 1875, the same Mr Knight with the backing of rich merchants from Kolkata started Indian Statesman which was later called as Statesman.
Around the same time, Amrita Bazar Patrika was able to establish itself in Kolkata. Starting out as a vernacular paper, it was constantly in trouble due to its outspokenness. In order to circumvent the strict provision of the Vernacular Press Act, Amrita Bazar Patrika converted itself overnight into an English newspaper.
Amrita Bazar Patrika inspired freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak to start Kesari in Pune. He used Kesari to build anti-cow killing societies, Ganesh mandals and reviving the Chhatrapati Shivaji cult. He used mass communication as a powerful political weapon.
By 1905, the English and vernacular press had become pretty professional. Political leaders and social reformers were regular contributors to newspapers. Some prominent writers of the time were C Y Chintamani, G A Natesan, N C Kelkar, Phirozshah Mehta and Benjamin Horniman.
Indian news was supplied by special correspondent and government hand-outs (press releases), international news was supplied by Reuters, an international news agency.
1920s and 1930s
- Newspapers in this period started reflecting popular political opinion. While big English dailies were loyal to the British government, the vernacular press was strongly nationalist.
- The Leader and Bombay Chronicle were pro-Congress.
- The Servant of India and The Bombay Chronicle were moderate.
- The Bande Mataram of Aurbindo Ghosh, Kal of Poona and Sakli of Surat were fiercely nationalist.
- In 1918, Motilal Nehru started the Independent of Lucknow as a newspaper of extreme Indian opinion.
- The Home Rule Party started Young India, which later became Mahatma Gandhiji’s mouthpiece.
In 1927, industrialist G D Birla took over Hindustan Times and placed it on a sound financial footing.
In the same year, S Sadanand started the Free Press Journal, a newspaper for the poor and the middle-class in Mumbai.
Ref: Mass Communication - A Basic Study by Aspi Doctor, Sheth Publishers