'India's national newspaper since 1878.' For a journalist, Chennai means The Hindu. It's the best of India's English language dailies - trailing the Times of India in circulation, but not in prestige. And what a tribute to India's federal-style political system that its foremost paper - the one that politicians, diplomats and top civil servants are likely to turn to first - is based 1,700 miles from the national capital.
The paper was established to champion the cause of the first Indian to be appointed a judge of the Madras High Court. From its inception, it was nationalist in viewpoint - though it's seen as one of the more conservative and old-fashioned of Indian titles, it's authoritative, balanced and broadly centre-left (until recently it had a tie-up with the Guardian).
Last week, the paper underwent a refresh: a redesign, new font, cleaner front-page, bigger Sunday edition and a sharp increase in the cover price, particularly at the weekend. It's part of making what is a heritage brand - a bit like the Guardian - contemporary as well.
One part of the paper which isn't currently getting more investment is the website. Online advertising just isn't taking off here, and the income earned by the site is well under 1% of overall revenue. A sharp reminder of the huge difficulties in sustaining online journalism in India.
The paper has been based in the wonderful art deco Kasturi Building on Chennai's main street since about 1940. It's even more glorious inside. Full length oil paintings and black marble busts of the founding fathers, dark wooden panelling, stained glass and period appropriate fixtures and fittings.
It reminded me just a little of Bush House in central London, onetime home of the BBC World Service.The Hindu's editor, Mukund Padmanabhan, is an alumnus of the LSE. He told me that in the early 1980s he used to pop across the road to Bush House to have lunch. I must have queued up alongside him for a bowl of Hungarian Goulash back in the day.
Padmanabhan is only the second editor from outside the Kasturi family, which bought the paper way back in 1905 and maintains a firm controlling grip ... enlivened by occasional bust-ups within the family.
Indian dailies haven't faced the huge shake-out that the US and British press is going through. But there is an air of retrenchment across the industry.
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