More than 50% of the countries English speaking population is south of the Vindhyas; and a bulk contributory to that is Chennai. I’ve always been intrigued by the absence of the worlds biggest English daily in Chennai. The Times of India (ToI) finally caught up with the times and launched on the 14th of April ‘08 and I caught up with their Chennai edition last weekend.
I picked up the copy after my daily skim of the Hindu and I was fairly convinced that I wouldn’t find additional news worthy stuff (although what is news is fairly relative). I approached the ToI with a view to compare and contrast it with The Hindu. For an old ‘Hindu’ite, I may be forgiven for having approached the new one with a sense of contempt.
1. In a bid to get Chennai centric, they head lines was dominated by news of a robbery in a prominent Chennai Temple; where as The Hindu covered the India leg of the Olympic torch relay while relegating the news item on the temple to the bottom half of the front page.
2. Every thing else in the ToI cover page was Chennai centric (not exactly warranted of a national daily when u have a dedicated regional content) except one item – Prez Vladimir Putin’s girl frieds pic! Having known the ToI I was’nt as surprised. They showed her in a cheer leader’s attire, and to repeat, on the cover page. Just in case you’re wondering where the Hindu places the pic – it was on page 19 with a close up in formal attire – that’d pass for being a first lady or a diplomat. Hindu’s depiction is not because they perceive the region as conservative - going by the absolute trash Kollywood’s generated over the years its anything but that. It’s just editorial modesty.
3. With the overdose of the IPL in the media, ToI or Hindu or otherwise, it was nauseating to read anything more about the league. The same set of facts across different publications had begun to give me eye sore. It was the day before the IPL inaugural and the ToI had an entire supplement complementing the event with aggressive postures of the 6 team captains. They threw in a six pack flaunting Andrew Symonds as well. The Hindu restricted its coverage to 3 pages with the ‘now-boring-high-adjective-column’ of Nirmal Shekhar (to the uninitiated, Nirmal Shekhar is probably India’s best tennis correspondent and his columns post any of Leander Pace’s Davis Cup heroics make good reading), the ever articulate Peter Roebuck and some other guest columns.
4. This apart, most of the news worthy items was on par in both the papers. There were pics of beach wear clad women in the mid pages of ToI and I gave up figuring out their relevance.
5. Lastly, there was a mega page entertainment supplement with a rather average write up on Rajnikanth. The writer was apparently marveled at his stardom and threw in quotes of what his Bollywood cousins thought of him. Was a tad clichéd I thought.
End of day, am not sure what ToI’s trump cards going to be. It’s difficult to wean away reading habits of people and more so ever for readers of the Hindu as it offers a high level of visual and editorial differentiation when compared to the ToI, Hindustan Times, Statesman or the DC. I guess there’s space for all to survive and do well. Would I substitute my subscriptions to the ToI? No.