On July 7, 2022, a newspaper called The Telegraph turned 40. What is so special about that? It’s just that no English daily in India, born in the 1980 or thereabouts, managed to become so mercurial in its reach, so authoritative in credibility and so respected in content and reportage in such a short time. The Telegraph, brought out from Kolkata (then Calcutta) by the ABP Group and its then Chief Editor Aveek Sarkar, under the incredible editorship of MJ Akbar, was the first newspaper of the new era of journalism in the country, that tore away from the staid format of English journalism and practised sacrilege, of sorts, by presenting its readers a package of uncensored news that had immense impact.
The basic idea of the newspaper was not to just present a smart layout and brilliant pictures. It was embellished with breaking news and tons of expose, as well as with thought-invoking features and more. It was a sledgehammer blow on the way news had been disseminated in the country for ages, emulating the way of the Raj, barely reaching down to hoi polloi. News in English, it seemed, had been the sole privilege of a favoured few.
That boring monolith was broken and new era of journalism was unleashed on the people, on the Establishment and even the journalistic world. That the times will never be the same was made clear.
Reportage was made the primary endeavour – even The Indian Express, a reporter’s paper, did not have so many exclusives – and while The Hindu remained among those who somewhat maintained its old stance as well as circulation, the rest withered.
The Telegraph created a model for all to follow. Forty years after inception, the daily still holds sway over all of eastern India and its intellectual activism is still on the boil.