Sketching bleak realities at Newsday
Bal Thackeray left the Free Press Journal and helped start Newsday, a newspaper that saw little success in the late '50s
1959, when Ananthanarayan Hariharan, acting editor at the Free Press Journal, left the newspaper, he did not have the professional status of S Natarajan, who took half a dozen experienced journalists with him when he left to join the Bombay Chronicle earlier. Yet, following his departure, a number of journalists resigned from the FPJ, including cartoonist Bal Thackeray, MP Iyer, K Shivram, MKB Nair and P Ravindran. Thus was born the idea of a newspaper owned by its readers.
In Hariharan’s words, “The idea was born out of revolt against the treacherous curbs on thought and ideas imposed by the overlords of the press, revolt against tyranny that is unscrupulous and has made a mockery of the freedom of press.”
From the very outset, promoters realised that the support of the working class of Mumbai (then Bombay) were vital to the success of the project and sought the cooperation of trade union leaders in the city. Shares, priced at Rs 10, were to be sold to all prospective readers, and others who wanted to help the venture were allowed to invest a maximum of Rs 1,000.
However, the team did not possess a press or typesetting machines. All they had was an office with two small rooms in the Aga Khan building at Dalal Street. The team approached the Vindhya Press, owned by KSS Raghavan, who permitted them the use of his three lino machines at night. By day, the team worked at Dalal Street and at night, the operation would shift to Vindhya Press.
Thackeray was known to have many contacts in useful places. Though Newsday did not have money, they had a good name in the market. With a talented cartoonist like Thackeray on the team, it was Newsday’s obligation to capitalise on his pungent comments on current affairs.
After working for almost 18 hours a day, the team did not have the energy to hawk the paper themselves, and on many occasions, despite the paper being printed on time, copies were tucked away.
Since the time the team left the FPJ, not one had drawn a salary out of the new enterprise. By September 1960, Newsday was bankrupt and had to be suspended. By that time, making ends meet caused Thackeray, and others to seek jobs elsewhere.