If anything can be viral in social media these days, why not rumour about the untimely demise of a prestigious newspaper! And it happens only in India! The country’s premier English daily The Statesman’s origin edition in Kolkata was recently stated to be closed down. The grand old Statesman House (4, Chowringhee Square, Kolkata-700001) was also rumoured to be sold to a businessman in 2019. But in reality the newspaper, often termed as a symbol of prestige for its readers, continues publications from New Delhi, Bhubaneswar, Siliguri and also Kolkata.
Even the Bengali Statesman has been published regularly from the capital city of West Bengal (and also Siliguri) since it was launched in 2004. Both the newspapers have maintained the actual spirit of journalism with active support from millions of its valued subscribers. No doubt, like all other English publications in India, The Statesman too faces a massive crisis particularly developed during and after the global Covid-19 disaster.
Origin of the news is sourced at an ex-journalist (and now a famous Bengali cultural personality Anjan Dutt, who ‘took up the pen to write about this in the typical Statesman style’ using his facebook space. Dutt understandably worked in The Statesman at the age of 21 and was there to learn how to write. “I was told by my immediate boss, Ellis, that many people read The Statesman to improve their English, not just news,” said Dutt. For records, he was communicated by this writer over his piece in facebook, but no response was found.
“I was fortunate enough to have walked the resplendent corridors with legendary editors and assistant editors who spiked my articles whenever it was fat with description and thin of information. Spiked again when they lacked atmosphere and was filled with information. I had no fixed office hours so I could faff around throughout the week, but had to have my 1500 words of no faffing on Ellis’s desk by Thursday noon,” added Dutt.
I often had to chase senior assistant editors to Chota Bristol to get my article sanctioned when my boss was indisposed, remembered Dutt adding, a whole legion of editors like Nihal Singh, Lindsay Emmerson, Sunanda Dutta Ray, Desmond Doig… critics like Dharani Ghosh, who taught me that nostalgia is not mourning the past……So I, along with many of you, will always remember the fun of Calcutta Notebook. Miss the Vintage Car Rally and whatever it stood for…..
“This was the building where my boss gave me a job when I was not earning anything from doing theatre and could write what he believed to be decent reading. It was here where the same boss, five years later, told me to leave and concentrate on performing arts because that’s my future. A real place of work is not what teaches you what you are doing, but what you should be doing,” wrote Dutt. He concluded the piece writing as ‘this piece would have been spiked if I wrote it as an obituary’.
Founded in 1875, The Statesman has a long history of truly independent journalism. It’s a direct descendant of two newspapers namely Indian Statesman (published from Bombay/Mumbai and The Friend of India (published from Calcutta/Kolkata). Indian Statesman was started by Robert Knight, who was previously the principal founder and editor of The Times of India. Knight merged the two papers in January 1875. Initially it was managed by a British corporate group.
The Statesman vehemently opposed Indira Gandhi’s Emergency in 1975–77. Earlier the newspaper published a number of sensitive images reflecting the Bengal famine (1943) despite the British colonial government’s severe censorship. Those images played a major role in changing world opinion on imperialism. A founding member of Asia News Network, a grouping of 22 Asian newspapers, The Statesman is widely regarded for its serious news reportage, analytical articles and usage of standard English language.