How The Times of India murdered Vijay Times

It’s all over, curtains—kaput!—for Vijay Times, the Bangalore newspaper acquired by Bennett, Coleman & Co, publishers of The Times of India, a year ago from Vijayanand Printers Limited (VPL), the truck operators who successfully swerved into the media space.

Vijay Times joins a long list of Times publications that have met their maker at the hands of Samir Jain and his managers—The Illustrated Weekly of India, Dharmyug, Science Today, Career & Competition Times, Evening News of India, and indeed Usha Kirana, which came as part of the VPL bouquet along with Vijay Times and Vijaya Karnataka.

But there are two key differences behind the “Murder of Vijay Times“.

The first is that the decision to close the paper comes despite oral assurances and promises by Samir’s brother Vineet Jain, the Times of India‘s executive editor Jaideep Bose, and the man who was soon to be VPL president, Chinnen Das, to keep the paper alive, and to nourish it as an independent “brand” which would “take on” The Times of India in Bangalore—“our weakest link”—and give it a “run for its money”.

And second, the closure comes despite Vijay Times‘ resounding editorial success—and rapidly improving financial health.

The paper was making losses of nearly Rs 1.5 crore per month when it was acquired; those losses were down to a little over Rs 60 lakh in six months flat. In Bangalore, the key “profit-centre” for the paper, circulation had risen from 61,000 copies to over 1,05,000 in the same period.

VT‘s closure, therefore, was a fait accompli.

In other words, there was never any intention on the part of India’s biggest newspaper group to keep it alive when it acquired the paper. Worse, as a January 29, 2007 letter by the paper’s then-editor to the president of VPL shows, it did nothing to support Vijay Times and did everything to stymie its potential.

With all but a handful of VT‘s magnificent staff—“THANK YOU, ALL“—having left for greener pastures, few are left to mourn its passing. And the reading public may not even care to notice as long as a paper is supplied almost free.

But, the loss is something larger, something more abstract, something that won’t be immediately seen or felt—and something that won’t be understood by those who believe that the chief function of the Press is to print money.

The loss is of a strong, vibrant local voice; a Voice of Karnataka, that has been muffled forever—replaced by the same old, tried, trite, hackneyed mix of sex and sleaze, crime and cricket, celebs and cinema, sent over the modem from Bombay and Delhi.

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Read the full article here: How The Times of India murdered Vijay Times