Introduction to Bengali News Media
In 1780, the publication of Hickey’s Bengal Gazette (Calcutta General Advertiser) in colonial Calcutta (now Kolkata) marked the beginning of a long history of news media in Bengal. It was the first-ever newspaper printed in Asia, and was published until 1782, when the East India Company seized its press and types. Ever since, however, the media landscape of the region has evolved steadily, mostly in-sync with the concurrent changes in political scenarios.
In early 19th century, Bengal witnessed a swift rise in intellectualism, alongside its already-existing, rich cultural heritage. Driven, primarily, by the Bengali middle-class intelligentsia, this led to what is now called the Bengal Renaissance. This was also the time for the initial growth of a dynamic press culture in the region. Alongside Hickey’s Bengal Gazette (English-language), four vernacular language newspapers were also published: in Bengali, Urdu, Hindi, and Persian.
On May 23, 1818, Bengali journalism was born with the publication of Samachar Darpan from the Serampore Mission Press, under the tutelage of William Carey and Joshua Marshman, among others. By the time it went off print in 1852, Rammohan Roy’s Sambad Koumadi was already being published since 1821. The first Bengali daily newspaper, however, was founded in 1839 by Ishwar Chandra Gupta: Sambad Prabhakar.
Most of the early newspapers in Bengal were critical of the East India Company’s oppression of the indigo plantation workers and also of peasants in general. Som Prakash, Grambartha Prakashika, and Amrita Bazar Patrika were some of the most notable names in this context. Following the sepoy mutiny of 1857, and the much-criticised Vernacular Press Act of 1878, vernacular publications critical of the British policies faced a serious onslaught. Founded upon emerging yet strong nationalistic ideals, however, most press owners did not cower to the persistent threats. Eventually, in 1921, the Act was repealed altogether, after having undergone multiple alterations during its lifetime.
Following independence, and especially the partition of Bengal in 1947, contemporary Bengali newspapers suffered a massive loss in readership, leading to some of them eventually shutting doors. However, new publications such as Loksevak and Jansevak continued to proliferate over the next decade, until the dark phase of the political Emergency of 1975-77 characterised by rampant censorship of news media – vocal or otherwise. At its worst, government officials were appointed to scrutinize each copy that came out of the press. Moreover, the leading newspapers of the time were divided either in favour of or against the emergency, leading to considerable unrest within the industry.
Thereafter, since early 1980s, normalcy was eventually restored, and several new publications entered the market, some of which still exist today: The Telegraph (1982), Aajkaal (1982), and Bartaman (1984), among others. The Amrita Bazar Patrika, however, was shut down.
Since the early 1990s, electronic media increasingly entered the media landscape that was hitherto print-dominated. Although many of the existing media houses expanded to TV channels, the fact remains that print media had a massive impact on the electronic media in Bengal, at least in the early days. The moderately famous newspapers, however, suffered a significant blow to their readership during the process.
In this article, we offer a comprehensive list of English and Bengali newspapers in West Bengal, divided into the following categories:
A. English & Bengali Newspapers
B. Bengali News Sites
A. English & Bengali Newspapers
Although there are certain publications in languages such as Hindi, Urdu, Oriya, and so on, most of the major publications in West Bengal are either English or Bengali-language newspapers. However, Bengali newspapers are obviously the most widely circulated. Akin to most media landscapes, Bengali newspapers share their allegiance with factions across the political spectrum and their perspectives are shaped accordingly. In this section, we enlist some of the prominent English and Bengali newspapers in circulation around West Bengal.
Anandabazar Patrika was founded in 1922 and is owned by the ABP Group. Initially published by Tushar Kanti Ghosh from the Jessore district in present day Bangladesh, it was named after his grandmother. It was later re-launched by proprietor Suresh Chandra Majumdar and editor Prafulla Kumar Sarkar. Although it started off as a four-page evening daily, it soon transformed itself to a morning broadsheet and has grown to become the most widely read newspaper in any language with almost one million copies in circulation.
Majumdar and Sarkar, both being freedom fighters, had a particular anti-colonial perspective to their journalistic style and when the paper first came out from ‘Shree Gourango Press’, the letters were printed in red ink on a light red paper. Being a staunch critic of the British in pre-independent India wasn’t easy, and very frequently, people working with the paper served jail terms. However, in speaking the truth in the face of possible repercussion, it gained enormous credibility for reporting objective facts. The paper continues to be critical of the establishment when it deems it necessary even to this today.
It has a reputation for its wide-eyed approach to news reporting, covering everything from business to entertainment, lifestyle to education. Special supplements that come with the paper like ‘Robibashoriyo’, the Sunday supplement that prints short stories, poems and book reviews are equally important sections for its diverse readership.
This newspaper, which started off as a pro-independence, nationalist paper catering to the demands of its indigenous readership, transformed itself into a constructive one after independence, remaining critical in its analysis and having only the development and progress of the people as its motto.
The Telegraph, a daily newspaper, started operations in 1982 and has expanded its base ever since to become the fifth most widely read English newspaper in India with a daily circulation of almost four lakhs. With 5 editions in Kolkata, North and South Bengal, Guwahati and Jharkhand, the paper with its bold and fearless journalistic style collates news from all around the world, keeping in mind the finest nuances of print media’s storytelling. Designed by Edwin Taylor of The Sunday Times and later by media mogul, M.J. Akbar, some of the finest brains have worked with the newspaper along its journey.
Sangbad Pratidin, was founded in August 1992 by Swapan Sadhan Bose, a member of the All India Trinamool Congress party and Rajya Sabha member. It was published by Srinjoy Bose, also an erstwhile member of the Trinamool Congress and Rajya Sabha member, who also was the Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper. Coming out of the house of Pratidin Prakashani Private Limited, this broadsheet has a daily circulation of more than two and a half lakhs all over West Bengal.
Literally meaning ‘news everyday’, it takes pride in bringing forward a ‘comprehensive bouquet of news and analysis.’ This is a part of its agenda of propagating ‘fearless and unbiased journalism’. The paper also publishes supplements like ‘Coffee House’, ‘PopKorn’ and ‘Ami’ on different days of the week and a Sunday magazine called ‘Robbar’. ‘Amal Aloy’, a political cartoon strip, drawn by the Bengali cartoonist Amal Chakrabarti, has been published in the newspaper for more than a decade and is considered to be a favorite among its readers.
The paper has a vibrant online footprint and has social media pages across diverse platforms that include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. These social media pages are clubbed together under the banner of ‘Sangbad Pratidin Digital’ and have almost an equivalent number of people following them as of that in print; although this section is mainly aimed at the Bengali youth who have access to digital news solutions.
The Statesman was founded in 1875 and was a product of a merger between ‘Indian Statesman’ and ‘The Friend of India’. It has become one of the most widely read English dailies with a circulation of almost two lakhs. It is known for its fearless journalism and truthful reporting, right from India’s pre-independence days, be it about the Bengal Famine of 1943 or the Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi.
Its sister paper, Dainik Statesman, shot to fame for being critical of the ruling party in West Bengal during the land acquisition for industrial purposes process in 2006. This Bengali paper was founded by the Statesman Group in 2004.
Bartaman Patrika was founded in December 1984 by Barun Sengupta, a journalist and a popular political critic in West Bengal. This daily newspaper published in the broadsheet format is owned by Bartaman Private Limited. It is published from three major towns of West Bengal, namely Siliguri, Burdwan and Midnapore, apart from the capital city of Kolkata.
With almost six and a half lakh papers in circulation, it is considered the second most widely circulated Bengali newspaper, right after Anandabazar Patrika. This newspaper has a readership which is almost 60% higher than that of the latter.
Bartaman Patrika started publishing an online version of the newspaper from April 2002 and has an active social media page with an online footprint of around seventy thousand. Publishing global news with a local approach, its primary focus is on the state and the immediate neighbourhood and community.
It also has a strong focus on health, science and entertainment. Giving equal importance to politics and business, legislation and sports, culture and popular events, the paper aims to bring forth a critical yet fresh look to its wide readership.
Aajkaal started operations in 1981 and is owned and published by Aajkaal Publishers Private Limited. This daily newspaper in broadsheet format is published from Kolkata and Siliguri in West Bengal and the Tripura edition comes out from Agartala. It was started by Abhik Kumar Ghosh and the first editor of the newspaper was Gour Krishna Ghosh, the famous Bengali journalist and writer, in the second half of the twentieth century.
Bringing forth news of ‘today and tomorrow’, this Bengali paper gives a stiff competition to other widely circulated dailies in the regional language. With a strong focus on the state of West Bengal and its capital, Kolkata, it also covers news from all around the globe, covering issues from politics to business, sports to science, health to entertainment.
Having dedicated sections on travel and quirky bits of facts from diverse parts of the world, this paper promises its readers a healthy dose of light reading apart from its cutting-edge journalism. With ever rising social media traffic of more than two lakhs, it is steadily growing its base to reach out to the technologically suave young Bengali generation.
Ganashakti started publications from 1967 as an evening daily, operating as the chief mouthpiece of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and started coming out as a morning paper from 1986.
Owned by the Ganashakti Trust, it has three editions in Kolkata, Durgapur and Siliguri, and is aimed at propagating the views of the party and bringing forth their version of socialism to the people. Keeping in mind the changing times, it diversified into online platforms way back in 1998. The paper radically transformed itself under the tutelage of Saroj Mukherjee and later Anil Biswas, when the daily circulation reached almost three lakhs.
Ebela was a daily newspaper in the tabloid format, owned by the ABP group, which started in 2012 but was discontinued in 2018. The second paper to be launched by the group in Bengali after almost ninety years, this was aimed at the young generation, with an easy conversational tone, predominantly dedicated to a light entertaining read, keeping heavy news to a minimum.
‘Obela’ and ‘Rabibela’, famous sections of the paper, full of stories, comic strips of famous Bengali fictional detectives and entertainment news were supposed to provide a stiff competition to its rival Bengali tabloid, ‘Ei Samay’, but it did not succeed.
Dainik Jugasankha, founded by Baidyanath Nath in 1950, was first published in Silchar and slowly expanded its base to Guwahati and Dibrugarh, making it one of the most widely read newspapers in Assam. This Bengali daily is also published in Kolkata, Siliguri and Durgapur and has almost two lakh copies in circulation.
Puber Kalom started off in 1971 for Bengali Muslims staying in West Bengal. It became a weekly in 1983 and was taken over by the Saradha Group in 2011, but now functions under Kalom Welfare Association. Published in Arabic and Urdu, it has a functional web portal for readers to follow news updates online.
Jago Bangla, published by the All India Trinamool Congress, serves as the official mouthpiece of the political party. Literally meaning, ‘Wake Up Bengal’, just before the 2011 Vidhan Sabha Elections in West Bengal, it became a daily newspaper from a weekly one, in order to reach a wider section of the society.
Uttarbanga Sambad, meaning ‘North Bengal News’, was founded in 1980 by Suhash Chandra Talukder and is now owned and run by his son. This daily newspaper started operations in Siliguri and has extended its base to publish three more editions in Coochbehar, Alipurduar and Malda with a daily circulation of 1.65 lakh.
Samagya Hindi Dainik
Samagya Hindi Dainik was founded in 2016 for the Hindi speaking population residing in Kolkata, West Bengal. It features world news with a strong focus on the nation and the home state. With a growing online footprint of around fifteen thousand, it also gives equal focus to business, sports and entertainment news.
B. Bengali News Sites
Most of the prominent Bengali newspapers, as well as the English-languages ones, have a considerable presence online. However, there are some Bengali news sites which don’t have much presence on print, and mostly exist as online news portals. In this section, we enlist some of the Bengali news sites.
ABP Bengali is the web portal of the famous television news channel ABP Ananda, owned by the ABP Group. Apart from having the option to watch live TV on the phone/laptop web-browser, it also has news clips and relies heavily on pictures and the entertainment section for a lively browsing experience.
Ei Samay, owned by The Times Group started operations in 2012 as a broadsheet newspaper. With almost 3.5 lakh copies in circulation and almost 4 million followers in social media platforms, this is one of the most widely read papers in Bengali. It also has a vibrant web portal for a more visual and engaging experience.
The Wall (thewall.in) is a Bengali news website that aims to bring the latest developments in the world to its readers. Believing in the philosophy that technology should make people’s lives easier with the fundamental right to be updated about events and information around the globe, this self-proclaimed independent vernacular web portal aims to bring some of the most diverse news about the marginalized apart from the usual news from the high chambers of commerce and parliamentary buildings.
With a string focus on Bengali literature and discussions around the same along with a very interactive ‘Adda-Wall’ for its readers, this portal with more than one lakh viewership is one of the leading Bengali news websites.
Banglalive.com is a popular web portal founded in 2000. It brings to its readers cinema, literature, cooking recipes, lifestyle solutions, children’s illustrations, and travel writings. Published in Bengali, Collating news and columns from the socio-cultural world, it has an online footprint of almost four lakh Bengalis living across time and space.
One India Bengali
One India Bengali is part of the multi-lingual news platform Oneindia.com that relies heavily on regional languages and social media and smartphone applications to reach its readers. Having an equal share of text, image and video content, it uses graphics to make the sections on politics, sports, entertainment and lifestyle livelier.
Zee News Bengali
Zee News Bengali is the web portal of the famous Bengali news channel Zee 24 Ghanta, owned by the Essel Group. One can watch live television or go through its already uploaded snippets of news for a quick overview of information. It relies heavily on pictorial and video content for its viewers.
NDTV Bengali is the Bengali web portal of the television news channel NDTV, founded in 1988. With a heavy focus on graphics, it intends to provide its readers with an overview of the latest news and has well demarcated sections for the leading events from the world of politics, sports, business, entertainment and lifestyle.
News18 Bangla is part of the vernacular news websites of the Network 18 group. It is designed for the Bengali speaking population scattered across the globe and with its all day long live television broadcasting and snippets of video and pictorial news, aims to bring the latest information across all sections to its viewers.
Webdunia is a news website with a strong focus on news about religion, astrology, philosophy, yoga and the like. It also has a heavy pictorial representation of its news from entertainment and lifestyle with some coverage from the world of politics and business as well.
Having witnessed the publication of Asia’s first-ever newspaper, Bengal has a long history of newspapers, ever since the 18th century. As a political hotbed of the Indian freedom struggle, as well as in the wake of the Bengal Renaissance, the region has a legacy of intellectualism. Primarily, this was and still is due to the Bengali middle-class intelligentsia, which has been a considerable resource pool for both traditional and global knowledge. Further, Bengal was also one of the first provinces to have been westernized in the region that we now call the Indian Subcontinent. Backed by these factors, among others, Bengal has a dynamic media landscape.
However, with the onset of electronic media since the early 1990s, print-media has suffered a loss to its erstwhile position of dominance. Nonetheless, Bengali newspapers still have a massive readership across urban and rural Bengal, acting as one of the major modes of media communication in the state.
In terms of Press Freedom, the media landscape in West Bengal is better in comparison to many others, given that there are no official censorship laws in place. In the age of conglomerate-run media houses, however, most publications speak the language of those who run them. Still, the emergence of several independent news publications in West Bengal is definitely a positive sign for the future of journalism in the region.
Realizing that the media industry will only keep growing, we at MediaBuzz are dedicated to staying right on its tail, to bring to our readers an up-to-date coverage of every possible news source. Our team is built with professional writers who have an unquenchable enthusiasm for finding out trends in the field of journalism. That said, we are more than happy to receive any suggestions which can help us make our list better.
Do help us out in our quest to know more by answering these questions in the comment section:
- Which are the top 3 Bengali newspapers, according to your tastes?
- Have we missed out any relevant news source in our list? Please mention which ones.
- What is your view on the authority’s control over news in Bengal? What do you think about the political turns of the different newspapers?
- Which Bengali news sources, do you think, are doing the best at maintaining neutrality?
- What do you think about our categorization of news sources in this article? Would you suggest any other category?
- Did any particular newspaper or website catch your attention?
- Do you read any of these English and/or Bengali newspapers already? Are any of these your favorite?
- Is there any crucial information we have missed out on, related to English and/or Bengali newspapers in West Bengal?
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