Hicky had spent the past days posting notices all over the city. He was about to launch a newspaper. The first in India. In fact, the first in Asia. He promised to revolutionise news in India. His newspaper would give Calcutta a place where everyone could read information. While Indians traditionally got their news from friends and contacts, Europeans were, and had been, reliant on newspapers for centuries. But their news came from Europe and America, arriving on ships many months after it had been published. For news from Asia, word of mouth and letters from friends were their only sources. For the first time, they would have news from around the world in one place.
With his printing press, Hicky could print news quickly and cheaply, on a scale unimaginable for newsletters that had to be copied by hand hundreds of times over. He would do away with the need for hircarrahs, the messengers who ran these newsletters from place to place. He would do away with the need for people to describe events themselves in letters. Now people could enclose snippets of his newspaper in their mail without having to recite events by hand.
He also promised his newspaper would act as a community bulletin board, where everyone could post and reply to advertisements. People would no longer have to use the city’s many advertising boards. Instead, he would print their ads for the whole city to see.
His proposal came at a perfect time. News was never more in demand in Calcutta. The British were fighting four wars on three continents: against the Americans, the French, the Spanish and the Marathas. The wars were disrupting trade and making it extremely dangerous to send goods. Shipping had gotten so dangerous that insurers charged up to 30 per cent to insure goods between India and Europe. Merchants needed to know which shipping routes were open and travellers needed to know when it was safe to sail. He could provide this information.
As the first journalist in India, he would have a monopoly over news, and he could expect many subscribers. His richest market would be the Company army. There were hundreds of European officers and thousands of British foot soldiers. His paper would let them keep track of their friends, family, and comrades.
Like a ship, Hicky declared he would pilot his newspaper between the dangerous rocks of party politics. By giving politics a wide berth, he hoped to maintain his independence.