Monday, May 19, 2008

VP Ramachandran (VPR) – the ‘uneducated’ doyen of Indian journalists

How does one become a media person? A good university degree preferably in Literature, and a post graduate course in mass communication from a reputed school? Well, for VP Ramachandran (VPR), the eminent journalist, the story was different. The first course in journalism he attended was the one he taught as Director of Kerala Press Academy! He scaled great heights in India’s English language press with only high school as basic qualification. The rest he learned by himself.

Starting out as a typist with Associated Press of India (API), a subsidiary of Reuters, VPR became an editorial assistant in 1947 and later, sub-editor. By then API had become Press Trust of India (PTI). 1954 saw VPR covering elections in Punjab and then the Parliament.

A major break for him came in 1956. At the age of 32 he was posted as foreign correspondent to Lahore. After five years there he was sent to cover the India – China Border War in 1962.

The next assignment was as special correspondent with accreditation to the government, a beat that included the PMO, Foreign Affairs and Defense ministries. He traveled with the President and Prime Minister to various countries, covered Pre-Summit Meetings of Foreign Ministers, and many international conferences including Non-Aligned Summit.

Around this time VPR was considered to be close to Indira Gandhi. Many were jealous of his power and position. In 1976 a rumor was floated that he was against the emergency. Indira Gandhi ordered United News of India (UNI), to which VPR had shifted in 1964, to bundle him out of Delhi. UNI sent him to remote Ranchi as Industrial Correspondent.

That was the greatest test of the man’s journalistic capabilities. He found news where none was expected to exist. The stories he filed, particularly about the steel mills and coal fields, were eagerly picked up by national newspapers and All India Radio. After the emergency he was back in Delhi.

During his years in the capital, VPR was also Secretary of Delhi Union of Journalists, Member of the Central Accreditation Committee for Journalists, General Secretary of the Press Club of India twice, and President of Delhi Malayalee Association.

Then it was back home to Kerala. In VPR’s own words, ‘I did not like the political atmosphere in Delhi. Political parties functioned in clicks and groups and even journalists became part of one group or another. There was no scope for honest reporting.’

After a short stint as Editor, Mathrubhumi, the State Government appointed him Director of Kerala Press Academy’s Institute of Communication. Later he was made Chairman of the Academy for two terms, the maximum permitted by the rules. Even now he takes a couple of classes every month.

Last month we celebrated VPR’s 84th birthday at the Suburban Club, Cochin. He has been evading the oft repeated request to write his memoirs. The reason – he feels that it might hurt some people.

VPR is a man who commands respect and love.


Also see: Communication: Interesting jokes



Very nice. What one learns on the field can never be taught in a classroom. There were no courses for journalism in the (g)olden days, yet the best journalists were produced then.

Maddy said...

as the song goes - where have all the flowers gone..
it should be where have all the intellectuals gone?