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A Great Editor and His Times

C.N. Chitta Ranjan

Text by Jaiboy Joseph
Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 1979, pp. 137, Rs. 25.00

VOLUME IV NUMBER 1 July/August 1979

To use a cliche, something Pothan Joseph abhorred, he was an institution by himself. Among the ‘greats’ of Indian journalism, during a period when giants abounded in the Indian press un­like at present, Joseph was as much admi­red and loved for his personal qualities as he was respected for his writing skill. The man of integrity in the profession is generally assumed to be either aggressive or unapproachable. Joseph was neither. He could tear a pompous public figure to pieces without in the least sounding offensive, and was a soft-spoken but sparkling conversationalist. The present reviewer had the privilege of working under him for a short time in the Indian Express. There were two giants at that time on that newspaper­—Khasa Subba Rau was the other. The two were a study in contrast. Khasa was a meticulous writer; he laboured hard on every piece, and the result was almost invariably superb. In the next room was Joseph, who would dash off his editorial at one go and forget about it—and the product was no less superb if far less ponderous. In the slender volume under review, many have written about the stature of Joseph the journalist and the humility of Joseph the man. Edatata Narayanan and Chalapathi Rau, for instance, have paid high tribute to his dedication to news, his capacity for hard work and the clarity with which he could put across ideas in a variety of spheres: the reader was con­stantly kept in view. As Narayanan has put it, ‘He could as easily get at the heart of an economic problem as a professional economist and analyse a political situation much more quickly than the usual politician.’ And M.C. adds: ‘He reacted to whatever he read or listened to or saw. And he read and listened as much as possible.’ Criticism of juniors comes more naturally to editors, big and small, than appreciation of good work. Joseph was generous to juniors, as has been pointed out by one of the contributors. He had a knack for spotting talent more quickly than anyone else. If he saw a bright headline or a good 'story' in the morning paper, he would take the trouble of finding out who had done it and send a word of encouragement on a slip of paper. ‘Well done. Keep it up’ was a message that thrilled many young ...

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