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INTERVIEW

Noted journalist and versatile writer K.M.Roy commenced his journalistic career as a sub-editor with Keralaprakasham and retired as the general editor of Mangalam. Residing with his family in the heart of Cochin,he is still actively involved in the field,contributing articles and features in the columns of several reputed news magazines in India and abroad. He also teaches journalism.

He is a recipient of several honours and awards for his meritorious service in the field of journalism.The editorial he wrote on the Babri Masjid incident bagged the Muttathu Varkey Foundation Award for the best editorial in 1993.Other awards he received are the American Fokana Award, Sahodaran Ayyappan Award, Shivaram Award, All India Catholic Union Lifetime Award, and C.P. Sreedharan Memorial Media Award.

During the course of his hectic work schedule involving news scoops,articles and stories,a few interesting experiences in his career and personal life remain etched in his memory. These incidents highlight his discretion in judgement,determination to persue his goals,and sense of humour. In this section,he shares some of the memorable anecdotes with the viewers.

In an interview to Sreeni K.R  and Vanaja Varma, K.M Roy ,veteran journalist and writer talks about the challenges faced by the journalists and their responsibility towards society.

How did you happen to take up journalism? Was it out of sheer interest in the subject or was there any  motivating factor?
It came as a surprise to me.In my tenth standard, while securing high scores in all other subjects, I had failed in Malayalam,and had to rewrite the exam to get a pass.This failure was responsible for developing “an aggressive spirit in me”and I decided to conquer Malayalam.This is how I entered the world of books and thus began my literary journey. The language fascinated me. After my pre-university days,while doing my degree in Economics at Maharajas College,Ernakulam,I started writing features for Kaumudi. Thus I landed into the field and I have never looked back since then.

Please share with us memories of your early days as a young journalist. At which stage did your career take off?
While studying for M.A. at Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam, in 1961, I joined as a sub editor in Keralaprakasham, a Malayalam daily that was on print from Kochi run by Mathai Manjooran. After  studies I went on to work in Deshabandhu and later on in Keralabhooshanam.Then I worked as a reporter for The Economic Times and The Hindu. When I was working with The Hindu, I was called to serve the news agency UNI where I worked for 9 years. Later on, I joined the Mangalam Daily and retired as its General Editor.

Has there been any source of inspiration in your life?
Yes,I was fortunate enough to have found inspiration in Mathai Manjooran whom I consider as a beacon of light in my career. He was in charge when I joined Keralaprakasham. He taught me the basic principles of journalism. He could write eloquently in Malayalam and English and was a unique and wonderful personality.C.N.Srikantan Nair,Kerala Bhooshanam editor has also guided and motivated me. He taught me to analyse news and views critically and to look at things from a higher perspective.

Going by the many contributions and achievements in your career,you have been a trend setter in your field. Which do you consider as your greatest achievement?
I served as the president of Kerala Newspapers Union twice and also as the secretary general of Indian Federation of Working Journalists for 4 years from 1984.It was a good exposure for me.I was able to introduce a lot of new schemes that became successful.Some of them were the Wage Board, Press Academy and Pension schemes.

While working for Keralabhooshanam,the need to start a weekly arose. At that time Manorama was the magazine of the masses,Janayugam was for the average reader,while Bhashaposhini was meant for the intellectual.I was pondering on the possibility of a weekly in between Manorama and Janayugam, and Manorajyam was born. Within a span of 7 months,the fact that 49,000 copies were circulated is a testimony to its success.

During the course of your hectic career involving news scoops and stories,is there any interesting incident that you would like to reminisce?
One day, I happened to come across a news item in the daily Kottayam Times -”Bride dies of snake bite while dressing on wedding day!” Those days were the period of Emergency when every bit of news was intensely scrutinised and/or censored. The news bit instantly struck me with a prankish idea, although, I admit, the mischief meant no harm. How come the snake targeted only the bride among the crowd? Surely it must have wriggled out from inside the bun in her hair?!
At that time I was working for The Hindu. Knowing very well that they would reject this news item, I contacted the reporter of Indian Express with the “modified version”, narrating that the snake had crawled out of the brides bun on her head! It got published in the newspaper. In fact, the story had become such a hit that it was later republished in a few foreign journals. And with that, needless to say, the bun was totally eliminated from the Malayali womens hairdo for ever !



Journalists had a grilling time and were a suppressed lot throughout Emergency.What was your experience then?Any striking incident worth narrating?

During the period of Emergency ie in the mid seventies,like any other journalist,I too underwent periods of restlessness and anxiety. It was a time when freedom of expression was in chains. I had to face frequent threats of detention,in the name of writing and distributing notices,pamphlets etc and even got arrested once for having held a demonstration in public.However, the fact that I was able to break the shackles of censorship in order to get my news published gives me a sense of accomplishment.
Once, towards the fag end of Emergency, chief minister Achutha Menon addressed a press meet at Kottayam.Censor Board officials were present,as usual. The CM answered the queries of the reporters on an unusually critical note,openly declaring the shortcomings of the government and pinpointing the errors of emergency.The reporters were in doubt.They had gathered excellent news but knew that it wouldnt make it to the newspapers as it required passing through a grilling censor board.I wasted no time in setting upon a scheme.After messaging the news to The Hindu office in Madras,I bunked from my  office in Kottayam.Within a couple of hours,as was expected,the order of the censoring of the news arrived.K.Karunakaran was in charge of the censorship then.My absence made sure I did not receive the order in person.Moreover,the censorship order was valid only within Kerala.The next days Hindu carried  the report on Achutha Menons press meet on the front page. Friends and colleagues warned me of an arrest-threat and other unpleasant consequences but the fact remains that no such thing happened.

Your reputation as a journalist and writer has reached international levels. What is the secret of your success? What are the prime requisites a writer should possess?
A journalist must fundamentally possess an irrepressible sense of curiosity and the urge to “get to the truth behind the news”.He must also have the determination and perseverence to persue his goals. All throughout my career,I managed to retain these qualities which,alongwith my ability to view things in a different light,helped me scale new heights. A journalist has to use his discretion . Let me highlight an incident .
I was working with the newspaper Mangalam.Three girls,aged below 18,had been reported to have ventured out of St.Michaels college and were found missing.When every other local daily in the neighbourhood scooped it up as juicy news,adding their own dimensions to it  – they were influenced by a contemporary movie and so on – I refrained from it considering the ethical point of view.Moreover,as per the Indian Child Act,publishing news likely to cause harm to minor children was a punishable offence.I was flooded with  questions from colleagues as to why I didnt grab the news scoop.I firmly stuck to my stand on ethics and law.After a few days,a headline was flashed across the  dailies,”Newspapers apologise to Press Counil for item on college girls”.Noted journalist K.C. John had filed a complaint at the Press Club against publication of the news item,with reference to the Indian Penal Code.Only then it had dawned on them that violators of the Child Act were liable for prosecution which included imprisonment upto six months.Naturally they had to apologise to save their face.

You have travelled widely to many parts of the globe.Which are the countries you have travelled and what was your experience?

The countries I have visited in the course of my career are U.S.A., Canada, erstwhile Soviet Union, China, Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Bulgaria, former Czechoslovakia, North Korea, Thailand, and Pakistan. All I can say is that each journey was a new experience and added something meaningful into my writing.

You have written books including fictional and non-fictional works. Which are they?
Some of my books are:
Mohamenna Pakshi
Swapna Ente Dukkham
Manassil Ennum Mannhu Kaalam
Irulum Velichavum(4 volumes)
Aathos Malayil
Kaalathinu Mumbe Nadanna Maanjooran
Pathulaksham Bhaaryamaarude Shaapametta Keralam
 Chikaagovile Kazhumarangal
Karuththa  Poochchakal
Chuvanna Poochchakal.

Tell us about your outlook towards life in general?
I am at present leading a happy and content life,fully involved in writing,teaching and travelling.I have a lot of friends and well wishers with whom I constantly interact.I am a person who is always positive,with no undue anxieties,and I would like to continue my journey in life this way.
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