‘You can’t be a bad person but a good journalist’

KRISHNA VATTAM, the veteran Deccan Herald and Praja Vani journalist, currently the editor-in-chief of Praja Nudi and The Mysore Mail, was felicitated in Mysore on Saturday, upon his turning 75.

Several wise words were uttered. The novelist S.L. Bhyrappa spoke of Vattam’s self-effacing nature, his daivabhakti, his measured use of the language, his spiritual side, his ekantha priyathe.

There can be no professional ethics without personal ethics. There cannot be a bad person but good doctor; you can’t be a bad person but a good officer; you can’t be a bad person but a good lawyer. Likewise, you cannot be a bad person but a good journalist. Vattam is a good journalist and a good person; his life is a lesson in personal ethics, Bhyrappa said.

B.K. Chandrashekhar, the chairman of the Legislative Council, spoke of Vattam’s his visits to the library, and the early influence Vattam and his family on his life—Vattam’s mother, it was later revealed by Vattam’s wife, Kamala, had wished Chandrashekhar well when he was leaving for Oxford but counselled him against marrying a foreigner.

Does it make sense to make ethical demands of journalists in this day and age? By necessity, the profession requires you to rake muck, pry open doors, listen in to conversations, set one person against the other, intrude into people’s lives. Can we expect journalists to do all that and yet be good people? Can journalists be far removed from the society they inhabit?

The anecdotes flowed as Kamala Vattam held forth. Messages were read out from far and near. Vattam’s journalist-son Shyam Sundar was capturing the event on film; daughter-in-law Shantala rendered the welcome song; grand-daughter Lakshmi Bharadwaj read out a ditty to ‘taathi‘ as she calls her grandfather.

(In this YouTube video, Krishna Vattam says thank-you, in Kannada, to his townsmen and his compatriots)


  1. Mathihalli Madan Mohan

    I fully endorse the views of Mr Bhyrappa. What is and who is a journalist, without an ethical base?
    The quality of the journalist , his attitude towards the men and matters is always reflected in his work. If he has a solid base, the stories are also solid. If it superficial, that is amply reflected in the quality of the stories too.

    the greatest asset for a journalist is the credibility he carries and peoples belief in his being impartial. without needlessly hurting others, you can still bat for the truth. One need not be brash and crass in showing off but can do an effective job being being mild, courteous and softspoken.
    Vattam has been an epitome of these qualities and it is because of this that he is still remembered, his services to the society are still sought and he is still admired and adored. Figuratively and physically he is the tallest in the world of pen pushers.
    Vattam is a total antithesis of the present day breed of journalists, who are adept more in showing off their clout than writing good quality stories useful to the society and bat for a cause.

  2. […] be in order. In fact, there was a public felicitation function, about which I learnt, true to form, through the web, after the event. Presumably, the man was much too modest to inform me, as yet an unmet friend, […]

  3. I just blogged about conflicts of interest in the mainline media. It might be interesting to think about whether there are such conflicts on-line.

  4. […] Krishna Vattam, for forty years the Mysore correspondent of the Bangalore-based mostly dailies Deccan Herald and Praja Vani, has been there, executed that—and survived to inform the story. […]

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