The passing away of the doyen of Malayalam journalism, Kandathil Mammen Mathew, better known as K.M. Mathew, on Sunday has resulted in a rare outpouring of coverage, with Indian media proprietors burying their usual pettiness about competitors to salute one of their own.
So much so that the news of the death of the chief editor of Malayala Manorama is the front-page lead in its closest competitor, Mathrubhumi, accompanied by a front-page editorial. But the English language papers have a wealth of detail on the deceased doyen, too.
# That he was the eight child of his parents, which is why he titled his memoirs Ettamathe Mothiram (eighth ring).
# That his nickname was Mathukuttichayan ; that he was a hands-on editor; that he attended office till almost the last day.
# That he had short stint in the family’s balloon business in Bombay and as a planter in Chikamagalur before taking over the reins of the paper following his brother’s death.
# That he took the circulation of Manorama from 30,000 copies in 1973 to 18 lakhs in 2010; from one printing centre to 18.
# That the Manorama group now publishes 46 publications, and has presence in radio and television.
# That he maintained a low profile despite the soaring circulation of his paper. That, “KM never shouted; he smiled. He wouldn’t say, ‘ You’re wrong, that’s a crazy idea’. He’d say and it was sincere, ‘Very interesting, would you help me understand your thinking?'”
# That he said: “Mistakes might appear on a newspaper. I too have made mistakes. The solution is not to write a resignation letter but to ensure that such a thing does not happen in future”.
# That he kept himself abreast of even the most minute developments in the media world.
# That he introduced reader-friendly editorial packaging techniques and professional page designing, and that he got a bunch of foreigners to work on the Manorama‘s design at various stages like Edwin Taylor (The Times, London); Peter Lim, (Strait Times, Singapore); Peter Ong (American society of newspaper design) and Mario Garcia
# That he pioneered the hyper-localisation of news before “zoning” became a trend; that he thought a newspaper should reflect even the subtle issues of a region; that he brought out local editions for two or three panchayats, with less than 50,000 population.
# That he was so close to India’s ruling Nehru-Gandhi family that one of the first condolences upon news of his death came from UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi.
Illustration: courtesy Sudipto Sharma/ The Indian Express
IANS – Mathew’s position as a colossus in the media industry could be gauged from the fact that he always had the first audience with any political leader passing through Kottayam, which included even Pope John Paul II on his Kerala visit in 1986.