N. Ram's Bofors exposé in ‘50 great stories' by Columbia J-School alumni

‘A bombshell story that brought down Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.'

April 13, 2012 12:03 am | Updated August 31, 2016 12:13 pm IST

The Bofors exposé by N. Ram, former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu , on corruption in the purchase of Swedish howitzers features in the list of 50 great stories by the alumni of the Columbia Journalism School in the U.S.

Click >here for a .pdf of the front page of The Hindu , October 1989

In its tribute to the investigative journalism that helped expose the deal from 1988 onwards, the Columbia J-School states that Mr. Ram was “instrumental in breaking the Bofors scandal, a bombshell story about corruption in military spending that brought down Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and changed the course of Indian politics.”

Mr. Ram graduated from Columbia in 1968.

The J-School, which features exhaustive information on each of the 50 stories on its website, highlighted an October 9, 1989 story by Mr. Ram and Chitra Subramaniam in The Hindu which laid out “evidence of a qualitatively new, unimpeachable kind…” that nailed Bofors' claims that “no Indians” had been paid in connection with the contract.

Fulfilling Pulitzer's dream

The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, which compiled the list to kick-start its centennial celebrations, has hailed the 50 chosen stories for demonstrating both “the historic sweep of Columbia journalists' work, as well as their curiosity, courage, compassion, diversity, persistence and versatility.” One of Joseph Pulitzer's great hopes for the J-School was that its alumni would educate and uplift the public with outstanding journalism, it said. “After a hundred years, it's fair to say that his dream has been fulfilled —and then some.”

Mr. Ram's investigative reports sit alongside other remarkable pieces of journalism such as the war reports by Carl Ackerman, among the earliest graduates of the Journalism School, Merryle Stanley Rukeyser's insightful writing on the Great Depression, reportage on the fall of the USSR by Stuart Loory of CNN and Ann Imse, Moscow correspondent of the Associated Press, and more recently Rawya Rageh, reporting on the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt for Al Jazeera in 2011. In creating such a list, the Columbia Journalism School acknowledges that while this was by no means a list of these journalists' “best” work, it was a representative snapshot of their achievements over the past century.

A note on the J-School's website said the collection was compiled by “culling the school's archives, researching the recipients of a wide array of journalism prizes, consulting with colleagues and scouring some of the best journalism ever produced. Then, we enlisted our faculty and a group of distinguished judges to vote for their favourites.” A second list of 50 stories would be announced later and “will help bring the Centennial to a close.”

It said the term “story” was used loosely: “in some cases the entry is for a single work, and in other instances the entry is a more panoramic subject to which the journalist made a significant contribution.”

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