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Pothan Joseph (1892–1972) was a journalist in 20th-century India whose career spanned the twenty years before and twenty years after India’s independence. He worked with notable people of the time such as Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Annie Besant, Mahatma Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu, and Motilal Nehru. He was the first to write a daily political column for five decades, called ‘Over A Cup of Tea’, sprinkled with Biblical and Dickensian quotes. He also discovered and nurtured the Indian cartoonist Shankar, helping to make political cartoons a staple of newspapers.
Joseph started or developed 26 newspapers. These included the Hindustan Times, the Indian Express, and the Deccan Herald. He was the first editor of Dawn in 1942 while it was based in New Delhi. He left Dawn to take a position with the government.
Pothan Joseph guarded editorial freedom and demanded that editors support those who worked in the editorial wing and never encroach on their freedom. Even before unionization, Pothan also pleaded for proper payment to deserving journalists. His motto during his working life was “courage, vigilance and fidelity”.
Pothan Joseph was born on March 13, 1892, to C.I. Joseph of Oorayil House, Chengannur, Kerala, India. He graduated with a degree in Physics from Presidency College in Madras (Chennai), and then took his LL.B. degree in law from the University of Bombay. He quickly abandoned ideas of a legal career, became a writer for the Hyderabad Bulletin and finally found his calling when he joined The Bombay Chronicle in 1918, then edited by B.G. Horniman.
Joseph served as the president of the Indian Federation of Working Journalists for numerous years. As a rule he shunned formal accolades, saying, “what is the use of moss to a rolling stone?” He was posthumously awarded the Padma Bhushan, one of India’s highest civilian honors, in 1973.