Raul Ramirez, a widely respected journalist and educator whose investigations delved into some of society’s most troubling issues, died Friday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Ramirez passed away at his Berkeley home following a diagnosis in July of esophageal cancer, the newspaper said in a story Friday. He served most recently as executive director of news and public affairs at KQED Public Radio. His stories included examinations of conditions in jail where he worked as a deputy sheriff and of the hard lives of farm laborers with whom he worked in the fields.
But arguably the biggest risk Mr. Ramirez took was at the [San Francisco] Examiner in the 1970s. In a story about a Chinatown gang murder case, he and Lowell Bergman revealed that law enforcement officers had pressured witnesses into lying. In turn, the authorities sued for libel.
The Examiner refused to provide legal counsel for Bergman, a freelancer. So Mr. Ramirez decided to abandon the company’s attorney and join his colleague.
“You’re not going to find a lot of reporters who do that,” said Bergman, now a professor at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. “He put his job at risk, his professional future at risk, and he never wavered. … He never asked for anything in return.”
Ramirez’s career included work for the Wall Street Journal, Miami Herald, The Washington Post, and the Oakland Tribute as well as the Examiner. He was also an educator and lectured at the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and San Francisco State Journalism Department. He further served as a Poynter Ethics Fellow and visiting faculty for the 2006 Leadership Academy.
The San Jose Mercury News spoke with one of his students on his impact as a teacher:
Former student Jackie Backman said Ramirez’s influence on his students’ writing and journalism skills were unparalleled. While he was intimidating and expected the best of his students, she said, he never wavered in doing anything he could to help them achieve what he expected of them.
The Society of Professional Journalists Northern California chapter had planned to honor him with its Distinguished Service to Journalism Award at a ceremony on Tuesday.