Raul Ramirez, a longtime force in Bay Area journalism, died Friday at his Berkeley home. He was 67. His death was announced by KQED, the public radio station where he was executive director of news and public affairs. He previously was a reporter and editor at the San Francisco Examiner and the Oakland Tribune, and for many years was president of the Center for Investigative Reporting's board of directors.
From KQED's blog post:
Raul Ramirez, executive director of news and public affairs at KQED Public Radio and a remarkable journalist, teacher and mentor known throughout the Bay Area journalism community and beyond, has died.
Ramirez had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer in late July and died this morning at age 67 at his home in Berkeley. He was born in 1946 in Havana. In April 1962, more than three years after the Cuban revolution overthrew the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, Ramirez’s parents — disillusioned by what they perceived as Fidel Castro’s failed promises — sent him and his sister to live with relatives in South Florida. He first started to explore journalism as a student at the University of Florida in Gainesville; he once told a colleague that he had studied it to improve his English. In the process, he discovered his calling....
In May 1976, after months of investigation, Ramirez and freelance journalist Lowell Bergman broke a story for the Examiner about a Chinatown gang murder case titled “How Lies Sent Youth to Prison for Murder.” The article detailed how an assistant district attorney and two police inspectors had pressured witnesses into lying, resulting in the conviction of Richard Lee. The three law enforcement officers sued the Examiner, Bergman and Ramirez for libel, seeking $30 million in damages.
When the Examiner, then owned by the Hearst Corp., refused to provide counsel for the freelancer Bergman, leaving him without representation, Ramirez as a matter of principle and conscience refused to be represented by the Examiner’s lawyer and joined with Bergman to seek outside counsel. A group of journalists and lawyers rallied around the two reporters and raised enough money to hire a lawyer and fight the case. Though they initially lost in Superior Court and were ordered to pay $4.56 million in damages, Bergman and Ramirez spent the next decade fighting the verdict. Ultimately, the libel ruling was overturned by the California Supreme Court in 1986.
From Michael Krasny, the longtime host of “Forum” on KQED:
We at KQED Radio have lost our leader, our guide, our moral compass. For those of us who knew him and had the privilege of working with him, the loss is profound. Raul was also one of the finest human beings I have ever had the good fortune to know. Raul had more integrity, humanity, decency, strength of character and goodness in him than nearly anyone I have ever known.
This is KQED's on-air announcement:
Photo: Ian Hill/KQED