George Ramos remembered as tough reporter, tough teacher
July 25, 2011
CalCoastNews editor George Ramos, who was found dead at his Morro Bay home over the weekend, is being remembered by a former Los Angeles Times colleague as “a tough guy reporter with a big heart.” [LA Observed]
Frank Sotomayor, a former Times editor, wrote Monday about his friend and colleague, saying that the two of them had planned to see one another next weekend in Los Angeles. “The last time we talked, I asked him for his cell number. ‘I don’t have one and I don’t want one,’ he replied. ‘You must be the only one in California,’ I said. No, he laughed. ‘There are three of us.’
Unhappy with how Latinos were being covered by their own newspaper, Sotomayor and Ramos served as co-editors of a special series of articles for the Times in 1983, “Latinos in Southern California.” The distinguished reporting earned Ramos his first Pulitzer Prize and cemented the friendship between the two young reporters.
Sotomayor also recalled the time in 1992 when Ramos was confronted by a gunman outside the Times building: “At the start of the L.A. riots, he was threatened by a gunman outside the Times building. George didn’t budge, telling the man: ‘I’m a reporter…I don’t know what you’re going to do but I’m going to do my job.’ As George wrote later: ‘He didn’t shoot. He just picked up a rock, flung it at the Times and ran away.'”
Ramos went on to include the story in his first-person coverage of the Los Angeles riots that started later that evening, fueled by the verdict in the Rodney King beating case. Expressing his disappointment about the unfolding drama in the city, Ramos wrote “Los Angeles, you broke my heart. And I’m not sure I’ll love you again.”
Sotomayor thought that Ramos was a natural for the classroom and recalls that his friend helped boost the journalism career of many students over the years.
“After work, George taught reporting at USC evening classes. He was tough there too, but it would be more accurate to call it “tough love,” better to prepare aspiring journos for the rigors of the reporting life . . .George loved his work with students, knowing that he influenced not only their careers but also their lives.
One former Ramos student, Lauren M. Rabaino, wrote in her blog: “But the most important thing to know is that though he put on a tough face, he really and truly cared about his students. He wanted us to succeed and he supported what he did.”
A Facebook memorial page has been established as a tribute to Ramos.
Ramos, 63, was a graduate of Cal Poly, who returned to campus after retiring from the Times in 2003. He served as chair of the Journalism Department for five years before returning to full-time teaching.