|Former Editor-in-Chief Nguyễn Công Khuyến with the Việt Nam News staff celebrate his 79th birthday in 2015. VNS Photo|
By Trịnh Thanh Thủy - Việt Nam News Editor-in-Chief
We were often excited to have him joining the Việt Nam News founding anniversary celebrations every June, but not any more. Nguyễn Công Khuyến, the founding father, former editor-in-chief of the newspaper, took his final breath on Friday evening, aged 86.
To the first generations of staff at Việt Nam News, he was a shrewd editor, an admired teacher, and a spiritual father. He laid the tradition for the English language newspaper which blazed the trail to open the country to the outside world, and braved challenges to honour humanitarian values.
In most of his youth and working years, he experienced the hardship of war time, but the talented Khuyến spared no opportunities to hone his skills and sharpness, which, together with his humanistic nature, made him a journalist guru of his time.
After graduating from the English language department of the Hà Nội Pedagogic College in the early 1960s, he became a sub-editor at the Vietnam News Agency.
He served on the News for Foreign Service Desk, and covered many key events such as the American air war including the notorious strike on Boxing Day of 1972 that killed some 300 inhabitants in Hà Nội, then the Operation Homecoming which saw the hand-over to the United States a total of 591 American prisoners of war, and the border war with China in 1979.
He was also sent for several years to help train journalists in Cambodia after the genocidal regime there was overthrown.
From 1989 he became deputy editor-in-chief of the Vietnam Weekly and the Vietnam Hebdo, then, at the order of VNA General Director Đỗ Phượng, worked with the team to publish the first English language daily of unified Việt Nam, the Việt Nam News. He was deputy editor-in-chief in name, but chief editor on the ground.
In the mission of promoting a friendly Việt Nam, he led the team to overcome all the post war hardship to win the trust of foreign readers, some of whom called him literally “the barefoot editor” witnessing the newspaper’s working conditions then.
A portrait of Mr Khuyến by former deputy Editor-in-chief of Việt Nam News Nguyễn Tiến Lễ.
He was officially appointed Editor-in-chief of Việt Nam News in 1993 until he retired in 1999. Just before he retired, he made a wise decision on behalf of Việt Nam News co-founding the Asia News Network, which now groups 23 major newspapers in the region.
In his later years, although he did not officially work as a journalist, he closely followed the development of the newspaper and offered valuable advice to the editorial board.
He wrote and published Ship With Paper Sails, an autobiography, but also a lively chronology of the era.
He always kept a low profile, but to us he is a real giant.
He leaves a wife, two daughters and two grandchildren.
His funeral will be held on Monday from noon at the National Funeral Hall, 5 Trần Thánh Tông, Hà Nội. VNS
Here is an interview Việt Nam News did with Mr Nguyễn Công Khuyến three years ago when he talked to us about his career and how journalism has changed over the years.