Amith Prabhu on Vinod Mehta: They don’t make editors like him anymore

09 Mar,2015

By Amith Prabhu

 

It was my final year of high school and I still remember my dad coming home with this new magazine in hand. My home saw four daily newspapers and three weekly magazines that came through subscription, which meant the newspaper man or the postman delivered these. One of the three magazines had stopped abruptly (Sunday from the ABP Group). There was a vacuum.

 

India Today was losing its shine and The Week was becoming predictable. This new magazine in my dad’s hand was a welcome read. It was called Outlook and was a weekly, versus India today which was then (in 1995) a fortnightly. Well, the rest they say is history and Vinod Mehta drove the magazine’s editorial content for almost 17 of the 20 years it has been in existence.

 

It was always a joy to read the last page of the magazine when it featured ‘Delhi Diary’ authored by Mehta himself. I was at the entrance of Hotel Taj Palace in New Delhi on 22nd November waiting for my cab. I had just left the venue of the HT Leadership Summit after attending a session on Twitter. As I was waiting feebly walks Vinod Mehta. We exchanged glances, then a smile and as he waited for his car I told him he was a much admired Editor.

 

He asked me what I do and then quickly referred to the session we had both attended few minutes prior. He was quite upset that the social network site did not have a mechanism to prevent anonymous handles that were spewing venom. He was quite alright with the idea of criticism. He also mentioned that he was also not happy that there was a parody account on him called @DrunkVinodMehta. To which I told him he should have his own account (I have been successful at convincing couple of other Editors to get on to the medium), and he responded that he had created a twitter handle the previous weekend mainly to promote his memoir. (See @vinodedmehta)

 

Just then his car arrived, followed by mine. He needed help to get down the final flight of stairs and extended a hand. I was more than happy to extend mine. Both, his driver and he thanked me followed by which my cab arrived as well.

 

Barely 100 days later news trickled in that he had passed away. He stood for fearlessness. An attribute that few Editors can claim to have in this day and age. Though Outlook was owned by a corporate house and had a style that was not very much liked by the right-wingers, it definitely brought in a freshness to journalism and branched out create few other titles under its franchise. Vinod Mehta did not shy away from publishing the brickbats sent by the readers. He was loved or hated but never ignored. He definitely lived the 73 years of his life very well. I wish there are more like him in the journalistic fraternity. I also hope Outlook posthumously published the entire collection of Delhi Diary. And may his soul rest in peace.

 

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