Vinod Mehta is no more. Most of English newspapers and the virtual world of netizens is full of accounts of greatness of the Editor who had visible presence in both print and electronic medium.
This is a rare phenomenon in the media world driven by tall egos where everyone thinks that other one is a kind of scoundrel and generally have contempt for most of peers and superiors all alike.
I do not know this lucknow boy nor do I have any kind of indirect experience of interaction with him. Like most of others, I saw and heard him in TV debates. But of late I developed a great liking for his tweets written with handle drunken Vinod Mehta.
No doubt, he must be having someone to tweet. But the fact remains that the tweets of drunken Vinod Mehta had sober and quite witty mind of Vinod Mehta. His straightforward views without mincing any word gave his views in 140 chracters. It represented free, frank and fearless Vinod Mehta.
In his obit Arnab Goswami has frankly admitted that he and Vinod disagreed on most of issue, still Arnab liked him for his natural response. He says that his idol is Vinod Mehta and says he was the editor, he never had.
Those who have seen shouting and barking Arnab, find an emotional but rational Arnab when he writes about him.
M J Akbar says, He began as an editor and died as an editor more than four decades later. He never took a demotion which is saying something.
What was so great about this editor? Today when editors are succumbing to all kind of management trick, Vinod Mehta was the editor who preferred sacking and in the process changed more than half a dozen publication. Most of them were launched by him and after some time Mehta was out.
Today Indian media needs such editors who very closely guard precious editorial freedom. Probably because most of the editors lack these guts, they found in Vinod Mehta an icon to adulate in his death. Naturally hardly anyone could afford free and fearless Editor.
Vinod Mehta knew this truth very well. That’s why he had named his dog Editor.
This is how Smita Gupta described his career graph in brief in obituary in The Hindu , Vinod Mehta came to journalism from the world of advertising. In his early years in Mumbai, when he launched Debonair, everyone was fair game. But when he moved to newspaper journalism with The Indian Post first and then to The Independent and finally The Pioneer, he gradually learnt over the years, to his cost, that newspaper proprietors were not always willing to risk hurting the fragile egos of politicians. But till the end, he never quite lost his irreverence.
His stints in all three newspapers were short, but despite the brevity of the tenures — a few years each — he left the stamp of his personality on them. He attracted some of the most talented journalists, created great teams, and then gave them the freedom to work. It was only at the Outlook, the last organisation he launched in Delhi, that he lasted 17 years, creating a rival to India Today.
One can get idea of Vinod Mehta in his own words in the two books he wrote, Lucknow boy and its sequel Editor unplugged.
Mehta did not have any gurus but admitted that two journalists influenced him: Nikhil Chakravarty for his honesty and fairness, and Khushwant Singh for his mischief and malice. “To deny that I shall miss being an editor would be a towering lie,” he wrote in his book. “If the fairy godmother granted me the luxury of choosing a profession for my next janam (life), I would say without hesitation, editor.”