Few of Vinod Mehta’s ilk are left to carry forward his legacy

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Committed to memory: Vinod Mehta
Vinod Mehta, Photo: Shailendra Pandey

He called himself a bonafide pseudo secularist. He was a genuine leader among editors. Needless to add, Vinod Mehta will be sorely missed. As he himself said ” at the risk of sounding immodest, Outlook in its brief life has added usefully to the plurality and diversity of the Indian media. Starting from my Debonair days (1974), my single professional ambition has been to make serious journalism “popular”, without trivialisation or sensationalism.”

Complex issues of chicanery and statecraft were most tellingly demystified by the avowedly liberal-­centre-­left editor who combined a sense of aesthetics with honest politics. ” Those of you who think I am angling for a Rajya Sabha seat or a Padmashri or an ambassadorship, let me reveal that for all my so­-called Sonia chamchagiri, there has not been even the whiff of an offer. The grim reaper has been kind to me in this respect. Speaking for myself, I have never discussed the subject even with the most minor Congress minion. For me, there is no better job in India than editing a newspaper or a magazine, the cheap and delicious food in the Parliament canteen notwithstanding,” he wrote.

With Editor and his name he was in tricky territory. As he himself said, “Perhaps due to my humble professional origins, I have been mocking the pomposity and pretensions of editors who not only think they are infallible but believe they set the national agenda. It is a pathetic fantasy. Politicians who flatter us do so to ensure a good press in the publications we edit. All we journalists have are the best seats in the tournament. We are privileged spectators, not players.”

He called his dog Editor because he is stubborn, wilful and thinks he knows everything. He used him as a metaphor for the bloated egos of editors, himself included. The Lucknow Boy leaves behind no particular legacy, because few of his ilk are left to carry forward what he felt are left. A very sad day for the profession. Thanks Vinod, RIP!

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