As veteran journalist Vinod Mehta passed away in New Delhi on Sunday, fellow journalists from every prominent agency lavished praise on the the 73-year-old former editorial chairman of Outlook and shared memorable incidents with him.
Editor-in-chief of Times Now Arnab Goswami described a conversation he and Mehta had in this Huffington Post article in which he spoke of how he had been hired to work in Outlook but never worked there and a meeting much later:
“So Vinod,” I said when we had landed, “What’s your advice for me?” hoping to make up for the conversation I never had in 1995.
“Don’t slow down” he said. “Don’t slow down. If the story is ok, then you’re ok. Don’t worry about the rest.”
We picked our luggage and I walked him to his car. “If I were your age, I would be doing the same,” he said.
I wish I had told Vinod in as many words, but since that day, even more than ever, I was convinced that he was the editor I never had.
Goswami also said that Vinod Mehta held no grudges, had no hard feelings or ill will for anyone and did not engage in any politics. He added that he had great respect for Mehta, even though he did not agree with him many times on various issues.
Rajdeep Sardesai, consulting editor at India Today group, in a blog post, wrote about how Mehta urged him not to quit as a journalist:
The last time I did an India at 9 debate on CNN IBN on June 2, 2014, Vinod Mehta was on the panel. As the debate was ending, Vinod insisted on having the last word. ‘What is this I am hearing about you quitting or going on a sabbatical? Don’t stay away from the screen for long, you must return soon!’
Sardesai added that Mehta was perhaps one of the last editors who would not compromise on jousnalistic independence, adding that “his almost self-deprecating attitude to being an editor was perhaps his greatest strength.”
Veteran journalist MJ Akbar, former Editorial Director of India Today, said that Vinod Mehta “began as an editor and died as an editor more than four decades later.”
“One world was dying within the stagnant universe of Indian journalism in the 1970s, and another had not yet been born when a man from the adjacent sphere of advertising traipsed up to impregnate the future. His name was Vinod Mehta,” Akbar wrote in an Economic Times article.
One-time colleague Coomi Kapoor, in an Indian Express article, reminisced about what it was like to work with Mehta.
“Vinod loved to speculate about the inner workings in the corridors of power and took a keen interest in the latest gossip in the media world. He sometimes telephoned me to get my take on a juicy bit of news he had picked up. He did not hide the glee in his voice as he revealed some interesting tit bit,” she wrote.
Prashant Jha of Hindustan Times wrote about how Mehta did not have any ego and did not let power affect his thinking or decisions.
“Not only did he name his dog Editor to puncture precisely these egos, he candidly wrote of his weaknesses. He spoke, often mockingly, of his limited academic background, of being an editor of Debonair, of failed publications, of his difficult relationships with proprietors, of a failed marriage,” he said in this article.
The Hindu‘s Smita Gupta also praised Mehta for what he said on the graphic reportage of the 2002 Gujarat riots during a panel discussion.
“The other panellists, all senior journalists, argued that reporters covering such events needed to be mindful of the impact of their reports. At this stage, Mr. Mehta cut in: a reporter on the spot, he said, should focus only on the events as they unfolded, being as accurate as possible, with just one caveat — the story, if possible, should be reported from the point of view of the victim,” she said in the article.