EtcEtc : Vinod Mehta - Editor extraordinaire'
Vinod Mehta is a true maverick. He began his career as an editor to Debonair (and also established a record of sorts by becoming the country's youngest editor)- that priceless gem in Indian publishing, that has long since dis-continued its tradition of "uplifting" the great Indian male. It strikes me that it must have served as a solid grounding for Mr.Mehta, since I can't imagine a worse nightmare for an editor, than to induce his readers to flip through any pages other than the semi nudes on the centerfolds. I have a particularly soft spot for 'Debonair' since it awakened me, personally, to aspects of life which were hitherto unknown to my innocent teenage mind. But I daresay, editors like Khushwant Singh,Anil Dharker and Vinod Mehta did a wonderful job, since even my super charged hormone ridden one track brain wanted to go through the entire copy and not just the centerfold. Or may be I was just lucky since the copies of Debonair in my house, were particularly old editions, having been forgotten by a Right Honorable Judge, who used to rent our house, before we moved in. After the departure of these worthies (the Debonair editors, not the Judge), Debonair rapidly descended to become another rag with titillating pictures (not that we minded that, but the pictures were just not the same any more). I mean they were still nudes, but some how, I don’t know how to put it, they were the same as any other dirty magazine. Was it Khushwant Singh or Anil Dharker who once wrote about how a married woman walked into his cabin wanting to pose for Debonair and the hubby not minding in the least BECAUSE it was Debonair and not any other magazine? Now you know the kind of reputation Debonair enjoyed those days? It was like the HBR of soft smut, lets say.
After Debonair, Mehta became the founder-editor of
Outlook of course has gone on to shake the establishment (on all sides of the political spectrum) many many times, especially the right wingers, with Outlook's scarcely disguised attacks on them. Sometimes, I think Mehta takes perverse pleasure in riling them, and I love that about him. His own views about Journalists and Journalism and Outlook itself are also quite honest and what some editors would discuss only in their internal meetings, Mehta openly talks about in functions. Like "...But what I really treasure is the fact that we have created an "open" magazine. I believe that dissent is the life-blood of good journalism and you must admit that for a card-carrying pseudo-secularist, I invite and print those vehemently opposed to us.
We are the argumentative magazine. I don't particularly enjoy self-flagellation, but I know Outlook would become deadly dull if those who disagree with us do not get a look in.
Ladies and gentlemen, the myth about journalists being unbiased needs to be shattered. In my thirty years in the profession I have yet to meet an unbiased journalist, someone who is an ideological eunuch. Outlook makes no effort to hide its liberal-centre-left stance. But we are part of a matrix.....
Biased or unbiased, I believe the political class in
And remember, we have deadlines to meet and we have to be first with the news. We make mistakes. Mistakes of judgment, mistakes of fact, mistakes of prejudice, mistakes under competitive pressure. Hype is part of our business. It is not part of yours.
For us every disagreement is irreconcilable, every verbal spat is an all-time low, every small turbulence in government means the government is falling, every change in foreign policy is a sell-out."
The plurality of the Indian media – and that is our free press's greatest strength – ensures that biases get cancelled. And finally the reader gets an approximation of the truth."
But whatever be the merits of Outlook, I buy it primarily for Mehta's own column on the back page, which he writes once in a while. His writing is a delight. He is easily one of