sans serif records with deep regret the passing of the Editorial Chairman of Outlook magazine, Vinod Mehta, in New Delhi on Sunday, 8 March 2015. He was 73 years old and had been ailing for some time.
He leaves behind his wife Sumita Paul, their canine companion, “Editor”, two brothers and a sister—and legions of orphaned colleagues, compatriots and competitors.
As the founding Editor-in-Chief of Outlook, Mr Mehta re-energised Indian magazine journalism with a freshness of approach, an openness of spirit, and a lightness of touch.
All through his long innings as editor, writer and a television talking head, Mr Mehta brought trademark wit, candour, and non-partisanship to the table, endearing him to readers and viewers, and to friends and foes, across the country and across the globe.
Rare is the rival who can’t find a good word.
Editor from the day he stepped into journalism from the advertising world in 1974, Mr Mehta’s first job was as editor of the monthly men’s magazine, Debonair. He founded India’s first weekly newspaper, The Sunday Observer, from where he went on to edit The Indian Post and The Independent in what was then Bombay.
Mr Mehta moved to Delhi in the early 1990s, when he became Editor-in-Chief of The Pioneer, but his 17-year helmsmanship of Outlook magazine was his longest tenure.
He was president of the Editors Guild of India and was, briefly, the writer and presenter of “Letter from India” on the BBC World Service and BBC Radio 4.
Born in Rawalpindi and brought up in Lucknow, the self-proclaimed “BA, second class” was the author of six books, three of which were biographies (Bombay, Sanjay Gandhi and Meena Kumari), two were memoirs (Lucknow Boy and Editor Unplugged), one was a compilation (Mr Editor, how close are you to the PM?”).
An undisguised cricket fanatic and foodie, Mr Mehta was a magnet of tasteful gossip which he deftly let loose into the system through his widely read diaries on the last page of Outlook.
Mr Mehta disliked hyperbole and big words. His motto in journalism was to make the important interesting, but Indian journalism is decidedly poorer today with the disappearance of a lodestar of professional integrity, on whom could easily be placed the sobriquet The Last Great Editor.
Photograph: Vinod Mehta (left) with Deepak Shourie and Jyotsna Shourie at the ground-breaking ceremony for the launch of Outlook in 1995.