Tag Archives: Vinod Mehta

Vinod Mehta, the Last Great Editor, 1942-2015

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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.

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Coming soon, from the author of ‘Lucknow Boy’

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The cover of former Outlook* editor Vinod Mehta‘s upcoming book, Editor Unplugged. Published by Penguin, the 500-page book, priced at Rs 599, will be out in December 2014, three years after his memoir Lucknow Boy.

The photograph on the book jacket is by Briana Blasko.

*Disclosures apply

Also read: Vinod Mehta on Arun Shurie, Dileep Padgaonkar

Shobha De tears into Vinod Mehta in India Today

Aroon Purie and Vinod Mehta on Tarun Tejpal

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As former Tehelka editor Tarun J. Tejpal faces imminent arrest for the alleged sexual assault of a junior employee at a conclave organised by the magazine, two veteran editors—Aroon Purie of India Today and Vinod Mehta of Outlook*—write about the callow Chandigarh boy who branched out to become a brand.

At India Today, Tejpal was in-charge of the books pages and at Outlook, he was the features editor who briefly became managing editor.

The latest issue of India Today has Tarun Tejpal on the cover with the headline “Disgrace” (above), while Outlook has a cover-corner, on “Tehelka after Tarun”.

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Aroon Purie, editor-in-chief of India Today:

“Tarun Tejpal worked in this magazine 25 years ago for six years. Dare I say I liked him. He was a talented writer and knew it. In today’s terms, a ‘real dude’.

“Even at the age of 25 when I interviewed him for the job of a senior sub-editor he had an intellectual swagger about him and unabashed literary ambitions…. When he resigned in July 1994, Tarun was honest enough to say that there ere “only so many essays and reviews I can churn out before ennui drowns me.

“Everyone has their own theory on why a man of such intellect, talent and success ended up being charged with sexual assault. Mine is a simple one. It is the ‘God’ complex which I have seen in so many talented men. They reach such heights of success that they live in their own world and think the normal rules of social behaviour don’t apply to them, neither do the laws of the land.”

Vinod Mehta, editorial chairman, Outlook*:

“TarunTejpal was my deputy at Outlook for nearly six years. Professionally, his contribution to the magazine was immense….

“To say I do not endorse Tarun’s conduct would make me sound like a lunatic.  How can I, even tangentially, defend sexual molestation? Tarun has committed a horrific blunder and compounded it with clumsy efforts to vilify the victim….

“The abuse of power in the media, especially in the higher echelons, is rampant. Editors sexually exploit and harass trainees and junior staff with a crudity which is unbelievably cynical. The threat is always the same: if the girl “cooperates” she not only keeps her job but enjoys rapid promotion. If she doesn’t she is shown the door.

“It is the worst kept secret in our profession but it dare not speak its name. Some of the biggest luminaries in Indian journalism stand accused. Who they are is known both inside and outside the trade. The shameful silence needs to be broken.”

* Disclosures apply

Also read: Tarun J. Tejpal steps aside as editor of Tehelka

Life yourselves up, dearie, or get into my elevator

POLL: Is sexual harassment rampant in Indian media?

Online petition to protect Tehelka journalist’s privacy

Tarun Tejpal was trapped in a skin not his own’

Tarun Tejpal: Fear and self-loathing in Goa

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Tarun Tejpal on the five facets of his life

How Congress regime stepped in to help Tehelka

A magazine, a scam, a owner & his Goan house

NYT, WSJ weigh on Tehelka‘s Goa controversy

Tehelka promoter says he didn’t turn off FW tap

When an editor draws a cartoon, it’s news

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Indian print editors have done book reviews (Sham Lal, Times of India), film reviews (Vinod Mehta, Debonair), food reviews (Vir Sanghvi, Hindustan Times), music reviews (Chandan Mitra, TOI, Pioneer, The Sunday Observer; Sanjoy Narayan, Hindustan Times), elephant polo reviews (Suman Dubey, India Today) etc, but few have done cartoons.

When The Telegraph, Calcutta, was launched Pritish Nandy (who later became the editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India) would do a daily, front-page pocket cartoon, with Mukul Sharma (who later became the editor of Science Today) writing the caption, and vice-versa.

Even today, former Statesman and Indian Express editor S. Nihal Singh is a happy doodler.

In the latest issue of Open magazine, its editor Manu Joseph (who has set crossword puzzles at his previous port of calling, Outlook) puts his signature on a cartoon. Let the record show that “Pope” Joseph‘s handwriting bears a close similarity with Dr Hemant Morporia, the radiologist who draws cartoons.

Also read: If The Economist looks at Tamil News, it’s news

When a stringer beats up a reporter, it’s news

When the gang of four meets at IIC, it’s news

When a politician weds a journalist, it’s news

When a magazine editor marries a starlet, it’s news

When dog bites dog, it’s news—I

When dog bites dog, it’s news—II

An Editor is never too old to learn a new trick

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After 42 years of handwriting his columns, articles and books on scribblepads—at Debonair,The Sunday Observer, The Indian Post, The Independent, The Pioneer and Outlook*—and after hiding the vicious mouse behind his PC all his life, Outlook* editorial chairman Vinod Mehta writes his latest Diary on his new laptop, in New Delhi on Tuesday.

“I found the Google Search fantastic,” says the new convert, who has coincidentally discovered the joys of the world wide web.

“I used to ask the librarian to get me George Orwell but now I type in the window, I get more than I bargained for. Even the thesaurus, not only does it give the synonyms and antonyms, it comes up with so many other options.”

Mr Mehta would neither confirm nor deny that he will start tweeting soon.

* Disclosures apply

12 gems from a response to a TOI legal notice

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There’s something decidedly execrable when a media company thinks it is well within its rights to use its might to silence another media company or media professional with a fire-and-brimstone legal threat.

Even more so, when a 175-year-old media giant like The Times of India group picks on a 22-year-old girl.

In April, lawyers representing Times Publishing House, a Times subsidiary, tried to scare Aparajita Lath (in picture), a student of the national institute of juridical sciences (NUJS), with civil and criminal action for writing a 669-word blog post in February 2013 capturing the Times group’s long-drawn trademark tussle with the Financial Times of London.

The Times lawyers probably expected a cowering apology.

What they got instead was a rocket from Shamnad Basheer, the founder of SpicyIP.com and a chaired professor of IP law at the NUJS, who also recommended an IQ test for the Times lawyer.

Usually, lawyers go all weak in the knees when taken on by a Goliath. But Basheer’s 5-page response to the Times‘ 7-page notice “most unapologetically” speaks truth to power with candour. It’s an object lesson to media companies which try to silence critics, and an even bigger lesson to law firms.

Here are 12 standout sentences from Basheer’s response:

1) “We strongly object to the vile language and the highly aggressive tone used in the notice. We can respond in kind, but we choose to be a bit more civil with you.”

2) “You choose to issue this highly malevolent letter, hoping to intimidate us into a meek apology. Unfortunately, while the meek may inherit the earth, they are bound to be shown no favour by corporate powerhouses such as your client.”

3) “So, let’s cut to the chase and explore your alleged grievances articulated rather flatulently in over seven pages of a highly intemperate legal notice.

4) “We could send you stacks of material originating from your client that cause the same [shock] effect on us, particularly the numerous page 3 images that continue to assault us on an almost daily basis.

5) “As any law student in a decent law school will inform you, in order to constitute the legal wrong of defamation, you need to prove that the statements made by us necessarily lowered the reputation of your client in the eyes of a “reasonable” public.

6) “We assumed that as a qualified lawyer, you are well aware of the distinction between an opinion and a fact…. If the law has changed in this regard, please to intimate us, so that we may notify our readers of this sea change, which has gone unnoticed, without so much as a whisper.

7) “… we are prepared to issue a clarification. However, we will do so only upon your sending us a more polite letter seeking this clarification. ‘Please” and “thank you” are words that have unfortunately become relics in this fast pace world of ours, and even more so with fast paced lawyers such as yourselves.

8) “We fail to understand how any reasonable reader would have arrived at such a fanciful conclusion. And those that do are in dire need of a serious IQ check. We believe there are several robust online tests floating around these days, should you wish to take one of them.

9) “Apparently you’ve not sent Mint a legal notice as yet. We can only guess that you’re averse to picking people your own size…. We’re guessing that you’ve shied away from sending a legal notice to Harish Salve, widely acknowledged as a leading legal luminary and heavyweight [quoted in the Mint article and the blogger’s story].

10)  “We are particularly amused at your allegation that a 22-year-old law student caused “irreparable injury” and “loss of reputation” to a powerful media house by highlighting a highly technical trademark dispute of public importance and reflecting on the protracted nature of the litigation. Continue to amuse us, and we may begin to reciprocate.

11) “It is surprising how you’ve twisted simple sentences . We belong to the land of yoga, no doubt, but this is simply too much of a stretch. Clearly, neither your client nor Financial Times Limited are ‘hapless’ when both have been spending crores of rupees in fighting this protracted legal battle for more than 20-odd years!

12) “If you continue with this character assassination and threaten us any further, we will be constrained to initiate legal proceedings against you. This will needlessly fill the coffer of two sets of lawyers but perhaps that’s what you really want. In the sincere hope that your client is smarter than you, we remain, most unapologetically yours.”

For the record, advocate Ashish Verma signed the Times legal notice for the Delhi-based K. Datta & Associates.

Also for the record, a similar notice was served on Paranjoy Guha Thakurta for writing the Mint article, although Mint, which is owned by Hindustan Times, has been spared the agony.

Photograph: courtesy Spicy IP

Also readThrice-bitten, will FT find real love again?

Financial Times takes on The Times of India

Now The Times of India takes on Financial Times

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The Hindu threatens to sue The Indian Express

Bloomberg threatens to sue CNBC-TV18

Shekhar Gupta threatens to sue Vinod Mehta, et al

Editors’ Guild backs Times Now in libel case

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External reading: Was Times right to take on blogger?

Another substandard post by unqualified journo

He hasn’t quite spelt out which colleges we should go to, what subjects and courses we should take, in which language, or what pass-percentage is OK.

At least not yet.

But Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju‘s “order” on “some legal qualification” before one can enter the profession of journalism has been met with near-unanimous ridicule from mediapersons.

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In the Hindu, Outlook* chairman Vinod Mehta calls the move “absolute rubbish”:

“Some of the greatest journalists the world has produced have been without university degrees. I am a BA fail and was academically the most undistinguished student in school and college. And I haven’t done too badly.”

NDTV group editor Barkha Dutt, who has journalism degrees from Jamia Milia and Columbia school of journalism:

“The best training is on the field. While I can see the arguments about ‘declining standards and quality in journalists’, I do not believe the answer was in ‘more degrees’. (paraphrased)

Sashi Kumar of the Asian college of journalism:

“Most hard-nosed reporters who do unconventional beats, break scoops and exposes, are in the regional language press. And they are not necessarily MAs or PhDs. This is an ill-considered move and reflects Justice Katju’s ignorance about the field, and strikes at the root of freedom of expression.”

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In a letter to the editor of The Hindu, the veteran sports correspondent Partab Ramchand writes:

“It might be relevant to mention that I am a matriculate (second class) and I joined the profession virtually straight from school nearly 45 years ago without any training whatsoever in journalism and with just a knowledge of sports which I followed closely from my school days.

“I never saw the portals of a college and have never felt any regret in this regard.

“I have worked in various leading newspaper groups, heading the sports department on a couple of occasions, have gone on international assignments and am an author of 10 books on cricket. I fully endorse Barkha Dutt’s view that the best training is on the field which is exactly what I went through.”

* Disclosures apply

Infographic: courtesy The Times of India

Also read: ‘I have a poor opinion of most media people’

Editors’ Guild of India takes on Press Council chief

TV news channel editors too blast PCI chief

Has Justice Katju been appointed by Josef Stalin?

Justice Katju ‘sorry’ for calling journos idiots

Bonus: How much is one divided by zero? Don’t ask