Vinod Mehta is best remembered as the youngest editor of Debonair (he was only 33 when he took over the reins and the magazine was nearing shutdown).
But his efforts brought life to the magazine and it started doing good business. Who doesn’t remember the infamous nude photoshoot of Protima Bedi that had to be pulled off from the centrespread of Debonair.
The success of Debonair brought him the fame of being a launch editor and he went on to launch the India Today competitor Outlook. But, Vinod Mehta started thinking about serious journalism only when the otherwise gracious Atal Bihari Vajpayee remarked: ‘Your magazine is very good, but I have to keep it under the pillow.’ Known to be a launch editor, with the credit of launching many newspapers and magazines, Mehta himself rated his success in 60:40 ratio.
In ‘Lucknow Boy’, he writes: “My tombstone might read: ‘Here lies the most sacked editor in India.’ People close to me, including some former editors, reproached me for failing to acquire an essential skill: infighting. All around me I saw mediocre editors flourish. They possessed minimal competence but were adept at intra-office intrigue. At first, I found the advice facile, even ridiculous. I had thought being good at one’s job was the only requirement for professional survival and advancement, Now I was not sure. Did I have to master the black arts of proprietor sycophancy and colleague back-stabbing?”Vinod Mehta had raised serious questions on journalists who violated the basic tenets of journalism to use the profession as a source of income. He always stressed on the point that an editor had to set standards for his colleagues to protect journalism.
However, he showed guts in admitting that he did try to save his jobs a few times. He even turned down the offer to participate in a debate on former Editor-in-chief of Tehelka Tarun Tejpal. He justified his action by saying that he was close to Tarun and he would not be able to give right perspective to the discussion.
Vinod Mehta was always in news for one or the other reason by leading attacks on other editors-in-chief or at politicians or for writing books. His books, too, reveal many inside stories of political and journalistic corridors.
Mostly, he is going to be remembered as fearless, exposing inside stories of politicians, industrialists and lobbyists. By his own admission, he has written: “Like most sinful and salacious human beings, I enjoy gossip.”
— Vincent Patel (@Vincent__Patel) March 9, 2015