A tribute to Vinod Mehta by Arnab Goswami

Vinod Mehta was a man of tremendous integrity. You may or may not have agreed with him, as he may or may not have agreed with you, but you couldn't lay a finger on his integrity.

He was honest to the core. He just loved chasing news stories and didn't care whose interests the news story hurt as long as he was convinced it was a story that needed to be told. And he aspired for nothing greater than the big scoop and the breaking news interview. He sought no favours, and he gave none. In that sense, he was a living rarity.

Vinod Mehta was also thoroughly unpredictable. And that's because he never cocooned himself in the shallow and superficial worlds of the Lutyens' power elite that editors are so prone to get trapped into. That made him dangerous for vested interests. You never knew which side he would back or which lobby his news stories would expose. The publication of the Radia tapes in Outlook magazine was among his finest moments. The journalist-politician-bureaucrat-powerbroker-corporate nexus was so deeply entrenched, that it required a Vinod Mehta to lay it bare for all to see.

The picture was ugly, and Vinod was boycotted by some of these lobbies. But he had made his point. In a world where editors are too eager to conform than to question, Vinod was a cut above.

Vinod Mehta didn't wear courage on his sleeve. But he had more courage in his frame than hundreds of his peers put together. Once, when I was in Nagpur on an assignment, I picked up a copy of his magazine at the airport. It featured a powerful politician with a Hitler-type moustache etched on him. The piece was on restrictions on media and social media that the politician was pushing for. When I landed, he called me to gauge my reaction to the cover.

"Pretty direct, Vinod," I said. "Well, the politician called me," he said, "and he was furious".

"What did you say then Vinod?" "I told him he had got the cover wrong. It wasn't Hitler. It was Groucho Marx," he said, laughing unstoppably. Vinod has passed on, and that politician did perhaps win a short battle with the legendary editor that Vinod Mehta was. But history judges us all right. And I know history will judge Vinod Mehta as the real legend, not the large egos he trampled on.

But most of all, Vinod Mehta loved a good debate. He just loved to provoke opinion. And I will really miss him on The Newshour. Many people ask me why Vinod was such a favourite of mine when he and I never seemed to agree on most things under the sun, from Naxalism to Kashmir to the Aam Aadmi Party.

Well, the reason is pretty simple. His views, always uninhibited and flowing, were his own and he couldn't care less what anyone else thought of them.

In this complicated world where journalism has come to coexist with intrigue, agenda, lobbies and motive, Vinod was the one editor who wasn't looking over his shoulder to check what others thought of his news stories or his opinion. Vinod, I will miss you. You were the most straightforward man I have dealt with. The kindest human being I have known.

And unfortunately, the editor I never had.

(The author is the editor-in-chief of Times Now)


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Article posted on 10/03/2015

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