Outlook has completed 10 years, and at a function to commemorate the occasion, its Editor-in-Chief Vinod Mehta didn’t go down memory lane, but commented on the current media scenario, with pinpricks at rivals, politicians and the culture of breaking news.
Said Mehta, “These days when the print media is supposed to be under threat, we have not merely survived. But prospered. At the risk of immodesty, I can confidently say that Outlook is both a critical and commercial success. Happily, we have not dumbed down, yet we have established that good journalism does sell. You just need a good editor and not just a whiz-kid marketing manager. I am happy to report that there is a shortage of good editors and a surfeit of good marketing managers. May that situation never change.”
“In ten years as a group we have not grown phenomenally or launched two score publications, like Nursing News or Table Tennis Digest,” he said tongue-in-cheek, referring to a well-known rival.
Outlook, which was launched on October 11, 1995, has three other magazines – Outlook Money, Outlook Traveller and Outlook Saptahik. Mehta announced that the Group would be launching a Delhi-centric magazine, City Limits, soon. “There will be no page 3 celebrities in the entire magazine. And, oh yes, we also won’t tell you where to buy that 80,000 rupee bottle of wine,” he quipped.
He also mentioned the various travel books brought out by the Group, adding, “Altogether, it is a small corpus. Mr Sameer Jain or Ms Shobhna Bhartia have no reason to feel threatened. But I hope they secretly envy, if that is not too strong a word, our purposeful mix of irreverent and purposeful journalism.”
Commenting on the reader in 2005, Mehta said that media had to invent itself to regain his attention. While the reader was disinterested in politics, he was disinterested in the way politics was being covered. Mehta also hit out at the so-called ‘breaking news’ and ‘exclusive’ clutter. “Breaking news and exclusives have anyway become something of a joke,” he lamented.
He further said that the myth about journalists being unbiased had to be shattered. “In my 30 years in the profession, I have yet to meet an unbiased journalist, someone who is an ideological eunuch,” he said.
“Biased or unbiased, I believe the political class in India takes the media far too seriously. Listen, we are just a bunch of guys and gals sitting around a table pretending to decide your fate. And remember, we have deadlines to meet and we have to be first with the news. We make mistakes. Mistakes of judgement, 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,” Mehta admitted candidly.
He remarked, “Politicians and journalists need to forge a new relationship. This relationship shouldn’t be based on cronyism, neither should it be too cosy. We may not be natural adversaries, but we are also not natural friends. We should make politicians feel just a tiny bit uncomfortable.”
Pondering over media’s role in India, Mehta said, “Clearly, one responsibility is to monitor how the government works and how those who rule perform. But there is another role, one less remarked.”
However, the other, perhaps more important role was to bridge the gap between the ‘two Indias’ – Shining India and An Area of Darkness. “The media’s role on this is clear. We must constantly remind Shining India of the other India, however unpretty the pictures and ugly the facts. Until this shame is wiped out our democracy remains a failure. If we can spend Rs 15,000 crores on French submarines, we can spend Rs 12,000 crores on the employment guarantee scheme. This is not an ideological issue, this is not a left-right or centre vs state issue, this is not globalisers vs the jholawallas issue. This is a human issue,” pointed out Mehta.
He winded up his speech by remarking how he had resisted lure of the television. “I remained loyal to print, I remained loyal to the written word,” he said.
For complete text of Vinod Mehta's address Click here.