01 March, 2021

A Latter-Day Torch To Be Borne With Care

In this inaugural Vinod Mehta Memorial Lecture, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll talks about the origins, uses, abuses, trials and triumphs of free, fair and investigative modern journalism as the world knows it

Photograph by Gireesh G.V.
A Latter-Day Torch To Be Borne With Care

Thanks to everyone at the Outlook Group for having me here. I always relished an occasion to come back to Delhi. I really enjoyed re-reading Vinod Mehta’s work in preparing for this. It is a great honour to be selected to deliver the first lecture in his memory. I don’t know how many of you have had a chance to read his memoir, Lucknow Boy, but I recommend it. It has a certain admirable character about it. He is not full of himself. He is full of humour, full of life, full of curiosity, very conversational, very accessible and that I think is sometimes what it takes to reach audiences. His sensibility was on the other hand quite a serious one—very devoted to public interest journalism and all of us outside India admire Outlook as an exemplar of the very best journalism in this country.

I lived here for three years in Vasant Vihar as the Washington Post correspondent between 1989 and 1992. It was a time of considerable change in Indian politics. I think I covered four governments in three years. I may be one of the few...

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