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The editor who trusted raw talent

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By Sidharth Mishra

The onset of economic liberalisation during the 1990s saw a major change in the Indian media too. The coming of computers, new printing technology, communication networks and easy import of news print heralded this major change.

Technology ensured newspapers expanded network with single edition papers converting to multiple editions with focus on the regional news and soft stories. Nobody understood this demand of the news market better than Chandan Mitra, who passed away in the early hours of this Thursday, after fighting a debilitating illness for about a year.

Mitra in his innings first as the executive editor of Hindustan Times for a few years and later as editor-owner of The Pioneer for several years encouraged the genre which is largely identified as civic journalism and feature writing. Print journalism till the coming of the 1990s had largely been identified with political stories but here was an editor who was pushing for a strong city page with a lot of impactful local news.

This writer was closely associated with him in two civic campaigns as leader of the city reporting unit. The first being against the erstwhile Delhi Vidyut Board (DVB) at the turn of the century against the huge power theft and ten years later against the building of Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) corridor.

He took decision to launch news campaigns only after having ascertained about the issue personally and then leaving it to the team to execute it. He withstood the pressure of the powerful as the reporters went about doing their job.

Despite his political affiliation he never allowed the city pages for the promotion of local BJP leaders. In fact, there was an instance when late Madanlal Khurana led a delegation to LK Advani to complain against Mitra and his main executioner that's me. Mitra defended his team and withstood the pressure.

Not that Mitra was not good at politics, rather he was right-wing's most sought after ideologue but he enjoyed leading story campaigns by city team and writing travelogues for the feature pages and simultaneously initiating dialogues on historical monuments.

He was always there to share his vision with the young city team and never missed opportunity to give feedback. Today several from that city team are spread across newspapers, publications and channels. I could pick them raw for the team because Chandan always backed young, raw talent.

For almost 13 long years we met every evening for the editorial meeting, which were used to be great sessions in scholarship from history, to politics, to film making and not to forget how city's traffic could be better managed. In fact, he once visited Qamar Ahmed, much revered then traffic boss of the city, to discuss a plan to better manage traffic at Chirag Delhi crossing.

After the meeting Ahmed shared that till then he had interacted with editors only for the limited purpose of waiving off traffic challans. He would know and interact with municipal commissioners and NDMC chairman, DDA’s top honcho, to share his ideas about Delhi, the city he came to made it his home.

I often wondered his reason for trusting me, probably it lay in our common interest in academics, and we came from Delhi University. Chandan had even taught there. He compensated for missing University teaching by holding scholarship session in newsroom. That was Chandan, a great boss to work under, a great scholar to know and a politician with whom you could differ without inviting malice.

(Abridged Obituary Published in The Morning Standard/


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