A timeout, if I may, to offer farewell thanks to a friend and mentor, Morton Mintz, who has left The Post. After 30 years of daily reporting for The Post and 12 years before for papers in St. Louis, he is retiring from the newsroom. It's on to books, magazine work and other deserved aerations.

Two farewell parties -- one given by The Post, his company, the other by the Newspaper Guild, his union -- were gatherings of newspeople who saw in Mintz a spillway of talent, passion and irascible growl. If every news organization had a core of reporters like Mintz -- a tireless striver for accuracy and fierce skeptic of party lines -- the public might not keep issuing low rankings of the media. Mintz, 66, leaves as a national model of what Katharine Graham once called the country's ''strong tradition of independent, irreverent journalism.''

Many of the policy issues of the 1980s -- campaign financing, automobile safety, smoking, pollution, corporate crime, military waste, governmental sleaze, medical ethics, media shallowness -- were beats that Mintz began legitimizing 30 years ago.

At The Post, Mintz irreverently believed that reporting the news wasn't enough. Searching it out -- in places the pack had no scent or taste for -- was often the higher ideal. He uncovered so much news that the morning Post often carried two, three or four Mintz bylined stories. He could have been a one-man wire service. In his reporting, as well as in such books as ''America, Inc.'' (with Jerry Cohen), ''Therapeutic Nightmare'' and ''At Any Cost: Corporate Greed, Women and the Dalkon Shield,'' Mintz ranged from expose's of governmental fraud and board room liars to covering congressional hearings on health and safety at which he was often the lone journalist.

Many of those hearings were held by Sen. Philip Hart, often enough presiding as the lone senator. Not long before he died in 1976, Hart spoke in awe of Mintz: ''He has excitement in his stories simply because he is able to describe the way certain private interests have been able to twist a debate or cause decisions to be made that disserve the general interest. But more often than not, this man is reporting the important issue though it is relatively heavy and unexciting.''

Like the elders of the investigative reporting tribe -- George Seldes, I. F. Stone -- Mintz regularly wrote stories after reading thousands of pages of trial transcript, court exhibits and pre- and post-trial proceedings. Were he less a shelf rat and more a show horse, Mintz might be better known. But not better respected.

His stories had reach because his commitments had depth. Governance, he believed, not government, shaped the fate of citizens: ''Government is what you think it is. Governance reaches beyond government to embrace the exercise of authority or control by other power centers. None is more important than the large corporation, partly because its ability to govern the government often stands in the way of adequate deterrents, punishment and redress.''

From that philosophical position, Mintz made corporate unaccountability a permanent news story. Its victims were his news sources. ''Government kills and injures by, say, sending people to Vietnam,'' he argued. ''The corporation does the same, whether carelessly or knowingly or willfully, by providing unreasonably dangerous work places, by selling and promoting unsafe or defective products, and by poisoning the environment. . . The executive who would be pilloried if exposed for a timeless sin -- drinking, adultery -- needs to be neither prosecuted nor so much as personally criticized by the press or clergy for repugnant death-dealing corporate acts, say, promoting smoking among children. . . For the classic murderer, capital punishment; for the executive who -- knowingly and willfully -- kills dozens, hundreds or thousands with needlessly unsafe products and work places, capital enrichment.''

Millions of readers benefited from Mintz's unmincing reportage. In the newsroom, he had the gift of creative seething: editors who cut his copy were almost as suspect as board chairmen who cut corners. He raised troublemaker questions about ''news organizations that send brigades of reporters to political conventions {but} send none at all to a courtroom where there is the first-ever exposure of internal documents of the tobacco industry, although medical scientists blame smoking for the premature deaths of more than 300,000 Americans a year.''

When relaxing among family and friends -- and he made friends feel like family -- Mintz was a portal through which wit and warmth flowed naturally. The only complaint anyone had at his two farewell parties was the brevity of his remarks. Self-editing, if kept up, could become a character defect. But Mintz's only one.