Quest comes clean

Finweek English Edition - - NEWS -

So how do you in­ter­view the world’s top in­ter­viewer? Pretty easy, rea l l y. CNN an­chor, re­porter, on-air host and best­known face Richard Quest has such a breadth of ex­pe­ri­ence and per­sonal knowl­edge that no sub­ject seems be­yond his abil­ity to pass judg­ment. Press a but­ton and away he goes, talk i ng with au­thor­ity and fair­ness on just about any­thing.

Questy, as he was known to his school friends, is uniquely placed to see the big pic­ture. He in­sists he is “just the same as any bog-stan­dard jour­nal­ist but I can quickly as­sem­ble and as­sim­i­late a large num­ber of facts”. ON PARA­CHUTE JOUR­NAL­ISM: (news f ire­men who f ly in, spread may­hem with su­per­fi­cial, of­ten dis­hon­est re­port­ing, t hen f l y out): Crit­i­cism i gnores t he point. Just as a doc­tor be­comes a spe­cial­ist or a pilot learns to f ly, jour­nal­ists learn the skill of analysing and re­port­ing what is hap­pen­ing and why it’s sig­nif­i­cant. TV is not there to dot the Is and cross the Ts as writ­ten jour­nal­ism will do, but to give you a bet­ter feel for the story. But there’s no ex­cuse for the head­line- seek­ing ex­cesses of tabloid jour­nal­ism.

ON NEWS­PA­PERS: There’s a rev­o­lu­tion go­ing on. We have to em­brace it. On TV we have done it very well, but none of us has man­aged to un­lock the full po­ten­tial. We are in tran­si­tion.

ON FOUN­TAIN PENS: I was given a foun­tain pen to sign the Ice­land pres­i­den­tial vis­i­tor’s book. Ab­so­lute hor­ror. Then I be­gan to think, this is rather cool. It be­comes a process, like play­ing with a pipe. It moulds to your writ­ing style.

ON WHY HE MOVED FROM BBC

TO CNN: I didn’t do it for the money. It was just time to make a change. If you are go­ing to leave one of the great names in jour­nal­ism you have to go some­where as good. They are both pow­er­ful me­dia brands, huge bu­reau­cra­cies with more sim­i­lar­i­ties than dif­fer­ences. They didn’t head hunt me. I re­sponded to a job ad­ver­tise­ment.

ON AL JAZEERA: (whose 2006 job of­fer he re­jected be­cause “be­ing gay and Jewish might not be suit­able”): It has to take an in­de­pen­dent stance, but also ref lect an Arab per­spec­tive on world news. That’s how news net­works op­er­ate. That doesn’t mean they are bi­ased. They are about to launch Al Jazeera Amer­ica. If it doesn’t con­form to norms and stan­dards of mod­ern jour­nal­ism it won’t have an au­di­ence. They will adapt their cul­ture to run in an Amer­i­can con­text. Is it pro­pa­ganda? A net­work funded by the Qatar govern­ment? BBC was orig­i­nally funded

by the Bri­tish govern­ment.

ON SOUTH AFRICA: The world’s per­cep­tion is still very much based on the rain­bow na­tion, en­hanced by phe­nom­e­nal suc­cesses like the World Cup. But other events start hit­ting home. Drip, drip, drip, you get Marikana, Os­car Pis­to­rius, the dis­em­bow­elled rape vic­tim, at­tract­ing world­wide at­ten­tion.

Neg­a­tive sto­ries start to take their toll, shin­ing a light on crime and prompt­ing a re­assess­ment. Ev­ery­one has cor­rup­tion. It’s how you han­dle it. The per­cep­tion here is that you can get away with most things i f you pay enough. Gupta is not about whether some­body landed a plane, but about the morals that al­lowed it to take place. Ed­u­ca­tion and in­tegrity will define SA’s fu­ture in the next 20 years. You can re­cap­ture the rain­bow na­tion.

GLOBAL ECON­OMY: We are in a process of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and trans­for­ma­tion, chang­ing the engine while the plane is f ly­ing. It’s 1929 all over again. But they did not f lood the mar­ket with money, as we did in 2008/09. The rot was in the roof or walls then. Now it’s in the foun­da­tions.

ON THE USA: Western civil­i­sa­tion is not de­clin­ing. Amer­ica has a vi­brant, open econ­omy, able to adapt and change very fast and to ac­com­mo­date re­ces­sion. It’s dereg­u­lated, but with tough labour laws. Whether it’s shale oil or 3D print­ing, Amer­ica’s en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit en­sures rein­vent­ing it­self.

CHINA: It is not play­ing the cap­i­tal­ist game by the cap­i­tal­ist rules. China is play­ing with mar­ket economies. They want Amer­i­can tech­nol­ogy and know-how and then they want us out of there.

Richard Quest

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