You have been on good personal terms with political bosses. Many successful editors try to get into politics and Parliament. Did you ever want to?
There are two kinds of political journalists: those who are in it for the politics and those who are in it for the journalism. Without passing any value judgements on others I am proud to say that I am firmly in the latter category. I hate the idea of being in politics and in any case I would probably be the world’s worst politician.
Is it your privileged upbringing that places you at ease with people from different backgrounds and situations like prime ministers, chefs, media owners or a recalcitrant ABP housing department staff?
No. Not really. First of all, I am not sure how privileged I am though I am very grateful to God for my advantages. Secondly, there is no one pattern to the kind of people I enjoyed talking to and who, in return gave me journalistic access. It’s hard to put Raj Kapoor, Bal Thackeray, Chandra Shekhar, KK Birla and Haji Mastaan in a single category. If I was to be a little immodest I would say that one of my few skills is an ability to listen. I have found that this often puts people at ease and makes them open up to me. It’s the skill I rely on as an interviewer and the one that helps me extract information from sources. Unlike many others in the profession I am not that keen on airing my own views or imposing my ego on every situation.
Did your print background help you in TV?
Yes, it did. In the old days at least it was all journalism no matter whether it was print or TV. That has changed now that there is an element of drama and theatricality to TV. But when I started out, people wanted fairness and anchors who were pleasant enough, but whose primary skill was in getting you a balanced view of what was going on or who could get the best out of important guests. So print was a very good training ground.
The story has faded but the Radia Tapes shadow lurks somewhere in the background. You have shown proof that your tape was faked and tampered with.
Yeah. The story would have faded earlier had I not kept it alive myself! When the CBI told the Supreme Court that the tapes leaked to the media had been doctored, that should have been it. But I got a little obsessive and insisted on sending the tapes for testing to labs in the US and the UK. When the tests also showed that they had been doctored I insisted that Outlook which ran the original story carried the results of those tests. Then, when Outlook would not withdraw the allegations against me I went to court and fought for a retraction. I did not rest till I got it. Was that wise? The story had been forgotten by then anyway. So probably, no. It wasn’t necessary to keep going. I needn’t have bothered to sue. But I guess that’s just the way I am built!
“One of my few skills is an ability to listen. This often puts people at ease and makes them open up to me. It’s the skill I rely on as an interviewer.”
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