My Life In Media: Richard Quest
'Find something interesting or important in the world and go and tell the rest of the world about it and why it matters. Simple. I love it'
Monday 21 January 2008
Richard Quest, 45, is one of the faces of CNN. The British reporter has become one of the network's highest profile presenters with his own hour-long feature programme, Quest. He also covers breaking news and business stories, including last week's crash landing at Heathrow.
As a business travel specialist, Quest has become a voice of authority on subjects such as the launch of the Airbus A380; as a news correspondent he travelled across the US to gauge public feeling in the build-up to the 2004 presidential election and also anchored CNN's coverage of the funeral of Pope John Paul II, live from Rome. He will lead CNN International's coverage from the World Economic Forum in Davos from tomorrow until Sunday. He was born in Liverpool, and lives in central London.
What inspired you to embark on a media career?
I have always loved broadcasting – as a child in Liverpool I would wake up and listen to Morning Merseyside on BBC Radio Merseyside and wonder, "how do they do that?" Then, living in Leeds, I joined St James's Hospital radio. There is something magical about the whole idea of sound being carried over the air, even though St James's fired me when I was only 15 for scandalising the older volunteers with my youthful banter. As most in the media will recognise, there's always a running conflict between the old dears and the youthful wannabees!
When you were 15 years old, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?
We were a Daily Express family in the days of the old broadsheet and I read it religiously. I loved reading Jean Rook, the "First Lady of Fleet Street". Once I met her and I remember that raspy voice saying that what she wrote may end up wrapping fish and chips, but it was the best thing you could wrap them in! After it became tabloid, we moved to The Daily Telegraph.
And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?
On radio I loved Noel Edmonds's Radio 1 breakfast show – and Tony Blackburn. I can still hear those bloody jingles deep in my brain. On telly, Crown Court, remember that? If you skived off school, you could watch another leading case from the Fulchester courtroom. Also, The Champions and The Saint. And there was that Friday-night drama slot at 9pm on ITV with programmes like Within These Walls, Justice and Hadleigh.
Describe your job?
Find something interesting or important in the world and go and tell the rest of the world about it and why it matters. Simple. I love it.
What's the first media you turn to in the mornings?
It depends where I am in the world. Obviously, my own network, CNN, to see what we are leading on. Then on to the opposition to see if they are, too....
Do you consult any media sources during the day?
Of course, I am a journalist. Usually CNN.com on my PDA and, when I can, all the major sites and news networks. I may believe we are the best, but I am not arrogant enough to believe we are the only one!
What is the best thing about your job?
Telling people something they don't know. Journalists are authoritative gossips – "Psst, have you heard? Since you went to bed this has happened. Well, let me tell you..."
And the worst?
When nothing has happened and you have to keep broadcasting about it, when you have to keep the story going until something does actually happen and, in the meantime, you have to make it sound interesting.
How do you feel you influence the media?
Working for CNN you help set the agenda for decision makers and industry leaders simply by doing your job. What the network covers and how we cover it affects people. I am not naive enough to believe I work in some "pure" news vacuum.
What's the proudest achievement in your working life?
The first time I heard a Radio 4 newsreader say "...as Richard Quest now reports" on air. Unfortunately, because I was unknown to her, she said it with that "and who is this oik?" tone that only those in the business can discern.
And what's your most embarrassing moment?
Starting a live interview with someone and realising they were the wrong guest for the wrong segment and having to work out – live – why I was interviewing them. There is no easy way to do that! Oh, and nearly trying to "vox pop" the Queen Mother.
What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?
I don't like the Sunday newspapers – I read them because I have to. Sunday Times, Telegraph, Independent on Sunday – I find them heavy and too much! I prefer The Economist.
Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire?
To get a chance to interview a president – any president – of the United States in the Oval Office.
What would you do if you didn't work in the media?
Be a flight attendant. To work with those magical flying machines every day and see the world.
Who in the media do you most admire and why?
David Dimbleby. For sheer broadcasting elegance and ability he cannot be beaten. I listen to his interviews and watch his live election presentation in awe.
1985 Joins the BBC as a news trainee, focusing on business journalism.
1987 Becomes part of the BBC's financial unit, later appointed to North America business correspondent.
2001 Joins CNN International to front the network's live business programming, co-anchoring Business International. Reports on many of the major news events of recent years, including the Iraq war and the death of Yasser Arafat.
2004 Travels across the USA to hear what voters think about impending presidential election.
2005 Becomes the face of Quest, CNN's monthly feature programme which sees him travel the globe on a "quest" to find out more about a specific topic. Quest also fronts CNN Business Traveller.
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