My Life In Media: Robin Lustig

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The Independent Online

After nearly 20 years in print journalism, Robin Lustig, 56, joined the BBC in 1989 as a presenter of Radio 4's 'The World Tonight'.

After nearly 20 years in print journalism, Robin Lustig, 56, joined the BBC in 1989 as a presenter of Radio 4's 'The World Tonight'. He has acquired a reputation as an election specialist, having anchored election programmes for the World Service for the past two British general elections, for every Israeli election since 1996 as well as from Iran, Bosnia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia and Zimbabwe. He is married with two children.

What inspired you to start a career in the media?

Listening to the BBC World Service while I was a volunteer with VSO in Uganda in the mid-1960s. It kept me in touch with the rest of the world and asked all the questions I wanted to ask.

When you were 15 years old, what was the family newspaper and did you read it?

It had been the News Chronicle, but that folded in 1960. After that, The Guardian. I read it avidly, especially the politics. I remember reading all the salacious details of the Profumo affair as an over-impressionable teenager.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

I grew up in a home without a TV; my favourite radio programmes were The Navy Lark and Round the Horne. And I listened to Radio Luxembourg under the bedclothes late at night.

What's the first media you turn to in the morning?

The Today programme on Radio 4. And then the Daily Mail, and then the rest.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

All of them, all the time. Google has revolutionised my life. And a site that's every journalist's dream:

What's the best thing about your job?

Going to interesting places, meeting interesting people and asking them rude questions. It's a gossip's dream.

And the worst?

Horribly anti-social hours, and never being able to plan ahead. I've spent far too long making compromises and expecting the family to understand.

What is the proudest achievement in your working life?

It probably sounds naff, but being a BBC broadcaster. To have interviewed Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan and Tony Blair - well, there are worse ways to spend a working life. I was in Moscow as the Soviet Union fell, in Berlin when Germany was reunified, in Hong Kong when it was handed back to China. I've watched history being made.

And your most embarrassing moment?

Forgetting the name of the person I was interviewing. It was, er ...

At home, what do you tune in to?

Radio 4, Radio 3, BBC News Online. On TV, The West Wing, whenever I can, Panorama, less often than I should, and Newsnight on those rare occasions when I'm not on air at the same time.

What is your Sunday paper and do you have a favourite magazine?

As many as I can find time to read. But I retain a very soft spot for The Observer, where I worked for more than a decade. And I have become a total devotee of the New York Review of Books, which reminds me that there is more to life than news headlines.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire.

Interview the Queen. Or Prince Charles (with Camilla). Live. But I'm not holding my breath.

If you didn't work in the media, what would you do?

Mope. Or, even worse, be a barrister. Or become a student again, because the longer I go on in this business, the more embarrassed I am by the depths of my ignorance.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

My colleagues, because they do all the real work for very little reward. And local journalists in places like Iraq and Algeria and central Asia, who work often at great personal risk.


1970: Begins career as a foreign correspondent with Reuters, reporting from Madrid, Paris and Rome.

1977: Embarks on a 12-year stint at The Observer which includes periods as news and assistant editor and three years in the Middle East.

1984: Wins a British Press Award commendation for his coverage of Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi's assassination.

1989: Joins the BBC presenting Radio 4's The World Tonight and other programmes including News Stand, credited as radio's most listened-to current affairs programme owing to its post-Archers slot. Also presents programmes for the World Service including coverage of the death of Princess Diana and the terror attacks of 11 September 2001.

1998: Wins Sony silver award for Talk/News Broadcaster of the Year.

1999: Writes and presents a documentary on Aids in Africa, The Orphaned Continent, which is broadcast simultaneously on Radio 4 and the World Service.

2003: Anchors The World After the War, a special post-Iraq broadcast which also airs on both stations.

The World Tonight celebrates its 35th anniversary next week. BBC Radio 4, weekdays, 10pm.