My Mentor: Bridget Kendall On Sir John Tusa

'He was one of the best. I was the new girl. But he never made you feel in awe of him'

John Tusa was Newsnight's superstar, award-winning presenter when I joined the BBC straight from university. I hugely admired the programme and its presenters for their uncompromising journalism. They really went to the heart of the tough stories, tore them apart and examined them in detail, but I had no idea I would end up there less than six months later.

I thought he was everything I wanted to be in a journalist. He is absolutely straightforward, full of energy, he's got a great sense of humour, is hugely inquisitive about everything and is seen as a very heavyweight intellectual. He was one of the best news journalists at the BBC and I was the new girl. But he never made you feel in awe of him - which is a huge gift.

After my Newsnight attachment, I went back to the World Service where I cut my teeth learning how to make current affairs programmes.

John asked me to lunch once with his producer, and I remember having a good discussion about international politics and that the producer, who was young and clever, was one Mark Thompson.

When I came back from a long holiday, I discovered John had been made managing director of the World Service. I think a lot of people thought of it as the golden era of Bush House. He brought in good people, encouraged everyone to be more journalistic and creative, and he really raised morale and the place's profile.

He was also a visionary and saw that the international brand was going to be the BBC's long-term future. The government wouldn't pay for World Service television but he made it happen with commercial money.

He's now had a very impressive 10 years at the Barbican and is a champion of the arts for Britain. He's done a lot of different things for this country and it's good to see people who can use their talents and energy in lots of different areas.

Bridget Kendall is the BBC's diplomatic editor.

Sir John Tusa is the managing director of the Barbican Arts Centre.