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Stephen Sackur, present of the BBC's HARDtalk, receives Honorary Doctorate

“Curiosity drives so much of what young people can achieve.”

Few journalists have spoken with more of the world’s leading politicians, thinkers, scientists and artists than Stephen Sackur.

Previously the BBC’s Correspondent in Brussels, the Middle and East and Washington DC, Stephen was witness to an ever-changing world; from Presidential crises, revolutions in Eastern Europe to conflict in the Middle East.

As a presenter of the BBC’s flagship interview programme HARDtalk, Stephen’s task today is to press guests on the issues of the day, their role in those events and provide the audience with an understanding of the world that goes beyond the headlines in age of tweets and soundbites.

In recognition of his journalistic career and his position as one of the world’s leading interviewers, Stephen has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Warwick.

“If you look at the course of history over the last 25 years, I have to say I feel very fortunate to have watched up close quite a lot of it unfold”, said Stephen before the ceremony – but how did he came to find himself with a front row seat to history?

“I set out in journalism hoping that I could carve a career that would take me to interesting places in interesting times and that worked out in spades.

“I was lucky enough to get some early breaks in my career. For example, finding myself in East Germany at the time the Berlin Wall came down and it taught me something rather important and basic about journalism; for all the talent in the world one of the most important things is luck, to be in the right place at the right time.”

  • Listen to the full interview:

The world has changed beyond recognition since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and so has the news media. “When I was setting out in journalism there were a number of shows that devoted a half-hour or so to one long-form challenging, rigorous interview with a person of influence – that tradition is dying.”

Broadcast on the BBC World Service and the BBC News Channel, HARDtalk stands as one of the last bastions of long-form broadcast current affairs interviews and has seen Stephen speak with everyone from to Syrian MPs and Russian Foreign Secretaries to Pakistani journalists on some of the world’s most contentious, and disputed, subjects.

Alongside the decline of the long-form interview has been the rise of sophisticated campaigns of media disinformation by both states and corporations and claims of so-called ‘fake news’. In the face of these changes Stephen says that “young people today have to be savy, they have to be very responsible in the way they filter information and try and understand the amazing, extraordinary information flows that we now have thanks to amazing invention; the internet.”

“That does mean there is an onus on all of us to think very hard about where we get our information, how we can check, second source and verify”.

Before heading into his ceremony, Stephen had one final piece of advice for those graduating alongside him:

“I want them to leave here with a genuinely open mind and huge amounts of curiosity. When I think about has defined my professional life, those two assets have been absolutely essential; not assuming that I know the answers, but also always keeping my curiosity levels high. Curiosity, for me, drives so much of what young people can achieve.”

1 August 2018


Tom Frew, Senior Press and Media Relations Manager – University of Warwick:

E: a dot t dot frew at warwick dot ac dot uk
M: +44(0)7785433155