5 Questions For… Martin Bashir

By Alissa Krinsky 

Martin Bashir, co-anchor of ABC’s Nightline and a 20/20 correspondent, joined the network in 2004 from ITV in his native England. He is also well-known for two famous interviews: a 1995 BBC sit-down with Princess Diana, the other, with Michael Jackson, for a 2003 documentary. Bashir is married with three children.

1. TVNewser: Being part of Nightline is…
Bashir: One of the best jobs in television journalism. Where else do you have the opportunity to anchor breaking news (Virginia Tech, the Minnesota Bridge Collapse, etc.), conduct an interview with a soldier in a Kuwaiti jail charged with war crimes in Iraq, and then produce a documentary about the psychopathology surrounding some Manhattan parents who will do anything to get their two year old into their pre-school of choice? From format to range to genre — it all happens on our show and it is one of the best and most demanding places to work.

2. TVNewser: Ten years after the death of Princess Diana, my reflections on interviewing her:
Bashir: It was a special piece of work — historically and journalistically — but was part of the newsgathering process. It’s about excavating truth that ultimately makes an impact. Every journalist does it — and it’s why this is such a stimulating profession. Because every day you have the chance to discuss, expose and investigate a new story.

I have never harped back on any of the stories that I’ve covered in my career. I take the approach that was inculcated in us by our school rugby teacher — aged 11 — give it your very best, never look back, prepare for the next fixture. And it remains an immense sadness — most especially for her boys and her siblings — that the Princess died prematurely, in a sudden, tragic accident.

3. TVNewser: I decided to work in the U.S. because…
Bashir: (ABC News Senior VP) Phyllis McGrady offered me a job. I had worked with Phyllis over the years — she licensed a number of my films — and I developed the greatest respect for her judgment and journalism.

4. TVNewser: My thoughts today on Living With Michael Jackson:
Bashir: It was one the best films I have ever made. It was also a privilege to get close to a genuine icon of the music industry. Nobody can ever take away “Off the Wall” or “Thriller”, two of the greatest soul albums ever produced. I taught myself to play bass by listening to “Billy Jean”. A genius.

5. TVNewser: My secret to getting exclusive interviews…
Bashir: Is being allowed to chase the biggest stories…I can usually come up with something when I’m given some backing to get out there and bring back the spoils.