In Profile: Anushka Asthana
Since her time as a student journalist at City 13 years ago, Anushka Asthana has enjoyed a successful career as a political journalist in both print and broadcasting. Today she forms one half of a groundbreaking job-share arrangement as Political Editor at the Guardian.
After growing up in Stalybridge, near Manchester and studying for a BSc in Economics at the University of Cambridge, Anushka Asthana (Periodical Journalism, 2003) successfully applied to City after identifying it as the place to go to kick-start a career in journalism. But that hadn’t always been the plan. She says,
At school I’d never thought I was that good at English, so I didn’t see journalism as a natural career choice. I now realise it’s about a lot more than just writing.
She got involved with the student newspaper at Cambridge as well as a local television channel; the two experiences inspiring her to apply to City. “Getting onto the course [at City] was a massive boost; it hugely built up my confidence,” she recalls.
Today, she is Political Editor at the Guardian newspaper, jointly with former Observer Economics Editor Heather Stewart, thanks to their employer’s progressive approach towards job-sharing. Anushka’s views on the experience are overwhelmingly positive: “A job share is the only way that someone at my stage of life, with two very young boys, could have even contemplated taking on a Political Editor role at a major broadsheet,” she says.
After graduating from City, Anushka joined the Observer where she spent eight enjoyable years as a reporter, a specialist and on the news desk. She says:
Sunday journalism is both liberating and brutal. You have a constant nervousness about the exclusives you are expected to bring in, but also the time and space to actually secure them.
Her tenure at the Observer was only briefly interrupted by a three-month stint at the Washington Post in 2006, after she was awarded the Laurence Stern Fellowship (arranged through City). During her time at the Post, she had the opportunity to travel on Air Force One and interview Barack Obama, who was a senator at the time.
After leaving the Observer she worked as Political Correspondent for both The Times and Sky News before joining the Guardian at the end of last year. “I’ve really loved being in the parliamentary lobby. It’s pinch yourself stuff, from asking David Cameron and Benjamin Netanyahu about the Israeli- Palestinian peace process, to having daily access to the Prime Minister throughout the 2015 general election.”
With her current job-sharing arrangement allowing her to juggle the pressures of motherhood with the rigours of political journalism, Anushka is keen to see job-shares become commonplace in the media. “A quick look around the lobby shows you how family-unfriendly political reporting can be, but I hope this will help shift the dial,” she says.
In society today, it’s still on average the woman who is more likely to take on a bigger role at home and be more willing to sacrifice her career. So it’s not surprising that job shares have been particularly liberating for women.
“That said, I’ve been amazed by the number of men, in particular fathers, who have said they hope the job-share works because they want to see more of their families. So while it is about gender equality, it’s also about improving everybody’s work-life balance.”