She is an opinion columnist with The Hindustan Times and The Washington Post. Dutt was part of NDTV's team for 21 years, until she left the channel in January 2017. Barkha emerged as a prominent figure after her frontline war reporting on the Kargil Conflict between India and Pakistan in 1999. Dutt has won many national and international awards, including the Padma Shri, India's fourth highest civilian honour. Dutt was one of the journalists taped in the Radia tapes controversy. At NDTV, Dutt was the host of the weekly, award-winning talk-show We The People as well as the daily prime-time show The Buck Stops Here.
She was born in New Delhi to S. P. Dutt, an Air India official, and Prabha Dutt, who was a well-known journalist with the Hindustan Times. Dutt credits her journalistic skills to her mother, a pioneer among women journalists in India. Her younger sister, Bahar Dutt, is also a television journalist working for CNN IBN. She describes herself as agnostic who rejects religion. She supports the concept of a Uniform Civil Code. Barkha has expressed her opinion against Triple Talaq and Muslim patriarchy.
While covering the events of 2002 Gujarat violence, Dutt identified attackers and victims of a riot as "Hindus" and "Muslims" on television, flouting the guidelines of the Press Council of India. She has received negative reception for some of her work. For 2008 Mumbai attacks, she was blamed for sensationalising the events, putting lives at risk and causing deaths by identifying on live television where the hotel guests might be located. Britta Ohm wrote in 2011 that Dutt is criticised for "secular shrillness", betraying the cause of Kashmiri Pandits, over-the-top nationalism in the reporting of Kargil conflict, and for soft-pedalling Hindutva.
Dutt who was group editor of NDTV moved to the role of consulting editor in February 2015 and after 21 years, she left in January, 2017. Barkha used to write columns for many national and international newspapers, such as The Washington Post.
During the COVID-19 Migration Crisis, her extensive on-road coverage brought out and documented the difficulties faced by migrant workers all over North India.
Tiranga TV Controversy
Barkha served as an anchor and consulting editor at Tiranga TV during 26 January - 13 July 2019. Her show was titled Democracy Live. In July 2019, reports emerged that she was sacked by the Tiranga TV owners Kapil Sibal and his wife Promila Sibal on 'disciplinary grounds'. Dutt disputed this version of events by Sibals, claimed she was sacked for speaking out in internal emails against the treatment of other staffers, and vowed to sue the channel owners in court.
2010 Radia tapes controversy
In November 2010, the magazines OPEN and Outlook published transcripts of some telephone conversations between Nira Radia with some senior journalists, politicians, and corporates. The Central Bureau of Investigation announced that they had 5,851 recordings of phone conversations by Radia, some of which outline Radia's attempts to broker deals in relation to the 2G spectrum sale. Dutt's conversations with Radia were reported and Dutt became the face of the tapes scandal. On 30 November 2010, Dutt defended herself before a jury of her peers in a televised program on NDTV. Dutt apologised over the issue saying it was "an error of judgement" on her part, but said that she had not indulged in any wrongdoing. Magazine editor Hartosh Singh Bal said that "proximity of NDTV and Tehelka are concerned, their closeness to the Congress is no secret. Dutt's role in the Radia Tapes did not seem to point to an individual act but an institutional malaise."
Dutt has co-authored the chapter "'Nothing new?':Women as Victims" in book - Varadarajan, Siddharth (2002). Gujarat: The Making of a Tragedy. ISBN978-0143029014..
Dutt's Sunday talk show has won the most awards out of any show on Indian television, winning the Indian Television Academy award for Best Talk Show five years in a row. In 2012, the Association for International Broadcasting awarded Dutt the title of "TV Personality of the year" with the following citation: "a reporter of considerable stretch and depth, still passionate and fearless in bringing the issues closer to her viewers." Dutt was the recipient of the C H Mohammed Koya National Journalism Award in 2009. In 2008, Dutt received the Indian News Broadcasting Award for the Most Intelligent News Show Host. Dutt received the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association award for Journalist of the Year, 2007. She was awarded "Best TV News Anchor (English) for her programme "We the people" at the first Indian News Television Awards in 2007.
She has twice been named on the list of 100 "Global Leaders of Tomorrow" compiled by the World Economic Forum (2001, 2008). In 2005, she was among 50 Indians who were 35 or younger and listed for their achievements and impact on society.
In 2010 she was appointed as a member of India's National Integration Council. She was named an Asia Society Fellow in 2006 and serves on the International Advisory Council of the Asia Society.
In the 2006 Malayalam Movie Keerthi Chakra, one of the journalist character was based on Dutt. The protagonist Mohanlal gets angry for taking pictures in a sensitive war area. In an earlier incident because of the flash photography by the journalist one of the soldiers was killed.
In the 2008 movie Firaaq, a TV viewer is shown responding to Dutt's commentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots as "They [English speaking news reporters] all tell lies ... where were they when the Hindus were being killed".
In the 2010 satire Peepli Live, the character of the news anchor was modelled on Sagarika Ghose or Barkha Dutt, according to movie critic Raja Sen. Sen wrote that in the movie, the news anchor only cared about TRPs and "squealed inexplicably in English" even when her subject was Hindi-speaking central India.