JIM Naughtie bade farewell to the Today programme after 21 years on the flagship BBC Radio 4 show yesterday, saying it had been “one of the great privileges” to be in the presenter’s chair.
His familiar voice cracking with emotion, Naughtie paid tribute to the show’s listeners, telling them: “You are the programme.”
The programme’s Twitter account said there was “not a dry eye in the house” as Naughtie signed off for the final time.
Presenting with fellow veteran John Humphrys, Naughtie – a former Scotsman journalist – said he had been “woven into the fabric” of the show.
He said that the Today programme will continue but “it is inescapably a moment of change because you can’t sit in this chair, working with such talented and decent producers, without being woven into the fabric of the programme, which I am, with all the presenters down the years - especially Sarah (Montague), Justin (Webb) and Mishal (Husain) in recent times, as well as my old friend here with whom I started and with whom I now finish. I will be giving them my thanks.
“But all of you who listened need to be thanked too. You are the programme, thank you.”
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Naughtie will continue to appear as a special correspondent for Radio 4, a job he described as a “dream”. He told Humphrys: “It does mean that at 2.58-and-a-half that alarm will no longer go off to get me up and it will also mean, I have to say, that you will have a tidier desk, John.”
One of Naughtie’s final interviews on the show was with former prime minister Sir John Major, who told him: “I will miss you, and I think a lot of other people will in the morning.
“And I will do so because generally you have asked the right questions, mostly you have listened to the answers and also you have done it in an extraordinarily professional way so I hope as you leave you are proud of what you have done.”
Senior MP Bernard Jenkin said it was a “privilege” to be on the presenter’s final show.
Despite his vast experience, Naughtie has made the occasional on-air slip on the live show - memorably getting into an embarrassing mix-up over the name of then culture secretary Jeremy Hunt in 2010.
He accidentally turned the air blue by replacing the first letter of Mr Hunt’s surname with a “C”.
The on-air stumble sent the broadcaster into a coughing fit, and attracted a slew of e-mails from listeners, both amused and angry.