James Naughtie to quit Radio 4 Today programme

AFTER 21 years of setting his alarm for 3am, broadcaster James Naughtie is finally getting a lie-in.

Naughtie will leave the show in January. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The veteran presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme announced yesterday that he is leaving the show in January.

The former Scotsman journalist will become a special correspondent for Radio 4, covering next year’s Holyrood elections as well as the presidential elections in France and the United States.

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He will also remain books editor for Radio 4’s flagship current affairs show and appear every Saturday in a book review slot.

Naughtie took a break from the Today programme last year to cover the Scottish independence referendum for BBC radio.

Yesterday he said he was “thrilled” with the move.

He said: “It was exciting to discover that the BBC and I had the same idea about what I should do next. I’m thrilled to be moving from one dream job to another, and working with the programmes across Radio 4 – including Today – that I love and have known for so long. I can’t think of a more invigorating challenge. And after 21 years, I can turn off that 3am alarm at last.”

Jamie Angus, the editor of the Radio 4 show, said it would be “strange to contemplate” the programme without him.

He said: “Usually arriving at around 4am in a burst of newspapers, weapons-grade gossip – possibly involving the previous evening spent at the theatre or the opera – and always a slew of ideas of how to take that morning’s programme forward, Jim was always a Today night-editor’s dream.

“Out of the office and on the road, Jim was in his element. Insatiably curious and always charming, Jim has a knack of grabbing interviews in a corridor or lift you never thought you’d ever get.

“And all of it anchored by his ability as a writer for radio, second to none, always able to conjure up for the audience a sense of place – a US convention, a party conference, moving into Kosovo in a Land Rover, all of it rendered vividly for a generation of Today listeners.”

Yesterday, Radio 4 news reader Corrie Corfield tweeted: “I’ll miss Jim in the studio. He’s chaotically charming. A lovely man and brilliant at those election special ‘all-nighters’.”

Born in Milltown of Rothiemay, near Huntly, Aberdeenshire, to teacher parents, Naughtie honed his interrogative skills as a newspaper journalist.

After studying at Aberdeen University and then Syracuse University in New York, he began his career as a reporter on the Aberdeen Press and Journal, moving swiftly to The Scotsman’s London office, where he was promoted to chief political correspondent, and then the Guardian, via a stint on the Washington Post courtesy of the Laurence Sterne fellowship.

He first joined the Today programme in 1994 following the death of Brian Redhead and has interviewed US presidents and every prime minister from Margaret Thatcher onwards. He hit the headlines five years ago when he made an embarrassing verbal slip over the name of then Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and accidentally replaced the first letter of his surname with a “C”.

BBC director-general Tony Hall paid tribute to the broadcaster he said had been “the emotional heart” of the show.

He said: “Above all he’s a writer and reporter at heart – he can bring to life a vivid scene on the radio better than anyone.

“I’m delighted that on many of the biggest news stories of 2016 and beyond, Jim will continue to be at the heart of our coverage.”