It was five o'clock and we were all gathering for our meeting with the Editor. This meeting was crucial to the production of Today, BBC Radio 4's flagship news programme. It was always held very secretly so that none of the other BBC news programmes, produced out of the same large newsroom, could hear what we had planned for the next day's programme. Losing a top story to a competitor news organization was one thing. Losing a top story to a competitor programme in your own organization was unforgivable.
We had even, when we had a particularly juicy scoop, gone so far as to mislead other programmes about what our lead story was going to be by writing a total fabrication on our office whiteboard where we worked out the running order of the items on the show.
On this particular day, about 12 or 13 years ago, I had tried but failed to substantiate a series of stories I was working on. The job of a News Researcher in radio includes generating story ideas for the next day's programme and then trying to get someone in authority to come on the air, live, and speak about that story. Fingers crossed they get themselves in a pickle and say something inadvisable, which can then be repeated on the news bulletins throughout the day. That's how you really make your reputation and get promoted to Producer.
However, on this day, every story I was working on turned out to be untrue or the individual ...