James Naughtie

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James Naughtie

James Naughtie (cropped).png
Naughtie at Harrogate History Festival
Alexander James Naughtie[1]

(1951-08-09) 9 August 1951 (age 70)[1]
Spouse(s)Eleanor Updale
Parent(s)Alexander and Isabella[1]
ShowToday programme
Station(s)BBC Radio 4
Station(s)BBC Radio 4
CountryUnited Kingdom

Alexander James Naughtie FRSE (surname pronounced /ˈnɔːxti/; born 9 August 1951) is a British radio and news presenter for the BBC. From 1994 until 2015 he was one of the main presenters of Radio 4's Today programme.

In July 2015 he announced, via the BBC, that in early 2016 he would retire from regular presenting duties on the programme and would, instead, be its 'Special Correspondent' with 'responsibility for charting the course of the constitutional changes at the heart of the UK political debate', as well as the BBC News's Books Editor, contributing a book review to the Saturday morning editions of Today.[2] In his 21-plus years on Today, Naughtie had anchored every BBC Radio UK election results programme since 1997 and had worked on every US presidential election since 1988, the BBC added.

"After 21 years, I can turn off that 3am alarm at last," the Daily Telegraph quoted Naughtie as saying.[3] He presented his last edition of Today on 16 December 2015.[citation needed]

Early life and career[edit]

James Naughtie was born to Alexander and Isabella Naughtie and brought up in Milltown of Rothiemay, near Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.[4] He was educated at Keith Grammar School, the University of Aberdeen and then Syracuse University in New York. He is a Fellow of the British-American Project.

Naughtie began his career as a journalist in 1975 at the Aberdeen Press & Journal, moving to the London offices of The Scotsman in 1977. The following year he joined the paper's Westminster staff, and became its Chief Political Correspondent. In 1981, he worked for The Washington Post as the Laurence Stern fellow on its national staff. He joined The Guardian in 1984, and became its Chief Political Correspondent in 1985.[5]

Radio presenter[edit]

In 1986, Naughtie moved into radio presenting, hosting The Week In Westminster before moving to The World At One in 1988. He has also made several radio documentaries and series and has written three books, Playing the Palace: A Westminster Collection, The Rivals: The Intimate Story of a Political Marriage, and The Accidental American: Tony Blair and the Presidency.

Naughtie has been a presenter of the televised Proms since 1992, and has also presented opera programmes such as Radio 3's Opera News. He is also the host of Radio 4's Bookclub.[6]

In 1994 he became one of the main presenters of Radio 4's Today programme. Shortly before the 2005 General Election he opened a question to Labour politician Ed Balls "If we win the election...", quickly correcting himself to say "if you win the election". The incident led to accusations of bias towards the Labour Party and a failure to be neutral. Lord Tebbit said of the incident: "How often a slip of the tongue betrays the true thoughts in the mind of the speaker. We could all see the shape of the cat in the bag, but Mr Naughtie has now let it out for all to see."[5] He has a distinctive Scottish accent which has been named as the "best voice to wake up to" in a comparative survey.[7] His practice of asking particularly long questions is sometimes noted by commentators.[8]

Throughout June, July and August 2012, and in early September 2012, he presented The New Elizabethans on Radio Four, a programme about notable people under the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. It has dealt with various famous names, including Richard Doll, Philip Larkin, Elizabeth David, Margot Fonteyn, Peter Hall, Cicely Saunders, John Lennon and Paul McCartney and Tim Berners-Lee. The final week of the programme dealt with Tony Blair, Fred Goodwin, Rupert Murdoch, Simon Cowell and finished with the Queen herself.[9]

On 16 July 2013, it was announced that Naughtie's presentational role on Today would be temporarily reduced, as he was to become a presenter of Good Morning Scotland for two days a week in the run up the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.[10][11] He returned to his usual role on Today in time for the 2015 general election.[12]

In 2016–17, Naughtie earned £150,000 – £199,999 as a BBC contributor.[13] In 2018–19, his BBC earnings were in the £170,000 – £174,999 band.[14]

Jeremy Hunt gaffe[edit]

On 6 December 2010, Naughtie was co-presenting the Today programme, and trailing the guests who would be interviewed after the 8 am news bulletin. Introducing Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, he inadvertently replaced the "H" at the beginning of "Hunt" with a "C". Choking on his words, he was clearly embarrassed by the mistake, and gave a full apology once he had recovered. However, only an hour later, another BBC presenter, Andrew Marr made the same mistake when discussing Naughtie's error.[15][16]

Awards and positions[edit]

Naughtie was named as journalist of the year at the 1984 Scottish Press Awards.[17] He was voted Sony Radio Awards Radio Personality of the Year in 1991 and Voice of the Listener & Viewer Award in 2001. He is a member of the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission and a United Kingdom advisory board member for the British-American Project, which exists to promote the British-American relationship.

Naughtie was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Stirling in 2001, and installed as its chancellor on 9 October 2008, succeeding Dame Diana Rigg when her ten-year term ended.[18]

Naughtie chaired the judges of the inaugural 2010 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine.

In 2017 Naughtie gave the Hugh Cudlipp Lecture.[19] In his speech he referred to the Trump presidency thus: "There hasn’t been in living memory in western democracy a threat to freedom of the press of the kind we see there."

Naughtie was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in March 2017.[20]

Personal life[edit]

Naughtie is married to Eleanor Updale, author of the Montmorency series of books and a former producer of The World at One. They have three children, and live in London and Edinburgh.[21]


  • Naughtie, James (2001) The Rivals: The Intimate Story of a Political Marriage, Fourth Estate, ISBN 1-84115-473-3
  • Naughtie, James (2004) The Accidental American: Tony Blair and the Presidency, Macmillan, ISBN 1-4050-5001-2
  • Naughtie, James (2007) The Making of Music, John Murray, ISBN 0-7195-6254-6
  • Naughtie, James (2012) The New Elizabethans, Collins, ISBN 0-0074-8650-2
  • Naughtie, James (2014) The Madness of July, Head of Zeus, ISBN 978-1-7818-5599-7
  • Naughtie, James (2016) Paris Spring, Head of Zeus, ISBN 978-1-7840-8021-1


  1. ^ a b c d "Debrett's - The trusted source on British social skills, etiquette and style". Debrett's.
  2. ^ James Naughtie to leave Radio 4 Today programme, BBC News, 7 July 2015. Retrieved: 9 July 2015.
  3. ^ Jim Naughtie to leave BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Anita Singh, Daily Telegraph, London, 7 July 2015. Retrieved: 9 July 2015.
  4. ^ "Naughtie, (Alexander) James, (born 9 Aug. 1951), journalist and broadcaster; Special Correspondent, BBC Radio 4, since 2016; Books Editor, BBC News, since 2016". Who's Who & Who Was Who. 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U29214.
  5. ^ a b Singh, Anita (6 December 2010). "James Naughtie: no stranger to the political gaffe" – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  6. ^ "Bookclub". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  7. ^ Jefferies, Mark (13 May 2011). "Presenter James Naughtie named as best voice to wake up to". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 16 June 2011.
  8. ^ Culbertson, Alix (7 July 2015). "Today programme's James Naughtie's best clangers - including the infamous 'Jeremy C***'".
  9. ^ "The New Elizabethans". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  10. ^ Victoria Ward "Today programme appoints Mishal Husain to replace James Naughtie", telegraph.co.uk, 16 July 2013
  11. ^ "James Naughtie joins BBC's Good Morning Scotland". BBC. 2013. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  12. ^ Jason Deans and Josh Halliday "BBC's Mishal Husain to join Today", guardian.co.uk, 16 July 2013
  13. ^ "How much the BBC pays its stars". BBC News Online. 19 July 2017.
  14. ^ "BBC pay: The 2018-19 list of star salaries". BBC News Online. 2 July 2019. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  15. ^ Adam Gabbatt and John Plunkett (6 December 2010). "James Naughtie blames Dr Spooner after renaming Jeremy Hunt". The Guardian.
  16. ^ Joe Murphy (6 December 2010). "BBC's James Naughtie and Andrew Marr make C-word slips over Jeremy Hunt". London Evening Standard.
  17. ^ "1984 press award winners". The Glasgow Herald. 18 April 1984. p. 2. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  18. ^ "Dr James Naughtie". University of Stirling. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  19. ^ Bartlett, Nicola (30 March 2017). "Trump waging 'culture war' on the free press: James Naughtie's Cudlipp Lecture". mirror. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  20. ^ "RSE Welcomes 60 New Fellows" (Press release). Royal Society of Edinburgh. 15 February 2017. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  21. ^ Tony Kane (25 August 2010). "James Naughtie: Many Hats". Time and Leisure. Retrieved 25 September 2011.

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Presenter of Today Programme
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Main presenter: The World at One
Succeeded by