Deborah Turness


Spot the story that’s hard to make into interesting, dramatic or exciting television.

1. It’s been reported that Saddam Hussein’s daughters plan to apply for asylum in the UK. We have new video from Baghdad showing them at a family gathering with their father.

2. Badly made car seats could be killing our kids. We have new crash-test-dummy pictures that reveal the extent of the problem.

3. The Cabinet will meet to hear Gordon Brown’s decision on the euro. But his decision and verdict on the five tests will remain a secret until Monday.

From the moment I arrive at the office, just after 8am, the biggest challenge is to work out how to make the euro story into engaging television, relevant to viewers’ lives.

A trawl of the papers proves that the best brains in Fleet Street haven’t managed to find the answer.

I have a quick chat through the running order for the Lunchtime News with the programme editor, then head into the 9.20am editorial meeting.

Once the Early Evening News and News at Ten are on course, it’s time for the weekly look ahead.

We talk about how we’ll cover the end of the Trupti Patel case (she’s bound to “walk”). We discuss bidding for Anne Diamond to do an authored piece for us and plan a VT on Sir Roy Meadow and his role in this and other cot death cases. (His motto: one cot death’s a tragedy, two suspicious, three murder.)

Back at the programme desk, John Prescott has answered our prayers. He’s given the press what no other member of the Cabinet could – two fingers to the euro. Something to liven up the euro debate.


Today’s news offers a mixture of paedophilia, Afghan hijackers and weapons of mass destruction. There’s not exactly a feel-good Friday feel to the shows so far.

Today, alongside working on the editorial agenda I’ve got a load of other work I have to get through.

The Ministry of Defence is starting its formal inquiry into the attack on our team in Basra that killed our correspondent Terry Lloyd. Our French cameraman Fred Nerac and translator Hussein Ossman are still missing.

From the day of the attack I looked after Fred’s family in Brussels and worked for several weeks on ITN’s own extensive investigation. Now it’s time to hand over the evidence we gathered to the MoD.

A rare, brief lunch then beckons (after checking out the BBC’s headlines at one o’clock) with Cristina Nicolotti, head of UK news coverage, to celebrate her recent return from maternity leave and talk about the big issues facing our newsgathering teams.

I get back for a two o’clock surprise management meeting. Mark Wood, the current chairman of ITN, is to take over as chief executive, following Stewart Purvis’s shock announcement that he plans to retire from ITN.

I then go straight into the 2.15pm Early Evening News running order meeting. Some light relief at last. Some wonderful pictures of Ali Abbas, the Iraqi boy who lost his arms, have come in from Kuwait.

I have a 5pm meeting with Mark Sammon, programme research manager upstairs at ITV Network Centre to talk about ratings and programme direction.


Editorially, the week starts with that rarest of things – a big breaking story that happened in the early hours of the morning. It’s not in the papers and is genuinely new and fresh.

Ian Huntley has attempted suicide in his prison cell. The other story of the day is that Gordon Brown is to publish his many-thousand page document on the euro at 9am. We lead with Huntley.

Our euro-planning pays off. The people of Llangollen have been using the euro for over a year. So ITV News held a referendum in the town. We placed ballot boxes in the post office and shops and held an open debate in the pub. Chris Choi’s film is followed by the results of the referendum.

Meanwhile, John Irvine, our Middle East correspondent, who was in Baghdad throughout the war, has been back to see how the city is coping. He has just arrived back in London to edit the piece. Our reporters usually edit in the field on laptop edit kits, but we want this piece to look special.

The message in his report is a new and interesting one: “Stop bashing Baghdad – it’s a place of hope and the people there have a spirit unbroken by decades of Saddam Hussein and two wars with the United States. The green shoots are already showing through.”

It is so fresh that it excites interest from GMTV, LBC and The Independent, which all ask him for interviews to hear his new view of Baghdad. After the Evening News I go to the News at Ten running order meeting and then take Johnny for dinner.


Is Beckham a lead story? Manchester United confirm they are in talks with Barcelona. It is the first time they’ve admitted it, and it’s the biggest development in the story so far. The answer, we decide, is “yes”. The Beckham family are in LA, so we get our producer there to see if she can find them, and try to speak to Joan Laporta in Spain, who’s so far saying “nada”.

Day two on Huntley’s suicide attempt, and we create a virtual reality graphic of his cell to show the conditions in which he’s kept, and film a reconstruction with tablets and teabags.

Tomorrow we’ve got a major presentation to staff to talk about programme direction, what we’re doing right, how we can improve.


On days like today, when there’s not a lot around, you always hear someone in the newsroom quote the old cliche that “the God of News will provide”. And he did.

After just 90 minutes of deliberation the Patel jury found her innocent. By News at Ten we had exclusive shots of Trupti arriving home to be greeted by champagne-popping friends. Anne Diamond came on to the show live to question Meadow’s evidence and say this case should never have gone to court in the first place. It’s so good when it all comes together.

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