BY ANDREW M BROWN
THE CATHOLIC presenter of the BBC Today programme Ed Stourton has said he only heard of his sacking from the programme when a Sunday newspaper journalist told him.
He said the BBC had treated him worse for "10 years' unblemished service" than the disgraced Jonathan Ross who was suspended for making lewd remarks to a 78 Last week the corporation announced that Stourton, 51, who contributed to The Catholic Herald last month, would be leaving Today to work on other projects "within the BBC family". But Mr Stourton said he had "no ideawhat these might be.
The BBC said Mr Stourton would be replaced by Justin Webb, currently North American editor. Mr Webb was considered to have performed effectively as the main presenter of the BBC's election coverage. He said: "There isn't a more challenging job in British broadcasting." Mr Stourton, who presented Today for 10 years, said he "felt a bit winded" to be told by the editor that he was no longer needed.
The broadcaster spent last week in Rome recording an interview with Cardinal Cormac MurphyO'Connor for use on Today on December 30 when the Cardinal will be guest-editing the programme. They visited various sites in Rome that held special significance for the Cardinal such as the English College, where the Cardinal studied and was rector, and his titular Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.
He said: "I was completely unprepared for it. A newspaper journalist asked me on Thursday whether rumours of my departure were true and. when I checked in with my editor. I found out they were. At the time. I was standing in the car park of the Majestic Hotel in Harrogate. Not a great way to find out. Today presenters don't get sacked most of them leave when they retire or die.
'I was expecting to do Today for years to come and had invested my professional energies into it. Some of my family have pointed out the contrast between what happened to Jonathan Ross over his remarks and what happened to me for 10 years' unblemished service to the BBC. He was suspended, I was sacked."
His fellow presenters sent their support. "My colleagues hadn't known either," Mr Stourton said.
Before presenting Today Mr Stourton presented the BBC One O'Clock News. He is descended from the 19th Baron Stourton. He regularly presents Sunday on Radio Four and A Year in the Arab Israeli Crisis is going out on Radio 4 and the World Service. Mr Stourton's BBC2 series Absolute Truth became a book.
Other books by Mr Stourton include John Paul II: Man of History (2007), In the Footsteps of Sr Paul (2005) and his latest It's a PC World: What It Means to Live in a Land Gone Politically Correct. In 2006 he appeared on Mastermind on BBC One. His specialist subject was John Paul II. He scored a total of 28, including 11 for general knowledge.