'If only we'd said that Bush would be the winner ...'

As a tumultuous 2004 draws to a close, we ask leading journalists for their media moment of the year - and to pick out a rival's story that they wish they'd had
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The Independent Online

Chris Cramer, Director, CNN International

Moment: The school siege at Beslan. It took TV news and the viewer into a new and frightening reality. No longer do terrorists just check their bombs and guns before they attack. They now review the media plan, check the camera equipment and their cell phones. It was a sickening and tragic event for those involved and a sobering moment for the media.

Story: The Abu Ghraib prison pictures. A monumental story that will haunt not just the United States military but the coalition in the years to come. It was the classic journalism scoop [for The New Yorker]; good research, impeccable contacts, hard evidence, compelling pictures and a topical story.

Peter Wilby, Editor, 'New Statesman'

Moment: The revelation of Blunkett's affair. The gob-smacking moment of the decade, never mind the year. Here was a blind man having a whale of a time with someone else's wife and we, the media, not only sighted but supposedly farsighted, missed it for years. It wasn't even media gossip, as Boris and Petronella had long been.I even have a family member who works in that Peak District village where he and Kimberly went every weekend. A poignant and humbling moment for us more than him, in fact, I can imagine those eyes twinkling now (yes, they can and do) and saying, as did the man in John Cowper Powys's Wolf Solent, "I've had a happy life", and revelling as he sinks into his political grave in how he fooled us all.

Story: Well, since it's every editor's ambition to bring down a minister, I wish a member of the New Statesman staff could have gritted their teeth and had a scandalous affair (i.e. either or both married) with a New Labour minister. Alas, our employees are too fastidious.

Roger Alton, Editor, 'The Observer'

Moment: Too many to choose, mostly departures, all live on TV: Greg Dyke, Piers Morgan, and David Blunkett. Watching a blind man weep on live TV is extremely chastening, and should make us all pause. Boris pursued around Liverpool on his personal Day of Atonement was a joy. And assorted pollsters and experts calling it for Kerry at 2am was a bracing reminder of how we can all get it wrong. Launch of the year was probably Nuts, which spotted a gap in the market for a weekly men's magazine and exploited it with ruthless energy and skill.

Story: Best scoops were the Abu Ghraib pictures in The New Yorker, which will reverberate down the years, The Sunday Times mysterious gongs leaks, and a series of very spicy exposés in Andy Coulson's vigorous News of the World, especially of course the Blunkett affair.

Jane Johnson, Editor, 'Closer'

Moment: The resignation of David Blunkett. Who would have thought that the moralistic, steely Home Secretary would have come over all Mills & Boon and fallen so deeply and romantically for a married woman? He didn't seem the type to let his heart rule his head.

Story: The Rebecca Loos story in April. Posh and Becks appeared to have the perfect marriage until their glamorous PA did a News of the World kiss-and-tell, claiming Beckham had had a fling with her. Despite Becks's denial, it changed the nation's view of Britain's most famous couple.

Jeremy Vine, Presenter, BBC Radio 2

Moment: The resignation of David Blunkett. Because of the extraordinary interview he gave Elinor Goodman on Channel 4 News; blowing apart the nonsense that politics is a purely professional business and can be screened off from whatever else is happening in someone's life. He was crying throughout and talking about the "little boy", his son. I've never seen a political interview like it.

Story: "Manchester United Matchday Suicide Plot" in The Star and The Sun. No, on second thoughts, not, because it wasn't true, like a number of the supposed plots that were uncovered during the year - "Hijacked Planes to Hit Canary Wharf" in the Mail was another. It raised more questions about the source than the story. The power of nightmares?

Rod Liddle, Associate editor, 'The Spectator'

Moment: Greg Dyke standing in the foyer of Broadcasting House having been forced out of his job by an establishment coup comprised of Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, Lord Ryder, Sarah Hogg and the even more wretched Lord Hutton. Dyke made the BBC a good place to work and encouraged journalistic bravery. It did for him.

Story: Earlier this year, the Guardian columnist David Aaronovitch scooped a great story. He mused upon his long-standing support for the war against Iraq. "Was I right to have supported this war?" he asked himself and, over the course of twelve hundred words, concluded that he was indeed right. I wish I had possessed the perspicacity to have asked of him such a crucial question. In the middle of next year I intend to write 1,200 words on why David was right to have supported the war in Iraq and I will pretend that it was all my idea. Other than that, Antony Barnett at The Observer has done an excellent job on the British government's involvement in the coup against Equatorial Guinea. He has yet to write a piece asking himself if he's right about his reports, so he misses out on the top spot.

Sarah Sands, Deputy editor, 'Daily Telegraph'

Moment: First, the Beslan siege for the searing poignancy of the first images of children running out of their school wearing only pants. Second, in a small, delightful way the invasion by the hunt protesters of the Chamber. It was funny to see a powerful institution in blind panic over a few boys in T-shirts. There was a St Trinian's quality to it. Third, David Blunkett's Shakespearean resignation speech, power draining from him along with his tears. It was the performance of the year. Fourth, the disbelieving reaction from British journalists when they realised that not only had George Bush won but The Guardian may have played a part in getting the voters out for him.

Story: We have had some terrific ones of our own, including Michael Smith's leaked Foreign Office documents which warned Blair of the consequences of the Iraq war and made clear that the decision had been made well before the arguments for it were advanced in Parliament. Scoops I envied included the Sunday Telegraph's revelation about Blunkett fast-tracking the nanny's visa. And I guess it has been a bad year all round for fairy-tale marriages. The insights into the marriage of David and Victoria Beckham courtesy of The Sun and News of the World have been much discussed in our household, because of football fan children. Janet Street-Porter's account of the jungle in The Independent on Sunday was a bit of a must-read for me.

Peter Barron, Editor, 'Newsnight'

Moment: The most extraordinary and devastating was watching Lord Hutton's press conference with BBC staff and gradually realising it was Government 29, BBC 0. The sight of Greg Dyke being mobbed outside Television Centre was the most memorable event I witnessed in the flesh.

Story: On 2 November I wish we'd said: you're all wrong. Bush will win.

Paul Merrill, Editor, 'Zoo'

Moment: Signing Mo Mowlam to be our sex agony aunt. And subsequently realising her copy was as blunt and in-yer-face as our other sexpert, Jodie Marsh.

Story: The News of the World's Wayne Rooney granny brothel story. Football plus sex plus funny equals perfect Zoo story.

Roger Mosey, Editor, BBC Television News

Moment: John Kerry "reporting for duty" at the Democrat Convention. It shows brilliantly the double-edged nature of modern media: the soundbite that's applauded at the time, but then becomes an albatross round the candidate's neck. Almost every time the Swift Boat Veterans' story got airtime, the Boston salute was replayed - and it underlined the weakness of Kerry as a campaigner compared with Bush's lethal effectiveness.

Story: The abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib. The story dominated the worldwide news agenda and underlined that all governments and administrations have an obligation to treat people with humanity.

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