My Greatest Mistake: Samira Ahmed, presenter, Channel 4 News

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The Independent Online

It was October 1992, and I had a three-month contract as a reporter for BBC national radio news. It was my first job. I was the late-duty reporter, alone at Broadcasting House at 10pm, when the security alert came through: a taxi had been hijacked and parked on Whitehall. The police thought there was an IRA bomb inside, and it was a big story.

I thought it could be my "Kate Adie moment" - my Iranian-embassy siege - and I was very nervous. I met up with my radio engineer, who was in a van on the Embankment, and then went off to find out what was going on. A police superintendent came out to explain. By then it was 11.30pm, and I had to file for the midnight news. I went back to the Embankment, to where the radio van had been parked - only to find it wasn't there. I spent the next 20 minutes desperately looking for it.

When I tracked the van down, it was 11.50pm, and a reporter from Radio 2 was inside, filing her story. When my chance came, I was totally out of breath and hadn't even got my thoughts together for filing. I was dry and in a panic.

I began to try to ad-lib a voice track. After a couple of minutes of false starts, I knew I was in trouble. Other people thought so, too. I was interrupted mid-flow by a voice from back at base: "I don't think this is going to work."

Then the Radio 4 midnight-news editor said: "I think we will just go with the other reporter's piece."

It was so awful. I was 24, and I thought they would not renew my contract. In my diary for that time, I was able to refer to it only as "The Bad Incident".

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