It’s 3.30am. An alarm trills in the master bedroom of a modest Victorian terrace in Balham, south London, and is instantly silenced. BBC Breakfast newsreader Susanna Reid springs out of bed.
Tip-toeing to the bathroom so as not to disturb her partner Dominic and their three sons – Sam, 9, Finn, 8, Jack, 6 – she washes, dresses and is out the door in ten minutes, where a taxi awaits to whisk her to Television Centre.
“It doesn’t feel that much of a wrench, because I started this job after I’d had my first baby,” explains Reid. “So it felt perfectly natural to be getting out of bed at all times of night. This is just another breastfeed.”
At the behest of Lord Sugar, a bleary-eyed RT is shadowing his favourite newsreader. By 4am we’re in the newsroom and in need of sustenance. Not Reid: “I don’t normally eat breakfast until I come home. But at the moment, I’m training for the marathon so I’ll eat porridge and a banana during the morning and run home from work [a mere eight miles]. I’d love it if Lord Sugar sponsored me – his fiver would definitely help…”
She doesn’t consume so much as a cup of tea until her co-presenter Charlie Stayt arrives at 7am, an hour into the programme. Instead it’s straight into an editorial meeting to continue the extensive briefing of the night before.
RT has his lordship’s brief. “Lord Sugar did once say he and his wife watched Breakfast while they have their cup of tea in bed,” says Reid, bemused she’s been singled out. What the master of The Apprentice would like to know is whether Reid possesses different faces for different news stories? Does she practise them?
“There is no practising of faces,” she says, although she admits to finding some stories more of a strain. “If there has been a death in the family, particularly of a child or parent, I find those interviews can be very affecting. You try and keep your journalistic head on but no human being can fail to be affected by some of the things that you hear and have to report on. Sometimes you have to take a lot of deep breaths.”
Being a BBC Breakfast presenter evidently isn’t for the faint-hearted and it’s about to become more gruelling still. When the show moves to Salford next month, Reid will follow, stepping into Sian Williams’s shoes to become the main female anchor. She’s unwilling to uproot her family, so plans to commute.
“I’ll go Sunday night, work on Monday, come back Monday morning, stay Monday afternoon, go back Monday night…” Reid trails off, as if exhausted by the explanation. “I’m not a very good planner but that means I’m not a big panicker because I don’t worry what’s going to happen. I just hope it works out.”
At 5am it’s into the make-up room. Outside the studio, she confesses to being less chic: “The rest of the time it’s jeans and scruffy T-shirts. I don’t dress up and I don’t wear make-up. When I collect the kids from school on Friday afternoon, people think a different woman has come to pick up the kids. They simply do not recognise me.”
For her first-ever shift, Reid had just five minutes to prepare. At the time she was working as a late reporter on BBC News 24 – as it was called then – and was drafted in as emergency cover when a newsreader failed to show.
“Ten minutes in, we’d got into a bit of a rhythm and I said as much to the producer,” she recalls, laughing at the memory. “‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘but it would be great if you could take your coat off.’ It had been so last-minute I’d forgotten to!”
Since then, her wardrobe has caused raised eyebrows for different reasons. Ten minutes before she’s due on air, she suddenly swaps her necklace – “too distracting” – and searches futilely for a spare T-shirt to wear under her dress. “People seem to be shocked that women have breasts. There’ll be complaints about the fact that there is literally a shadow showing…”
Reid’s caution is understandable. Inadvertently revealing a little too much cleavage and leg from time to time has won her a legion of devotees who regularly declare their ardour on Twitter and internet forums.
Impatient of anything that gets in the way of a job she adores and takes very seriously, Reid claims to pay scant attention, but is pragmatic: “People are always going to talk about what women wear on TV. It’s a fact of life.”
5.59 am: Reid stashes her can of hairspray and the nail varnish she’s been hastily applying under the desk, and smiles at the six unmanned cameras that are her only company in the cavernous studio. “Good morning. Welcome to Breakfast from BBC News with me, Susanna Reid…”