The rise / death of investigative journalism
Dr Phil, an MJA member, has successfully combined a career as a doctor, one of the most trusted professions, with that of a journalist, one of the least trusted professions. He said the similarities between the two professions were the urge to get to the heart of the matter, whether that be a diagnosis or the truth.
It was Dr Phil, writing in Private Eye 20 years ago, who first detailed serious failings in children’s heart surgery in Bristol and his delight in presenting Shaun Lintern with Staff Journalist of the Year for his work in exposing problems at Stafford Hospital, was obvious.
Both pieces of investigative journalism have lead to changes, however slowly, of health services that one hopes will result in better care of patients. Dr Phil commended the MJA finalists for their ability to handle sometimes complex stories, making them not only engaging to readers and viewers, but also for the light it shone on the health services we all receive.
Contrast this to last week’s lecture on Value and Trust In The Digital Age, where former BBC Director of Global News, Richard Sambrook, said the public’s demand for a clear and simple narrative was bad news for complicated news stories.
Sambrook, now Professor of Journalism and Director of the Centre for Journalism at Cardiff, was joined on stage by Helen Boaden, Director BBC News Group and John Lloyd, Director Journalism, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. They both agreed it was difficult to get strong investigative pieces into the media. Lloyd noted that “facts don’t always command attention” and “people don’t like complexity”, which leads investigative journalism to suffer.
Good job Shaun Lintern didn’t know this when he began his investigations into Stafford Hospital.