Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Where are Scotland's investigative journalists?

[What follows is excerpted from an article headlined Scottish newspapers accused of shirking investigative duties that was published in the Sunday Herald on this date in 2008:]

When readers are asked what they want more of in newspapers the answer is often great, jaw-dropping scoops. Yet investigative reporting - the discipline behind many such stories - is increasingly seen by many newspaper executives as too expensive to bother with.
This is certainly the view of Professor Hans Köchler, the former UN monitor of the Lockerbie trial, who has attacked the Scottish media for its coverage of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi's continuing appeals against his conviction.
Köchler believes Scottish journalists are becoming unwilling to question the establishment version of events and work under editors and executives who refuse to finance proper reporting. He says he has a list of publications and journalists he believes have failed to do their jobs properly, which he may seek to publish at a later date.
Says Köchler: "As far as Lockerbie is concerned I can't understand why more isn't being done by the European country that was most concerned with it. There is a lot at stake: the rule of law, security, the role of international terrorism. Why isn't somebody trying to find out why the authorities are now trying to withhold evidence and delaying everything?"
In an earlier letter to veteran campaigner Robbie the Pict (...), in which Köchler raised the issue of a potential media blackout, he simply wrote: "Where are Scotland's investigative journalists?"
Köchler claims that editors reduced coverage under establishment pressure. Some journalists closely related to the story argue that the real reason why Lockerbie is off the agenda is because people are tired of it, but Köchler claims it is a symptom of a wider problem that cuts across the profession. (...)
In Scotland there are no dedicated investigative teams nowadays, although most papers, especially the Sundays, will allow reporters to go off-diary if they can convince their editors they are onto something interesting. This has resulted in some notable stories including, according to O'Neill, the "forensic" work done by Sunday Herald Scottish political editor Paul Hutcheon when he broke the undeclared donations story that eventually led to Wendy Alexander's resignation. (...)
BBC lifer Marcus Ryder was appointed head of BBC Scotland's investigative unit in September last year. He has a 17-strong investigative team to work with at Pacific Quay, producing radio and television, including an increasing number of episodes of Panorama.
Ryder is adamant that investigative work is crucial to all journalism, across all Scottish media types. He says the key to success is the people: "It's all to do with talent. If you invest in journalists then you get good stories."
But Harry Reid, the former Herald editor and author of Deadline: A History Of The Scottish Press, warns against too much hype. He says the history of investigative journalism is filled with teams who failed to come up with enough scoops to justify their existence and succeeded only in annoying colleagues by being a "newspaper within a newspaper".
"When I was at the Sunday Standard the defunct liberal broadsheet we had an investigative team made up of Roddy Forsyth, George Hulme and David Scott. All great journalists but, for some reason or another, they did not produce one outstanding story," he says.
While this may be fair comment, few would argue that Scottish journalism is ill-equipped to dig out the juiciest stories in the country.

1 comment:

  1. In the Lockerbie case you don't even need much investigation.
    The headlines are everywhere, too numerous to mention.

    The press is business and walking a fine line.