Good investigative journalism needs time for research, checking and double-checking facts and teamwork. BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight programme has been going for forty years. To mark the occasion the Corporation devoted a day at its Blackstaff studio normally used for the Nolan show to discuss why investigative journalism matters and to consider its future.
I did not attend the first session which included on the panel Senator Susan O’Keeffe, Michael Crick, and Freedom of Information specialist and journalism Professor Heather Brooke. Her (London) City University colleague Professor George Brock also contributed to the seminar.
The lunchtime session was chaired by RTÉ presenter Miriam O’Callaghan. Her guests included John Sweeney of Panorama, Sue Lloyd-Roberts and Stacey Dooley, who presents documentaries on BBC THREE. The latter gave us an insight into what it was like trying to make a programme in an area along the border in Mexico controlled by gangs.
Many of the interesting insights into the world of investigative television reporting and the changes that have taken place came in the final session chaired by Salford Professor Steve Hewlett, a BBC Radio 4 presenter. The panellists included Roger Bolton, Darragh MacIntyre, and John Ware, who has done several investigations about Northern Ireland, the latest being on the activities of the British Army unit known as the Military Reaction Force in the 1970s. It was broadcast by the BBC last November.