Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Masterclass in Investigative Reporting

It really is worth watching Michael Crick's Dispatches report in full.  It is an admirable example of the grind and virtues of good investigative reporting.  What makes Crick such a good reporter - and often a very watchable one too - is his tenacity.  Most politicians dread being door-stepped by him because he will insist on asking them awkward questions, and then keep on asking them when they don't reply.  He also clearly values the truth.  Long after the print press had finished with the Mitchell story and determined that the former chief whip was guilty as charged, Crick goes back to the case and produces the less popular, but more damning case that Mitchell was stitched up.

Crick's report exposes potential lies in the police record of events, a witness who lied in an email about being present, and a Police Federation spokesman from West Mercia who was distinctly economical with the truth in his statements about a meeting with Mitchell.  More alarming from a government point of view, he exposes a No. 10 investigation that seems to have limped weakly on to conclude that the police were right, and failed to find any issue with the damning email sent to Deputy Chief Whip John Randall. Along the way, we have a supine print press all too keen to publish a police version of events that was never subjected to criticism or questioning, and to damn an unpopular minister.

It's a pretty wretched record all round.  You can't help but have sympathy for the wreckage faced by Andrew Mitchell built as it was on a car-crash of lies.  And you can't help but admire the way in which Mr. Crick pursued a case that had become distinctly 'non-sexy' in media terms.  It isn't the voluble and whinging print media who are guarding freedoms and asking the questions that others won't.  It's broadcast journalists like Mr. Crick, of whom there are too few in either media.

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