Undercover journalism has no role in reporting on meetings – in private or public places – between people in power and celebrities or individuals known to have vast wealth or power, investigative journalist Tessa Mayes told journalism students at Coventry University at last week.
Probably best known for ‘Sleepers: undercover in the sex trade‘ broadcast on Channel 4 in 2001 (when she worked as a receptionist to investigate the conditions endured by many illegal sex workers in the UK), Mayes told students at the ‘Coventry Conversations’ session that ‘investigative journalism has in recent times been branded “dead” by many in the world’s media, but that was far from the truth’.
The News of the World’s Nazi sex expose of FIA president, Max Mosley, was unethical and in bad taste, Mayes said. That type of exposure was ‘just the beginning of the investigative process’, she said.
“These are people caught up in a private moment, caught during free speech. You have to approach investigative journalism in context because it is an intrusive form of gathering information.
“I think you have to look long and hard if you want to do this at the way we present the evidence. We have to get answers for the right reasons, even though objectivity has been heavily criticised in recent years,” she added.