Tag Archives: Tessa Mayes

NOTW’s reporting on Max Mosley was out of context and unethical, says undercover reporter

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.

Finding the ‘new new journalism’

Last night’s debate at LSE entitled ‘The New New Journalism’ was definitely a head scratcher and rather than try and analyse the back and forth in one post, here are some key points made by the speakers:

Tessa Mayes (campaigning investigative journalist): “We’re in danger within journalism of losing and forgetting what it is that we do and what it is that we need journalism to do in society. Journalists are simply becoming information managers.”

From the audience: “Information must be the master of the technology and not the other way round.”

Bill Thompson (journalist, commentator and contributor to the BBC’s technology section): “There is nothing at all essential, vital or needed about journalism. As technology develops, roles for editor and journalists will still exist, but the relationship will bear no resemblance to what they are now.”

Bill Thompson: said he (optimistically) hopes that the demand for original content will reassert the balance between this type of material and content being ‘shifted’ between media.

Julia Whitney (head of design and user experience for news, sport and weather at the BBC): Design of media sites, news sites, online communities ‘has everything to do with how meaning is generated’.

In my view the two most valid points made during the conversation were:

Bill Thompson’s suggestion that ultimately society doesn’t need journalism and journalists should be wary of the fact that they don’t exist in a protected, god-given role.

Secondly, Suw Charman-Anderson’s view from the audience on management issues, which she eloquently expresses on her blog:

“I made this point at the very end of the evening, that much of the problem in news organisations is down to broken management structures and dysfunctional management techniques. Bad decisions are being made by people unwilling to listen to those with the knowledge, but who are several paygrades down the food chain. Good journalists do not always make good managers and, ironically, are not always the best communicators.”

Your thoughts are welcome.