MacIntyre breaks down after being mugged in Brixton
BBC undercover journalist Donal MacIntyre defended the methods used in his new investigative series and called on fellow journalists to be "a little more supportive of each other".
MacIntyre, whose controversial tactics and "personality-led" programmes have come under fire from critics, defended the first programme of the MacIntyre Investigates series in which he set himself up to be robbed in Brixton.
"On the face of it, it was a very crass and crude experiment, but we did it because we wanted to find out where stolen goods go," said MacIntyre. "It wasn’t entrapment, but it was a unique and unusual way of showing that if you buy stolen goods then you are fuelling crime and you can’t disassociate yourself from that. I could have written an article on the subject for 3,000 people and that’s fine. But it’s not any better and it’s not any worse to do it this way." Speaking at a reception for a Reuters Foundation writing international news course, the journalist added that he believed there would be less criticism of his methods if he worked on programmes like Panorama or ITV’s now-defunct World in Action.
"It’s because we are doing it on BBC1 that people have so much to say about it," he said.
But he also claimed that competitiveness among journalists was behind much of the criticism levelled against his work.
"Just because another person gets the story doesn’t mean they did a bad job of it," said MacIntyre. "People are too quick to slag them off rather than think that there are many more ways of telling a story than we are used to. By all means they should be competitive but I think we have more to gain by being supportive of each other than by being critical of each other."
The 1999 series, MacIntyre Undercover, led to the imprisonment of two football hooligans, but also to legal action by the Elite model agency over allegations about the treatment of girls who worked for it and a legal wrangle with police over allegations of abuse in a Kent care home.
MacIntyre, who said he had received "fantastic support" from the BBC, admitted that some of the crew who worked on the first series have had to go into hiding with their families. But he added that the risks he faced were often "over-inflated".
"People like Jeremy Bowen and others working in war zones are taking a much more long-term risk than I do really," he said. "We should reflect more on the dangers faced by fellow journalists in war zones on a daily basis, but the press has this fascination with what we do and they tend to over-inflate the dangers we face because we are in the public eye."
by Julie Tomlin