Radio Series Honours 'Heroes' of Investigative Journalism

A radio series on the trials and tribulations of investigative journalism is to be broadcast from Tuesday, with the Sunday Herald's head of news its presenter.

The Scoop – a BBC Radio Scotland six-part series – sees Neil Mackay talk to some of the world's best known reporters, including Bob Long, about his investigations into paedophiles in Britain; Sue Lloyd Roberts, on going undercover in Burma; Paul Kenyon, on human medical experiments; Martin Dillon, on the notorious Shankill Butchers murder gang in Ulster; John Pilger, on the Killing Fields of Cambodia; and Jake Adelstein, on the Yakuza – the Japanese mafia.

The series is understood to contain some shocking and touching moments as the journalists discuss the impact of covering such challenging subjects and the effect their jobs have taken on their families and personal lives.

This is the second series of The Scoop, with Mackay having appeared as a guest in last year's version. Mackay – a launch editor with the Sunday Herald – is arguably best known for his award-winning investigations into the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the war in Iraq. He's also a BAFTA-nominated documentary filmmaker and non-fiction author. Recently, he was commissioned by the National Theatre of Scotland to turn some of his international investigations into a stage play.

When Mackay appeared on the show last year he was interviewed by TV investigative journalist, Donal McIntyre, about his naming of 'Stakeknife', the highest-ranking British army spy inside the ranks of the IRA. 

Mackay told “It was an honour to spend time with the interviewees – some of whom have been journalistic heroes of mine since I was a child. The shows are both shocking, funny, tender and honest by turns – but at their heart they attempt to unravel the psychology of what drives us to become journalists and to at times risk our lives – and even sanity – in the pursuit of truth. The levels which some of the interviewees went to nail down a story are incredible.”

Said Suzy Beaumont, the series producer: “The big challenge with a series like this is not what to keep in but what to keep out. The idea of The Scoop is to focus on one major story from a particular journalist's career – but how on earth do you select just one big scoop to talk about from the long careers of legendary investigative journalists like John Pilger, Sue Lloyd Roberts or Paul Kenyon? It becomes an embarrassment of riches but I hope the stories Neil and I have focussed on will serve to showcase some of the amazing work these pioneering guys have done in uncovering extraordinary stories from around the world.”

Adds Pennie Latin, the senior producer for the series: “The aim of The Scoop is two fold – both to re-live and remember some of the extraordinary stories which have been investigated over the years and to dip into the personal stories and psyches of the people who go to such lengths in pursuit of that big 'Scoop'. As an award winning investigative journalist himself Neil Mackay seemed the obvious choice to front the series. The respect Neil commands in the field of investigative journalism, his willingness to share his own personal experiences and insights combined with his great capacity for wit and wisdom during the interviews makes for a compelling, deeply thought-provoking and often challenging listen.

“BBC Radio Scotland's 'Conversations' are all about just that – compelling, thought-provoking, often very personal stories which leave you coming away richer for having given up half an hour of your life. Hopefully, listening to The Scoop will make you feel just that.”

Last month, allmediascotland reported that a four-part series about investigative journalism is to be broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland by Eamonn O'Neill, Programme Director of Strathclyde University's MSc in Investigative Journalism.

The Scoop is being broadcast from Tuesday at 2.05pm (repeated on Sunday afternoons at 4.32pm) and will available to listen again at for seven days following the first broadcast.