Daily Mail investigation changes laws…

Daily Mail – and an investigative piece that must surely win many awards… 

sell story daily mail charity investigation

Daily Mail charity investigation made the front page…

Newspapers and journalists are so often criticised – it amazes me for example how many people go on the Daily Mail website, Mail Online, which is totally free to browse – and moan about the Daily Mail, its writing and the way it portrays a story.

Quite extraordinary given that no one forces these people read the website, let alone comment on it, and that the Daily Mail is not funded by the taxpayer – ie: it is entitled to give its opinions and present stories as it wishes…

But, unless you were involved in this ‘scam’,  I can’t imagine there were many complaints about the recent charity expose – such a well thought out and well put together investigation that the UK government, no less, is set to introduce new laws on the back of it.

I don’t know how anyone will have missed it – but in case you did – a recap. The Daily Mail sent in undercover reporters to GoGen, a call centre used by charities to reveal how they harass many of us in cold call phone calls – even when we have registered we do not want want to receive these sorts of calls on the Telephone Preference Service.

Shockingly, some of these charities – including the NSPCC, British Red Cross, Oxfam and MacMillan – were found to be using aggressive tactics to raise money. The elderly and vulnerable, including people with dementia, were particularly targeted.

As a result of the expose there is to be a review of all aspects of charity fundraising. Meanwhile, new laws will force charities to have legally binding agreements with their fundraisers committing them to showing how they will protect the vulnerable.

The Daily Mail only officially formed its investigations unit in March 2015, debuting with a pensions scandal. It is headed by Katherine Faulkner as investigations editor with Paul Bentley as deputy investigations editor and Lucy Osborne as investigations reporter, besides others.

Many readers, who often imagine national journalists work (like private investigators) as they are shown in Hollywood movies, might imagine investigations are routinely being held by newspapers. But in fact new laws introduced by the government over the past few years, have hugely curtailed investigations. For example, journalists are nowadays often not permitted to pay sources for information, even if it is in the public interest, although that might change soon.

It is easy to criticise publications for simply printing a puff from a celebrity PR – that is likely to attract lots of clicks to a website (so make money) – than invest cash in unearthing wrong doing.

But such investigations can be very costly to pursue. They can take hours of manpower and are often difficult to pursue (unlike the movies journalists cannot actually break laws to get to the truth…). Papers are businesses – people imagine they have cash to chuck around (why?) but like any organisation they have books to balance and budgets to stick to. Then so often, having written everything up and pulled in every document, right at the last minute what seems a water-tight investigation can fall down due to some minor legal reason. All that money has then been spent for no return.

And having been involved myself in a few investigations over the past 30 years of journalism, I can also say it is heartbreaking when you put in hours of work all for nothing.

It’s for this reason that I give so much credit to the Daily Mail for setting up and investing in this unit  and also truly understand just how well everyone did to actually get this piece into print.

And it must rightly be in line to win a raft of awards…

Do you have something you would like the Daily Mail to investigate? If you believe the investigations unit should examine an issue, contact me with your story in confidence.

About Alison Smith-Squire

Alison Smith-Squire is a media agent selling stories to newspapers, magazines and TV for the ordinary person. She runs website Featureworld.co.uk and online writers' ezine, sellyourstoryuk.com Find us on Google+
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