Today: April 18, 2024

One Rogue Reporter Speaks

Rich Peppiatt, the former tabloid journalist who resigned from the Daily Star and revealed all at the Leveson Inquiry, turns the tables on deceitful elements of the UK media in an hilarious dissection of his former trade. Peppiatt’s widely-acclaimed filmmaking debut premiered at Sheffield Doc/Fest and is currently screening in selected cinemas …

So Rich, give us the low-down on One Rogue Reporter. Why did you decide to make the film?
In essence because I felt it was a film that needed to be made. There was an element of going ‘I wonder if anyone is actually going to go after these bastard tabloid editors?’ and then thinking, ‘actually, sod it, why don’t I do it?” They’d taught me the skills of door-stepping and dirt-digging and I recognized the poetry, in a film narrative sense at least, of using those very skills against them. As much as I wanted to make the film to make a statement about the state of the British press, I also wanted it to be funny and accessible. It’s a comedy documentary and making sure it’s got plenty of laughs, even those at myself, was equally important.

You were quite open at the Leveson Inquiry, the judicial review into press ethics in the UK media. Did you think you were committing career suicide?
I’d already committed career suicide before I even got to Leveson! By publicly resigning from the Daily Star the previous year I was free from the shackles of having to worry about any repercussions of talking openly about my experiences. Unfortunately, a lot of journalists were only able to speak out anonymously because when you have mortgages to pay and mouths to feed it’s hard to make that leap without a safe place to land.

As a former tabloid journalist you were made to do some questionable things. What was the worst/most cringe-worthy thing you ever had to do?
I don’t like to say that I was made to do anything because the fact is no one held a gun to my head. Sometimes I made poor choices. Sometimes I lacked the courage to say no. I was existing in a newsroom culture where something like going out for the day dressed in a burkha just to see what it’d be like was just another day in the office. After a while your boundaries become skewed, but I don’t absolve myself of responsibility for my own actions. I was a bit of a shit. Actually, I still am – it’s just now I’m channelling it in the right direction; punching up not kicking down.

Do you think the press is racist or is it simply reflecting the views of their readers?
That’s probably the most common question I get asked, and it’s a chicken and egg scenario of which there’s no simple answer. I think the left-leaning papers are quite responsible about race, it’s the right-wing outlets we have a problem with – and sadly they make up 80%! It’s not even the overt racism of some front-page headlines that is most pernicious in my view, it’s the daily drip, drip of negativity toward minorities. You’ll read a story that says ‘Muslim mugger arrested” but how often have you read “Christian mugger arrested”? In certain papers people’s ethnicities are only deemed important if it helps perpetuate a corrosive narrative. With all the important work that is being done within communities to bring people together, it’s disgusting that there are newspaper owners and editors prepared to try and undo that good work merely for profit.

An impressive list of comedy, media and political figures appear in One Rogue Reporter including Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan, John Bishop, Kate Smurthwaite, Owen Jones and John Prescott. How challenging was it to get them on board to help you make the film?
For the most part everyone was keen, so it wasn’t too much of a chore. I mean, the British press is a topic all of the contributors are passionate about – it was probably more difficult getting them to shut up than to talk!

You turn the tables on some heavyweight tabloid figures. What is your favourite stunt in the film?
It has to be Kelvin MacKenzie, just because he walked onto every punch I threw. To be fair to him, there was a glimmer in his eye of begrudging respect. He knew he’d been done up like a kipper. The stunt is edited down for the purpose of the film, but one day I’d love to screen the full 20-minute uncut version in Liverpool city centre… My own little Hillsborough tribute.

How did figures such as the Daily Mail’s Paul Dacre, the MailOnline’s Martin Clarke and former Sun editor Kevin MacKenzie react to the stunts performed on them in One Rogue Reporter?
I think it can be fairly summarised as ‘they don’t like it up ‘em!’

Is there a particular media figure you would like to have performed a stunt on which you didn’t get to do? If so what was it?
That’s easy – Murdoch. We did have a look at trying something but it’s tough when he’s got a couple of thick-necked ex-Mossad types with him at all times. Plus, he’s old. Really old. It did concern me a bit that he might keel over. ‘Man Who Killed Murdoch’ wouldn’t do the film sales too much harm, but my conscience is burdened enough!

What are your views on IPSO, which has replaced the Press Complaints Commission?
An unfunny joke. In words the newspaper industry claims to be sorry for the unethical and illegal behavior of recent decades, but in actions they replace the old useless regulator with a new useless regulator different in name alone. They couldn’t even be bothered to move offices! If that’s contrition, they have a strange way of showing it.

What advice would you give to wannabe journalists?
Firstly, It’s dead easy to sell yourself down the river – but it’s far harder to swim back up again. Secondly, don’t listen to advice from me.

You have made your first film, which is being given a world VOD release on 9 December. Do you now see yourself as a filmmaker or a journalist?
I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive, far from it! Journalism is in essence the craft of telling a story, saying something new and important in an engaging and relevant manner – and that is what the best filmmakers do. For me I just want to keep telling stories in whatever form feels the best fit for what I want to say.

ONE ROGUE REPORTER is available across a range of platforms worldwide including iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Xbox 360 and GooglePlay from December 9, 2014.

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