The Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD
Saturday 16 April 2016
During the latter decades of the nineteenth century, the newspaper-reading public both sides of the Atlantic was gripped by two shocking exposés: in 1885, W.T. Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, set out to reveal the extent of child prostitution in the East End of London by attempting to infiltrate this dark underworld through ‘purchasing’ a 13-year-old girl; in New York, a young journalist named Nellie Bly feigned madness to get herself admitted to an asylum in order to expose horrifying cruelty towards patients. Almost a century later, ‘fly-on-the-wall’ filming techniques were used to reveal the traumatic questioning of a rape victim by the Thames Valley Police. And, in 2011, Panorama exposed abuse filmed with a hidden camera in the Winterbourne View Hospital for people with learning disabilities.
In this half-day workshop, cultural historians and media practitioners explored how ideas of authority and ‘truth’ are embodied in both the person recording the abuse and the means or medium through which it is exposed. How do the personality, performance and skill of the reporter affect the degree to which revelations of abuse influence public opinion and government policy? How have specific methods and technologies facilitated covert reporting in the past? What might this tell us about future practices?
Joanna Bourke, Birkbeck, University of London
Helena Goodwyn, Queen Mary, University of London
Joe Plomin, Panorama, BBC
Matthew Rubery, Queen Mary, University of London
Listen to the podcast
Introductions (Louise Hide and Emma Sandon)
Presentations: Helena Goodwyn, Matthew Rubery, Joanna Bourke, Joe Plomin.
Organised by the Department of History, Classics & Archaeology, Birkbeck (Louise Hide, Joanna Bourke and Ana Antic) and the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image (Emma Sandon)
Funded by the Birkbeck Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund and the Wellcome Trust.