The trustees of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism have appointed Christopher Hird to be its new managing editor.
Hird has had a long and distinguished career in investigative journalism and documentary filmmaking. He is one of the leading exponents of the documentary feature as an effective means of communicating ideas to the broadest possible audience.
The trustees feel he is particularly well placed to lead the Bureau through its next stage of development and build on the organisation’s reputation for thorough, evidence-based investigative journalism.
During its first three years, the Bureau has won a number of major awards for its journalism and its work has featured widely in the national press and media. Earlier this week former Bureau reporter Emma Slater won young journalist of the year at the British Journalism Awards for investigations she pursued while at the Bureau.
The announcement follows the resignation last month of Iain Overton, the Bureau’s first editor, after the Bureau was criticised for its part in a BBC Newsnight programme about child abuse in north Wales that led to false imputations against Lord McAlpine.
Following a thorough review, the Bureau’s trustees concluded: ‘The Bureau was not itself directly responsible for the content of the programme, which was at all times controlled, edited and lawyered by the BBC.’
However the Trustees accepted that a serious mistake was made in agreeing to the secondment of a member of its staff to the BBC, without retaining the necessary degree of editorial control. The trustees are in the process of tightening editorial and managerial controls to ensure similar mistakes are not made again.
Christopher Hird will join the Bureau next week. He began his career as a print journalist working on the Economist, the Daily Mail, the New Statesman, where he was deputy editor, and the Sunday Times, where he was editor of Insight.
He started in television in 1983 as a reporter on Channel Four’s current affairs programme Diverse Reports, and in 1986 co-founded FulcrumTV, of which he was joint managing director.
In 2008 he founded production company Dartmouth Films, which specialises in making issue-based documentaries and has pioneered new models of funding and distribution. It is best known for its film on intensive fishing, End of the Line.
Its latest film Fire in the Blood, the story of big pharma’s attempts to stop generic anti-AIDS medicines getting to Africa, has just been selected for the Sundance Film Festival and will be in UK cinemas next year.
Hird was also executive producer of Black Gold, a powerful film about coffee farmers in Ethiopia.
James Lee, chairman of the trustees, said: ‘We are absolutely delighted to have Christo as our new editor. He has exactly the right combination of experience, skills and relationships that we need as we move ahead.’
Hird said: ‘This is going to be a great challenge, about which I am tremendously excited. I am convinced that the Bureau serves a very real need in today’s media world and that it can make an important contribution to the all-important work of investigative journalism.’