Bureau of Investigative Journalism

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Bureau of Investigative Journalism
Founded April 2010
Type Nonprofit
Focus Investigative Journalism
Key people
Rachel Oldroyd, Managing Editor
Ted Jeory, Deputy Editor
Website thebureauinvestigates.com

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (typically abbreviated to TBIJ or 'the Bureau') is a nonprofit news organisation based in London. It was founded in 2010 to pursue investigations it deems to be in the public interest, funded through philanthropy.[1] Though the Bureau publishes on its own website, it typically acts more like a news agency, working in collaboration with partner organisations to distribute stories.[2] Since its founding it has collaborated with Newsnight, Panorama and File on 4 at the BBC, Channel 4 News and Dispatches, as well as the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, and The Sunday Times, among others.[3] Its managing editor is Rachel Oldroyd.[4]


The Bureau was established in 2010 by former Sunday Times reporter Elaine Potter, who worked on exposing the Thalidomide scandal, and her husband David Potter, who founded software company Psion. Elaine cites one of her inspirations being the creation two years previous of ProPublica, a nonprofit organisation based in New York with a similar remit, also funded philanthropically.[5]

Initial funding for the project came from the Potters' charitable foundation, who committed £2 million.[6] Additional support came in the forms of subsidised office space from City University[7] as well as software tools and training from Google.[6]

In the run-up to launch Stephen Grey was acting editor[8] until the appointment of Iain Overton as its first permanent managing editor.[9]

In November 2012 Overton resigned in the wake of a Newsnight programme which reported false claims that a senior Conservative politician was a paedophile. Overton had seconded Bureau reporter Angus Stickler to the BBC to work on the story, and promoted the broadcast on Twitter. Stickler also later resigned.[10]

Former Sunday Times insight editor Christopher Hird was named as the new managing editor in December 2012.[11] Rachel Oldroyd, then deputy editor, succeeded Hird in 2014,[4] appointing Sunday Express home affairs editor Ted Jeory into her old position in 2015.[12]

Notable investigations[edit]

The following is a list of Bureau stories that are known to have received awards or are otherwise noteworthy.

Iraq war logs[edit]

The Iraq war logs were 391,832 classified United States Army field reports leaked to WikiLeaks,[13] who shared them with a number of news organisations including the Bureau before publishing them online in their entirety.[14] The Bureau worked with Al Jazeera[15] and Channel 4[16] to analyse the documents which detail torture, summary executions, and war crimes carried out by US forces.[17]

The Bureau's reporting received an Amnesty International Media Award.[18]

Europe's missing millions[edit]

An investigation in collaboration with the Financial Times into how the European Union structural funds were used, and whether the policy was achieving what it set out to do.[19] It found that millions of euros were being siphoned off by organised crime syndicates, and that money was being used to support multinational corporations instead of small and medium-sized businesses, including help to finance a British American Tobacco cigarette factory.[19]

The Bureau co-produced an episode of File on 4 with the BBC on the story[20] which received the UACES Reporting Europe Prize.[21]

Lobbying's hidden influence[edit]

Public relations firm Bell Pottinger were the centre of a Bureau covert filming operation published in The Independent. In the footage senior executives claim that they can get UK prime minister David Cameron to speak to the Chinese premier on behalf of one of their clients within 24 hours, and that they have a team which "sorts" negative Wikipedia coverage.[22]

Bell Pottinger subsequently filed a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission about the investigation, which was rejected.[23]

Deaths in police custody[edit]

An investigation in collaboration with The Independent found that the number of people who had died after being forcibly restrained whilst in police custody was higher than official figures showed. This was due to the exclusion of anyone who had died following restraint but had not at that point been formally arrested.[24] The Bureau also reported their findings with the BBC in an episode of File on 4.[25]

The story won an Amnesty International Media Award.[26]

Covert drone war[edit]

The Bureau has tracked drone strike casualties in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia from 2004 onwards. In Yemen and Somalia these figures also include victims of drone strikes, airstrikes, missile attacks and ground operations. Unlike other organisations that track such deaths, the Bureau focuses on identifying non-militant deaths, including children.[27] The data from this research is published online.[28]

Findings have included that rescuers are targeted at drone strike sites,[29] that more civilians and children have been killed in strikes than previously reported,[30] and challenging a CIA claim that no civilians had been killed in Pakistan drone strikes at that point.[31]

The Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism was jointly given to three Bureau reporters in 2013 for "their research into Barack Obama’s drone wars and their consequences for civilians".[32]

Joint enterprise[edit]

The Bureau published the first statistical analysis of 'joint enterprise' homicide cases, which allows for several people to be charged with the same offence even though they may have played very different roles in the crime.[33] The study found that black British men are more than three times as likely to be serving life sentences as a result of a joint enterprise conviction than those in the prison population overall.[34]

Three Bureau reporters won the 2013-14 Bar Council Legal Reporting Award for the coverage. [35]


In 2012 an early day motion was tabled in the British Parliament by eight Labour MPs praising the Bureau for its "quality work on exposing many national and international scandals".[36]

Newsnight scandal[edit]

In November 2012 the BBC current affairs programme Newsnight aired an interview with Steve Messham, who claimed he was abused by an unnamed Conservative politician at a Welsh children's home in the 1970s.[37] The broadcast was assisted by Bureau reporter Angus Stickler, who had been seconded to the BBC by then managing editor Iain Overton to work on the story.[10]

Before the broadcast, a tweet sent by Iain Overton promoting the programme sparked an online frenzy to identify the subject of the allegations, with former Conservative party treasurer Lord McAlpine being named by many.[10] After the broadcast Steve Messham apologised for the incorrect identification, saying that police had shown him a picture that was of his abuser but incorrectly told him the man was Lord McAlpine.[38] BBC director-general George Entwistle resigned later that day.[37]

Both Iain Overton and Angus Stickler also resigned from the Bureau.[10] An internal review by the Bureau looking at the events leading up to the report concluded that though there were serious failures in reporting and editing the Bureau was not responsible for the content of the programme, which was edited by the BBC. However, they found that Iain Overton had made an error of judgement in seconding a reporter to help make a programme where they would be identified as a Bureau employee but over which the Bureau would have no control.[39]


  1. ^ "Journalism bureau opens for business with seven investigations on the go", The Guardian, 27 April 2010. Accessed 26 September 2015.
  2. ^ "About the Bureau", The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Accessed 20 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Profile: Bureau of Investigative Journalism", BBC News, 12th November 2012. Accessed 20th April 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Trustees appoint new Managing Editor", The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 23rd October 2014. Accessed 20th April 2015.
  5. ^ "Investigative Bureau Tries to Make Up for British News Cutbacks", The New York Times, 4 April 2010. Accessed 26 September 2015.
  6. ^ a b "UK investigative journalism bureau wins £2m grant", Press Gazette, 17 July 2010. Accessed 12 October 2015.
  7. ^ "'I want to see the decomposing corpse,' says bureau chief", The Independent, 23 October 2011. Accessed 16 October 2015
  8. ^ "£2m boost for independent investigative journalism bureau", The Guardian, 17 July 2010. Accessed 18 September 2009.
  9. ^ "Investigative bureau appoints Overton", The Guardian, 21 September 2009. Accessed 27 April 2010.
  10. ^ a b c d "BIJ journalist Angus Stickler resigns after McAlpine report", The Times, 11 December 2012. Accessed 16 October 2015.
  11. ^ "Former Insight chief Christopher Hird made editor of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism", Press Gazette, 6 December 2012. Accessed 12 October 2015.
  12. ^ "Former Express staffer joins Bureau of Investigative Journalism", The Guardian, 8 January 2015. Accessed 12 October 2015.
  13. ^ "The WikiLeaks Iraq War Logs: Greatest Data Leak in US Military History", Der Spiegel, 22 October 2010. Accessed 18 October 2015
  14. ^ "The Man Who Spilled the Secrets", Vanity Fair, February 2011. Accessed 18 October 2015.
  15. ^ "WikiLeaks releases secret Iraq file", Al Jazeera, 24 October 2010. Accessed 18 October 2015
  16. ^ "Iraq secret war files, 400,000 leaked", Channel 4, 22 October 2011. Accessed 18 October 2015.
  17. ^ "Iraq war logs: secret files show how US ignored torture", The Guardian, 22 October 2010. Accessed 18 October 2015.
  18. ^ "Amnesty announces 2011 Media Awards winners", Amnesty International, 24 May 2011. Accessed 18 October 2015.
  19. ^ a b "Europe’s grand vision loses focus", Financial Times, 29 November 2010. Accessed 18 October 2015.
  20. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - File on 4, Europe's Missing Millions", BBC News, 5 December 2010. Accessed 1 March 2013.
  21. ^ "UACES Reporting Europe Prize 2011 Winners", UACES Reporting Europe. Accessed 1 March 2013.
  22. ^ "Caught on camera: top lobbyists boasting how they influence the PM", The Independent, 26 July 2012. Accessed 1 November 2015.
  23. ^ "A victory for investigative journalism as PCC rejects complaint by Bell Pottinger against The Independent", The Independent, 26 July 2012. Accessed 1 November 2015.
  24. ^ "Rate of deaths in custody is higher than officials admit", The Independent, 31 January 2012. Accessed 1 March 2013.
  25. ^ "Deaths in police custody figures 'understated'", BBC News, 31 January 2012. Accessed 24 October 2015.
  26. ^ "Amnesty announces 2011 Media Awards winners", Amnesty International, 30 May 2012. Accessed 24 October 2015.
  27. ^ "Drone Strikes Kill Innocent People. Why Is It So Hard to Know How Many?", The New Republic, 25 October 2013. Accessed 25 October 2015.
  28. ^ "There’s Not Enough Data On Civilian Drone Casualties", FiveThirtyEight, 23 April 2015. Accessed 25 October 2015.
  29. ^ "U.S. Said to Target Rescuers at Drone Strike Sites", The New York Times, 5 February 2012. Accessed 25 October 2015.
  30. ^ "Study reveals 168 child deaths in Pakistan drone war", Channel 4 News, 11 August 2011. Accessed 25 October 2015.
  31. ^ "Investigation to record victims of US drone attacks in Pakistan", The Guardian, 22 September 2013. Accessed 25 October 2015.
  32. ^ "Previous Winners", Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. Accessed 25 October 2015.
  33. ^ "'Joint enterprise' prosecution figures released", BBC News, 1 April 2014. Accessed 1 November 2015.
  34. ^ "Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice", The Independent, 17 December 2014. Accessed 1 November 2015.
  35. ^ "Bar Council announces legal reporting awards", General Council of the Bar, 10 November 2014. Accessed 1 November 2015.
  36. ^ "Early day motion 727", Parliament of the United Kingdom, 19 November 2012. Accessed 30 November 2012.
  37. ^ a b "BBC crisis: timeline of events", The Telegraph, 15 November 2012. Accessed 15 November 2015.
  38. ^ "Lord McAlpine victim of mistaken identity, abused man says", BBC News, 9 November 2012. Accessed 15 November 2015.
  39. ^ "A statement by the Bureau’s Trustees", The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 25 November 2012. Accessed 1 March 2013.

External links[edit]