“I have a real hatred for Injustice”
Paul Maguire, although from humble beginnings as his first job in a Superquinn store, now stands as the head of RTE’s Prime Time Investigates (PTI) and today addressed the journalism students of UL on the skills needed for investigative journalism.
As the seasoned journalist put it himself, you have to have a real joy and love for the job because sometimes it won’t always love you back. “If you’re standing behind a bush in the lashing rain for six months for the sake of one shot, which is literally what we did, you will feel like saying oh feck this and going home.” But you must really love it, and one of his own reasons for taking such pride and joy in his line of work is that he loves talking to people and hearing their story, “and I have a real hatred for injustice.”
But don’t fool yourself into the idea of becoming a rebellious vigilante of the public’s interest. Mr Maguire stressed that under no circumstances would PTI willingly hand over all or any of their information to Gardaí on an issue before it went to air. “We are not the second arm of the state.”
The job is becoming increasingly harder. There’s long hours, increasing difficulties with the Freedom of Information act, no paid overtime, and hours of waiting. According to Mr Maguire, a good investigation can take up to 18 months – which is true for the case of their documentary Profiting from Prostitution. The investigative piece on the trafficking and conditions of prostitutes in Ireland took over two years to produce.
But the stressed point of his entire message was that the people who you deal with are everything. You must realise that when a victim of whichever violation you are investigating willingly comes to you with information, you must consider yourself honoured. Mr Maguire revealed the extensive aftercare that his team provides to those directly affected by their work.
For example, take their aforementioned documentary on prostitution. They offered the prostitutes they encountered a range of external help from professional bodies, ensured those volunteers who spoke on camera were completely unnoticeable through the use of wigs and voice changes and even returned to those they were worried about to offer more help.
Mr Maguire stressed the importance of ensuring the people you work with are happy and safe. Even on the very last day of production, the RTE team will be willing to remove any content that their interviewees may be uncomfortable with. “When dealing with sensitivity, you must realise that they’re human beings. Don’t forget that fact in your haste to get a good story and reach a deadline.”