One rogue reporter making a big splash
- Credit: Archant
After years of slaving as a tabloid hack, Rich Peppiatt has turned the tables on unruly editors, finds Alex Bellotti.
As an ex-Daily Star journalist, Rich Peppiatt knows how to make a splash. In the opening scenes of his new film, One Rogue Reporter, he even regales us with tales of being sent undercover dressed as Santa, a transvestite and – most depressingly – a Muslim woman, complete with full burka attire.
In 2011 however, the final straw came when the paper published a front page story claiming the English Defence League were becoming a political party. Peppiatt realised he’d had enough and quit, but not before his resignation letter to Star owner Richard Desmond – “probably the most important article of my career” – went viral, lambasting the organisation and finally speaking out against a tabloid culture which, pre-Leveson, had rarely been held to account.
“For a long time,” says the 30-year-old, “I had to block out parts of the job I didn’t like and convince myself that, ‘Look, if you don’t write it, someone else will; why should you be the one to stick your neck out?’ But there came a point where I just felt I had to take personal responsibility for what I was putting my name to.”
Tired of the pseudo “propaganda” of the red tops, Peppiatt, who lives in Highbury, devised a stage show which exposed their most infamous staff through scathing analysis, collating interviews with key witnesses at the phone-hacking trials including Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan.
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When the Leveson Inquiry finally began, he realised there was now a greater audience for his work and began turning the show into a feature film.
“I think a lot of journalists think they’re somehow exempt from the same scrutiny that they want to put upon other people, and by far the opposite has to be true,” he says.
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“If you want to hold people to account, you must be the most transparent and open of anyone and I think that’s one element that’s been lacking.”
One Rogue Reporter is not anti-journalism, its creator and star explains, but rather it seeks to give the country’s most notorious editors a taste of their own medicine - cheifly through a daring series of pranks organised by Peppiatt and his team. Mail Online editor Martin Clarke is hounded by photographers; Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre is ambushed on his doorstep; in the best example of all, Kelvin McKenzie is confronted with a rather embarrassing text message he sent that has landed in Peppiatt’s hands.
“The stunts are all about exposing hypocrisy – so what is the hypocritical thing about these people?
“Say with Martin Clarke and the Mail Online, there he is at the Leveson Inquiry saying how they never speculate on people’s pregnancies and how they don’t invade the privacy of Kate Middleton, when the evidence of that was completely false and easily accessible with one click.
“I couldn’t believe the man was being so brazen as to say that, so it was obvious: let’s go and do that to him and see how he likes it.”
Brash, bold, and accessible even to those who know little of the hacking scandal, the film is both an insightful piece of journalism and a fun, riotous watch in its own right.
While his door is understandably “not exactly getting knocked down” with further offers to work in print journalism, Peppiatt is pleased to have found his own style in film and adds that good entertainment can often be the best way to get the message across.
“Comedy in its own way is about revealing the truth of things. In between the lines of what’s being said is a truth unspoken, so that act of trying to reveal truth through humour is in a weird way journalistic.”
One Rogue Reporter is in cinemas now; and on Video on Demand and iTunes from December 10. It will also be showing at Crouch End’s Arthouse cinema this Wednesday. Visit oneroguereporter.com