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Page last updated at 12:18 GMT, Wednesday, 8 October 2008 13:18 UK
How Newsnight investigates

You may have a blinding story, but you cannot put it on TV unless you can illustrate it. You need evidence. This also helps you tell the story.

As in all journalism, getting eye-witness accounts of what happened is essential.


So for our investigation into the toxic waste dumping scandal in Ivory Coast we went to Abidjan and interviewed some of the victims. Broadcast 16 August 2007.

When James Copnall was in Abidjan many people came up to him wanting to tell their story. 17 people died and many thousands fell sick.


For the bizarre story of the lottery winner bushwacked by a gangster who was working for MI6 we were able to interview not only the victim but one of the criminals involved in the plot. Broadcast 16 March 2004.

Wally Birch told Liz Mackean how his gangster friend conned Tom Papworth out of millions of pounds.

Putting it to the test

Sometimes it is a matter of putting a claim to the test.

So for our report on lax nuclear weapons security we tracked down a standard issue RAF nuclear training bomb and proved that you only needed a bicycle lock key to arm a British nuclear weapon. Broadcast 15 November 2007.

Susan Watts gets a personal demonstration of how to arm a British nuclear bomb.

Lab tests

Another technique is to collect samples and put them through laboratory tests to check for contamination or DNA traces.

This is how we proved that Linda McCartney GM free products were using genetically modified soya despite assurances to the contrary. Broadcast 5 February 1999.

After Susan Watts had this vegetarian mince tested and GM soya was found to be in it, the product was taken off the market.

Linda McCartney Foods reviewed their products, withdrew the soya and replaced it with non GM wheat. They now regularly test their own products for contamination.

Secret recordings

We normally need evidence of apparent criminal or antisocial behaviour before the BBC allows journalists to use secret recording or filming.

We can use one or more cameras concealed in a room or hidden in clothing. Two fixed cameras recorded the AIDS conmen trying to flog their bogus cure.

Broadcast 1 December 2006.

Mark Wardell explains to 'wealthy investors' (aka Newsnight team) why he has not offered his discovery to a pharmaceutical company.

On another occasion a camera captured illegally logged timber from rainforests being used to refit the House of Commons. Broadcast 28 September 2006.

Liz Mackean traces this distinctive red wood from the House of Commons to its origins in Papua New Guinea.

We always present our evidence to the subject of the investigation, but how we go about it varies. To see how we approach people to best effect, click on the Revelation tab.

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