David Harrison is an award-winning British investigative journalist and documentary-maker with over 35 years’ experience covering major stories in the UK and worldwide. He has worked for leading British national newspapers, including The Sunday Times, The Observer and The Sunday Telegraph, and currently makes television documentaries for Aljazeera’s Investigative Unit.
Sara Moralioglu is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist who produces documentary films and content for leading UK and US broadcasters, including BBC Newsnight and Channel 4. Sara produced Grenfell – 21st Floor (about the tragic tower block fire) which was nominated for the best current affairs film category for the RTS Journalism Awards.
On finding the story
Like most journalists, I started off for many years doing news and along the way I was doing investigations. I’ve probably reported in nearly 100 countries. I’ve done investigations of a massive range of topics. I think often investigations spring from a news story that you’ve done and often it comes from a hunch or a feeling that there’s more to this. I think what drew me to it was that after a while you just want to get into things a little bit deeper. Then there is also that drive to expose and to reveal wrongdoing, which is the kind of area of investigative journalism that I’m involved in. You need a huge amount of curiosity. You need to want to know. You need that desire, that thirst, to find out and get behind stories that are often covered quite superficially in the news.
I started off in natural history documentaries and then moved into anthropology programmes like the Bruce Parry documentaries. As I got older, the subject-matter got more serious. I moved into current affairs and programmes like Newsnight, Panorama and Dispatches. I’m currently at Channel 4 News.
In this work, I think you have to be very curious and want to expose things. I think for me, once I start to get an inclination that something’s wrong or not going as it should be going, you have to be sort of obsessed, really obsessive, to uncover things. Some people just aren’t that interested in things except for what’s going on within their own lives, and some people really are curious about what’s going on in the world.
On process and principles
My work has certainly broadened my perspective. I’ve covered stories from all over the world. I also run occasional training courses for journalists in developing countries including Sudan, Algeria, Morocco, Syria and Lebanon. And that’s really helped me, I think, because it really helps you get inside the mentality of a country and its people.
In terms of process, usually what happens is either I’ll pitch a story about something I’m curious about or I will be approached by the commissioner or an editor. Then it usually starts off with getting access. It’s all about making connections with people and speaking to them—ideally meeting them face-to-face. I think my process is really trying to understand what that person would want out of this and why they should want to expose something, so that they want to tell their story.
One of my objectives has always been about holding those in power accountable and trying to expose the truth to get to the bottom of whatever the issue is. For example, with Grenfell, my main motivation was to give the survivors, who had gone through the most horrific tragedy, a voice.
There are lots of principles of journalism that relate to being curious. You’ve got to be dogged, determined, you’ve got to be forensic, curious, sceptical, asking questions all the time. It’s about testing your own thoughts, testing your own evidence. Does it stand up? Is it really watertight or is this a bit flaky?
On being curious
I would say try to stay open-minded and challenge your own views, but embrace people, don’t push them away. I’ve found that all over the world if you do that, you embrace people, they embrace you back most of the time and you learn from that. I remember in the war in Afghanistan, the refugees everywhere, people suffering everywhere. I remember this poor family lived in a mud hut and they invited us in to share the last of their food. It’s acts of kindness like that that blow away your prejudice and your ideas about certain groups of people, certain types of people. I would say, yes, stay open-minded. Be receptive to other people’s views and challenge your own views. I think in the end you end up with a broader perspective.
I think in my work it is really important to listen to people and engage. Try to understand their story and what they’re about and put yourself in their shoes. I think empathy and just communicating and being open-minded are really important and enriching.
The Curious Advantage is an exploration of the behaviour of curiosity and its central role in the digital age, taking the widest possible exploration of things curious—historical, contemporary, neuro-scientific, anthropological, behavioural and business.
Curiosity has profound implications for organisations, leaders and individuals inhabiting the digital reality. The Curious Advantage provides pragmatic tools and case studies and makes the case for how curiosity is the greatest driver of value in the new digital age. Curiosity is at the heart of the skills required to successfully navigate our digital lives when all futures are uncertain.
The Curious Advantage introduces the 7C’s of Curiosity model—a useful tool for anyone wanting to lead a curious organisation or who wants to challenge themselves to be actively curious.
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