ROGER COOK’S approach to investigative journalism has always caused controversy with his less than conventional approach, particularly when ‘door-stepping’ criminals uninvited. He was once quoted as saying that in the heat of the moment “he couldn’t help himself”, but would argue that his mannerisms in front of the camera achieved the results that mattered. What spurred him onto such lengths was his belief that the viewing public have the right to know about the underworld and all therein.
As a consequence of the ‘taped crusader’s’ antics spanning more than 100 investigative ‘Cook Reports’, he has had to spend the last 20 years in solitude having dealt with and brought down some of the UK’s most notorious criminals. However, Cook has often begged to differ on this actuality, saying that if he fears his nemesis, then they have won and his work has been in vain.
The 64-year-old Australian’s burly and uncompromising approach was loved by almost everyone, but hated by those on the receiving end. John Palmer, for instance, cheated around 17,000 people in a major timeshare scam and became Britain’s richest criminal as a result. When Cook caught up with him, it was curtains, and when standing before a judge, Cook’s portfolio of evidence saw Palmer being handed a hefty 8-year prison sentence.
His life as an investigative reporter began in 1973 having previously worked for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and then BBC Radio Four’s ‘World at One programme’. He then created ‘Checkpoint’, an investigative radio programme that he also edited, produced and presented for more than a decade. Over that time, Cook also worked on the TV programmes, ‘Nationwide’ and ‘Newsnight’ respectively.
Cook then joined Central TV in 1985 and it was then that the ground-breaking ‘Cook Report’ was born. Over the course of 16 series and thousands of miles covering the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, Cook uncovered child pornography, illegal immigration, loan sharks, protection rackets in Northern Ireland and countless other issues surrounding criminality. In 1998, the ‘Cook Report’ reached its 120th edition and came to an end, but since then Cook has focussed on compiling feature-length ‘Cook Report Specials’ instead.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that Cook has been nominated for and won countless awards for his work as a journalist. Some of the most prolific include the Royal Television Society Best on screen personality (1993), Houston Worldfest Silver Award Best Interview (1996/1997), Charleston Worldfest Gold Award Best Investigative Programme (1997), and British Academy (BAFTA) Special Award for 25 years of Outstanding Investigative Reporting (1998).
Based on his experiences working as an undercover reporter, Cook has written two comprehensive books which include ‘Roger Cook’s Ten Greatest Conmen’, and ‘More Dangerous Ground: The Inside Story of Britain’s Best Known Investigative Journalist’. Although he is now semi-retired and leading a quiet life in the West County, Cook has agreed to make the trip to Coventry especially for the media lecture.
John Mair, the inventor of Coventry Conversations, said: “Roger is an influential figure in British television history. He invented and perfected the investigative genre. His close encounters with many unsavoury characters made compelling viewing. He has lots of tales to tell and I am sure he will be a very popular guest.”
- Roger will be in conversation on Thursday 5 March at 1pm in Room ETG 34 of the Ellen Terry Building at Coventry University.