A Life Less Ordinary

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01Archive on 420140111

01Archive On 420140111

When Joanna Yeates went missing in December 2010, the story gripped the public imagination - the discovery of her murdered body on Christmas Day was not only a tragedy it was also a huge media event. Christopher Jefferies, her landlord, was entirely innocent of any wrong-doing, but when he was arrested on December 30th, many newspapers took it as a signal to launch a major assault on the retired teacher described in headlines as 'The Nutty Professor', 'The Strange Mr. Jefferies', and 'A Creep who Freaked Out Schoolgirls.' Pages were filled with false accusations about his private life, often from unattributed sources. When he was released without charge three days after his arrest, Mr Jefferies had to be protected by friends and family from the media and the coverage it had already published. He changed his appearance and was unable to return to his home for months. Now, in the first part of a new series of 'A Life Less Ordinary', he examines some of the worst excesses of the coverage, sometimes for the first time, in a bid to describe what it's like to be thrust into the media spotlight in such a dramatic way - as an innocent man publicly vilified across the front pages of the national press. Mr Jefferies talks to Roy Greenslade and David Aaronovitch about how the media got it so badly wrong, leading to successful legal challenges by Mr Jefferies himself and the Attorney General. We hear from one of Mr Jefferies' former pupils, the director Roger Michell, now filming a major drama about the story, as well as family and friends who provided the support which allowed him to get through the worst of the ordeal, and finally emerge as a vocal campaigner for press reform.

02Archive on 420140118

02Archive On 420140118

When two teenage girls were murdered on the streets of Birmingham following a New Year's party, it immediately became a massive media story. Marcia Shakespeare, one of the girls' mothers, was confronted not only with the terrible loss of her child, but was also forced to face enormous attention from the press - much of which she initially found intrusive. As time went on, though, she recognised that the media could play a useful part in helping her keep the issues around gun crime in the public consciousness, and provide a platform for her to make a plea to witnesses reluctant to come forward and help track down the killers. In spite of facing threats to keep a lower profile she has conducted hundreds of interviews in the 11 years since. In this, the second part of 'A Life Less Ordinary', she describes what those years have been like, and talks with some of the journalists involved in covering the shootings themselves and the lengthy court case that finally saw four men convicted sent to prison.

03Archive on 420140125

03 LASTArchive on 420140125

03 LASTArchive on 420140125

When Mel went into the Big Brother house for the programme's first UK series, neither she nor the other contestants - or the production company behind the show - could anticipate the huge attention it would garner and the extent to which the media would pick up on the individuals involved. In this, the final part of 'A Life Less Ordinary' she describes how it felt to come out of the house and realise she'd been widely portrayed as a divisive flirt, and the impact the negative coverage had on not only her but also her family. Much of this negativity came from women journalists, and we also hear from Ruby, finalist in 'The Great British Bake Off' to hear how her experiences of both traditional and social media led her to write an angry retort in her own Guardian article against sexist coverage. Mel considers the extent to which signing up for a show makes participants in reality tv 'fair game' for reporters, talks with journalists who wrote about her time in the house - and also Jonny Mitchell, head of the Thornhill Academy - subject of the hugely successful series Educating Yorkshire, to hear his description of the positive opportunities the programme and the related media attention have offered not only him and his staff but also his pupils.

03 LASTArchive On 420140125

When Mel went into the Big Brother house for the programme's first UK series, neither she nor the other contestants - or the production company behind the show - could anticipate the huge attention it would garner and the extent to which the media would pick up on the individuals involved. In this, the final part of 'A Life Less Ordinary' she describes how it felt to come out of the house and realise she'd been widely portrayed as a divisive flirt, and the impact the negative coverage had on not only her but also her family. Much of this negativity came from women journalists, and we also hear from Ruby, finalist in 'The Great British Bake Off' to hear how her experiences of both traditional and social media led her to write an angry retort in her own Guardian article against sexist coverage. Mel considers the extent to which signing up for a show makes participants in reality tv 'fair game' for reporters, talks with journalists who wrote about her time in the house - and also Jonny Mitchell, head of the Thornhill Academy - subject of the hugely successful series Educating Yorkshire, to hear his description of the positive opportunities the programme and the related media attention have offered not only him and his staff but also his pupils.

01012011052820110530

The first of three programmes looking at how an ordinary life was transformed by extraordinary events.

We begin with John Mosey.

When Pan-Am flight 103 was blown up by a terrorist bomb over Lockerbie, the relatives of those on the plane had little choice but to follow events via their televisions and radios.

Reverend John Mosey was one of them.

His 19 year old daughter Helga was killed that night, a fact he and other family members learnt from news reports in their Birmingham home.

Within 24 hours he was being interviewed about his reaction.

It was the first of hundreds of such interviews he's given in the years since, and in that time he's come to see the media as the most effective means of pressing the case for justice and conveying his spiritual convictions.

He returns to the archive, examining how the events of Lockerbie were reported, and re-examining his position at the centre of a terrible personal tragedy and an intense media storm.

He speaks with some of those journalists who were there on the scene, and he seeks to understand how the events of the 21st December 1988 have transformed his conventional life into 'a life less ordinary'.

How the extraordinary events at Lockerbie transformed the life of one ordinary man.

01022011060420110606

This is the second programme in a series of three looking at how an ordinary life can be transformed by extraordinary events.

One minute Kim Cotton was a housewife, the mother of two children, but then she saw a programme about an American agency looking for surrogate mothers in the UK.

She was fascinated and decided it would be a way for her to earn money for her family.

She became pregnant with a child that became known as Baby Cotton for a fee of £6,000.

Everything was fine until she decided to sell her story to the Daily Star for £15,000.

She was vilified by much of the media and the public for both selling the baby and then making money from the newspaper.

Kim goes back through the archive and speaks to journalists who interviewed her at the time.

How a decision to have a baby for money transformed the life of an ordinary woman.

0103 LAST2011061120110613

When Alison Halford got the job of Assistant Chief Constable with Merseyside Police in 1983, she became the first woman to achieve such a high ranking position within the British force.

Highly regarded and tipped for further success, her professional progress ground to a halt with nine unsuccessful attempts for promotion.

She claimed it was because of her gender and took Merseyside Police, among others, to a sex discrimination tribunal that would quickly become highly personal and charged with recriminations on both sides.

The press was quick to seize upon revelations and rumours about Halford's professional and personal conduct, and by the time a settlement was reached in the case, it had become a major media story.

Alison Halford now returns to the archive to examine what it was like to be thrust into the headlines and have so much of her private life exposed to public scrutiny.

The sex discrimination case that changed the life of Britian's highest ranking policewoman

020120121006

In the first part of a new series of 'A Life Less Ordinary', Sandra Gregory goes back over the coverage of the dramatic events that saw her placed firmly under the media spotlight. In 1993, she attempted to smuggle heroin out of Thailand in a bid to earn enough money to get home to the UK, was arrested and initially faced the prospect of the death penalty. Instead she spent over seven years in prison - first in Bangkok, then in Britain. Gregory talks candidly about the shame she felt upon seeing the TV cameras through the prison bars for the first time, knowing that the pictures would be relayed back home for her family and friends to see. We hear from journalists who visited her during her years in the so-called Bangkok Hilton prison, and she meets one of those columnists who had condemned her actions and shown little sympathy for her situation, given the severity of the crime she'd committed. Gregory also describes how she contemplated suicide while inside, and the mixed feelings she experienced when her parents finally ended their media silence to begin campaigning on her behalf.

At the point when Bosnia and Maastricht were dominating the headlines, the story of one individual's crime and punishment broke through and captured the nation's attention. Now the one person unable at the time to follow the coverage of the story because she was in prison, gets the opportunity to revisit her own story and describe what happens when an ordinary life becomes the subject of massive public and media scrutiny.

020220121013

In January 2000, the Solway Harvester fishing boat went down off the Isle of Man resulting in the deaths of all seven of those aboard. As the first tragedy of the new millennium it attracted enormous media attention, with scores of journalists pouring in to the remote Isle of Whithorn in South West Scotland. There they met a population in deep mourning, unused to the attention of the press and unwilling to open itself up to that attention. One of those who played a vital role as a family spokesman was Reverend Alex Currie, who in spite of his own initial hostility to the media placed himself at its disposal in order to represent the bereaved and limit the intrusion they may otherwise have faced.

At the most testing time of his own professional life, having to conduct five funerals on the same day, Curry also had to learn the art of press spokesperson as he went along, conducting hundreds of interviews over the weeks, months and years that followed. Now in the second part of 'A Life Less Ordinary' Geoff Bird takes him back over some of the archive of the tragedy, finding out what it's like to be living an ordinary life when the media spotlight picks you out. Along the way they talk with some of those journalists involved at the time, exploring the ethics involved in approaching people suffering loss in order to meet the demands of a public hungry for information about a major news story and those it has hurt the most.

0203 LAST20121020

In July 1996 Horrett Campbell attacked children and staff at St Lukes School in Wolverhampton with a machete. Lisa Potts was a nursery nurse helping run a teddy bears picnic for the under-fives, and in the course of the attack she suffered major wounds while protecting children who might otherwise well have been killed. Over the next few days she became a national hero, championed in the press as the so-called angel whose courage led to numerous awards including the George Medal. What the press rarely mentioned, however, was the pressure that not only the attack but also the massive media attention put on Lisa, and the dark periods during which she longed for an end to the press coverage and a return to normal life. In the final part of this series of 'A Life Less Ordinary' Geoff Bird takes her back over the TV, newspaper and radio coverage of her story to find out what it's like to declared a hero and how difficult that can make returning to a normal life away from the media spotlight.

Produced by Geoff Bird.