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The Guardian: Undercover reports from Camp Climate

Helen Pidd
Tuesday August 21, 2007

Journalists love going undercover. Not only does it make their job feel infinitely sexier, but it can also be a fast track to the front page. There was, however, one clandestine mission no one really wanted last week, and that was infiltrating the Camp for Climate Action outside Heathrow. “Infiltration” in this context meant donning your grungiest clothes, walking through the camp’s gate – hoping no one recognised you from your byline photo – getting under the string fence and through the aeroplane cutout bearing the legend “EXIT THE SYSTEM”. And then camping in a soggy field until something exciting happened, and then writing a story even when it didn’t. Probably on the compost toilets. Or, if you got really desperate, the vegan food. Suddenly the Daily Mirror’s “Inside Buckingham Palace – the Queen uses Tupperware!” scoop seemed like the story of the century.

I spent much of last week sitting outside the camp (the organisers recognised me), spotting all the incognito journalists inside. At times they almost seemed to outnumber the protesters. One day when I was allowed in for the camp’s daily media hour, I spotted the Daily Mail’s hackette shivering in knee-high socks, no make-up and a binman’s hat. I decided not to blow her cover: she was being punished enough. Her suffering was later documented in a feature that sensationally revealed that three days without a wash equals body odour.
The Sunday Mirror’s reporter on the ground fared slightly better with the revelation that one protester temporarily left the camp to pick up his family who were, er, flying in from Heathrow. The man from the Sunday Times was rumbled halfway through, but got his revenge by filing a spiteful piece including statements such as: “Though the protesters declaim endlessly about the media being craven employees of BP or Shell, you can be sure that if this lot ever came to power, it really would be the end of a free press.”

Best of all was the effort put in by the Mail on Sunday’s Jo Knowsley, who, as the headline of her piece noted, had previously covered the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. She dressed as a clown. All week. And her reward? The following scoop: “food was vegan and absolutely awful”.,,2152877,00.html and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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