Downing alumnus and investigative journalist Iain Overton. Georgina Phillips comments…
Iain Overton was not what I expected. Having compiled an impressive collection of accolades whilst here at Cambridge – everything from dabbling in Footlights to heading up Cambridge RAG – he was also somehow a member of the Patrician’s drinking society and got a First in History. Damn.
After leaving Cambridge however, Iain appeared to be as clueless as to his future as many of us. In the end he settled with advertising, a profession he liked as he could spend ‘a lot of people’s money without being accountable’, even if he did end up being a copywriter for Pampers. Overton went on to ‘sell alcohol to Muslims’ in south east Asia, until he wound up waking up in Kuala Lumpur, 600 miles to the north of where he had started that evening with no idea of how he got there. Returning to Cambridge, (this time to Caius), Iain took an MPhil in International Relations, harbouring dreams of becoming a spy for Mi6. Which apparently he nearly did. Almost.
Iain went on to work for both the BBC and ITV researching for and making documentaries on everything from dodgy dealings in the pharmaceutical industry to sex trafficking, winning a Peabody award, a BAFTA and several Amnesty awards along the way. He went on to become managing editor of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and worked with Julian Assange on the Wikileaks Iraq War Logs.
Envious of his many travels and success in print and broadcast journalism, Iain Overton certainly appeared to be a force to be reckoned with. And even though his adventurous curriculum vitae may make many shudder, his life story was also encouraging, reassuring that you don’t have to know exactly what you want to do as soon as you’ve tumbled out of uni. Even something as competitive as journalism can be accessed via many routes, even though Iain admitted that these days the game has changed somewhat, both due to increasing interest in journalism as a career path and the decreasing prominence of print journalism.
POSTSCRIPT Since writing this piece, Iain Overton has resigned as
head of TBIJ after being embroiled with the BBC Newsnight child abuse
allegations of Lord McAlpine. Investigations led by Overton and the Bureau led
to the false accusation. (Overton referred to the release of this information in
his talk at Downing although he wouldn’t name names – I wonder if his passing
sentiment of no regrets still stands).