Flynn, Vincent Laurie Macpherson, investigative journalist


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Flynn, Vincent Laurie Macpherson, investigative journalist

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b. 1946


Flynn was born in Farnborough, Kent, and grew up in Scotland. After completing high school in Edinburgh, he studied sociology, philosophy and economics at the London School of Economics (LSE). Among his teachers were John Westergaard, Orlando Patterson and the Marxist sociologist Ralph Miliband.

Following his graduation from the LSE in 1968 (BA Hons Sociology), Flynn embarked on a career in journalism. After a brief period as copy boy in the composing room of 'The Times', he worked as trainee reporter at \Construction News\, then for the \Socialist Worker\ (1972-1978). One of the investigations he conducted under the supervision of Sidney Lenssen, the editor of \Construction News\, led to his first encounter with asbestos, a word and an industry of which Flynn had not previously been aware. In the spring of 1974 he wrote 'Asbestos murders', a series of articles in the \Socialist Worker\ indicting the Scottish lagging industry. A pamphlet version appeared under the title \Asbestos: the dust that kills in the name of profit.

In 1979 Flynn joined World in Action (WIA), Granada Television's current affairs programme. Initially he contributed as a researcher, eventually as senior producer. Flynn won journalistic prizes for the documentaries 'Dust to dust' (an investigation of the scandalous conditions in British and South African-owned asbestos mines in the Northern Cape, 1981) and 'The betrayal of Bhopal' (which uncovered the business malpractices of Union Carbide in India, 1985). The WIA documentary on the Kinross gold mining disaster, 'Death is part of the process' (1986), was selected as the ITV entry for the Montreux Festival.

From 1990 Flynn freelanced for nearly a decade for the BBC, ITV and Channel Four. In 1998 he joined the editorial staff of \The Guardian\ as part of a two person investigation unit, famously exposing the much-garlanded Carlton documentary 'The connection' as a fabrication. For this he received (jointly with Michael Sean Gillard) the Scoop of the Year at the British Press Awards, 1999.

Since 2002 he has been freelancing again. The conclusions of the last project of \The Guardian\ investigation unit prior to his and Gillard's departure appeared in book-form in 2004, under the title 'Untouchables: dirty cops, bent justice and racism in Scotland Yard' (London: Bloomsbury) .

Flynn's notable output further includes:

  • 'A small town tragedy' (1982), a WIA documentary about the refusal of a British asbestos company to pay compensation awarded against them in an American Court to workers in their North American subsidiary
  • 'Studded with diamonds and paved with gold: miners, mining companies and human rights in Southern Africa' (1992, London: Bloomsbury)
  • (with Geoffrey Tweedale) 'Piercing the corporate veil: Cape Industries and multinational corporate liability for a toxic hazard, 1950-2004', 'Enterprise and society' 8 (2) (2007), 268-296, DOI: 10.1017/S1467222700005863



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Created by Victoria Peters, 2014
Revised by Anna-K Mayer, 5 January 2016

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Content of the Laurie Flynn papers on the asbestos industry; correspondence with Laurie Flynn; wikispooks entry on Flynn [, accessed 2015-11-09]


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