A Newsquest reporter taught Chinese students about journalism on a visit to Birkbeck University on Monday (July 8).

Investigative reporter Charles Thomson taught the group about the importance of scrutinising the British government and holding it to account – something China’s state-controlled media cannot freely do.

He told undergraduate media, broadcast, news and film students from China’s Southwest University about some of the award-winning investigations he has worked on for Newsquest, uncovering wrongdoing by councils, police, courts and other bodies.

Charles was accompanied by Kirstie Moore, whose brother Jason is the subject of a long-running Newsquest investigation.

The students heard how Jason, serving life in prison for murder, is challenging his conviction based on new evidence Charles uncovered – a story that led ITV’s national news earlier this year.

“I wanted to show how investigations which uncover shocking information and make national headlines start with an initial approach to a journalist,” said Charles.

“I wanted the students to hear Kirstie tell her story, just as I did back in 2021, and then understand how I developed it for Newsquest – what evidence I looked for, who I spoke to, how it all unfolded.”

Jason was charged with murder based on a single eyewitness picking him out of a line-up – but when Charles tracked the witness down years later, he admitted he had been drunk and might have picked the wrong person.

Charles also told the students about his years-long investigation into an Essex paedophile ring run by a registered police informant. The story was turned into a podcast: Shoebury’s Lost Boys.

The reporter explained how he revealed immunocompromised people were being housed by Hackney Council in damp, mouldy flats that were making them ill, and how he helped overturn a coroner’s decision not to investigate the mysterious death of Havering woman Sophia Yuferev.

The students’ 15-day trip to the UK includes a visit to Salford’s Media City and trips to media companies’ offices, including the Richmond office of Chinese state broadcaster Phoenix Television.

“It was lovely to meet all the students and interesting to hear their experiences of producing journalism under the Chinese regime,” said Charles.

“Some of them came up to me afterwards and said it had been inspiring, which is the best I could have hoped for.”