DMU Journalism lecturer appears in controversial Netflix doc saying it is 'respectful and balanced'


It is arguably the most controversial Netflix documentary of the year.

But despite a critical backlash against The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann, DMU journalism lecturer Lee Marlow, who took part in the series, argues the show is respectful and balanced.

Here the award-winning feature writer, who worked for the Leicester Mercury at the time of Maddie’s disappearance in 2006, explains why.

LEE MARLOW with title

Why Netflix approached me

"They asked me to get involved because I interviewed Kate and Gerry McCann when they returned home to Rothley from Portugal in the autumn of 2006.

"I remember that day. I didn't know I was going to interview them. I'd followed the story. I'd written features on it.

"Then I turned up to work one day and the editor called me in and said Kate and Gerry McCann were coming in to the office and he wanted me to interview them.

“It was the biggest story in Europe at that time - and they were coming in to the Mercury office to give us an interview. That was a strange old feeling.

“I remember having to borrow a tie from the sports editor because I'd come to work that day without one.”

I wasn’t immediately sure I wanted to take part

"I wasn't sure I wanted to be involved in the documentary, to be honest. I didn't know if people would be interested and I was a bit doubtful of their intentions.

“But I met with the producers. They told me what they wanted to do. They outlined their plans and seemed thorough and decent and they reassured me it wouldn't be a garish, sensationalised, tabloid hatchet job.

“They were true to their word, too. It wasn't that.”


In the end Netflix did a good job

"As a documentary, it seems to have split opinion. I don't know. I thought they did a good, thorough, pretty balanced job.

"Is it too long? Yes, arguably. Should they have done it? I think so. Madeleine is still missing. It's a matter of public interest - as the reaction to it has shown. 

"It wasn't done in a shocking or prurient way. It was done respectfully, I think.

The stuff I find most objectionable in the entire eight part series was Kelvin McKenzie's off-hand and casual description of how some journalists covered the story. I didn't like that and I don't agree with him. 

This type of story-telling should be allowed

"I know the parents didn't want to get involved and I can see, journalistically, that weakens the documentary.

"But it's their choice. They were asked and they said no. The people behind the documentary respected their decision, which is also entirely right, I think.

"Should it have been shelved because the parents didn't want to be involved? No, I don't think so. Most of what was in the documentary is a matter of public record.

“All they did was collate it, re-tell the story and try to fill in as many gaps as they could.

“We should do that as journalists. We'd live in a strange old world if, suddenly, that kind of journalism or story-telling wasn't allowed.”

  • The clip was filmed in one of the newsrooms in DMU's Clephan Building back in November 2017.

They did film some of the journalism students but didn't use the footage.

Lee adds: “They said the clips didn't fit in with the narrative of the story - although they did say the students were a credit to the university.”


Posted on Friday 29th March 2019

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