A few months ago, I’d only heard the name Stacey Dooley in terms of her so-named BBC 3 documentaries. That probably would have been it, had my friend not given me her new book. To be honest, ‘On the frontline with the women who fight back’ wouldn’t be the first thing I’d pull off the shelf. In keeping with her on screen personality, Dooley’s style is colloquial, conversational even, but certainly not a style investigative journalism and reporting is well-acquainted with.
In her book, Dooley takes the reader through her career as an investigative documentary journalist from her break-through involvement in the BBC documentary ‘Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts’ right up to her recent reporting about the Yazidi women fighting their former ISIS captors in Iraq. Throughout the book, her focus is unwaveringly on raising awareness for strong women in the most dangerous and unjust patriarchal situations in the world. She’s both human and empathetic with her interviewees. Listening to and reporting their particular plight, rather than the long socio-historical process that allows these situations to continue around the world. This makes the horrifying accessible to a western audience. Not that the comfort of a western audience is by any means a priority to Dooley, or should be to documenting human atrocities, but in the name of raising awareness it is a style in which Dooley is unrivalled. She is admirable yet un-intimidating and is the first to admit when she is not the most knowledgeable on a given subject.
Dooley has no formal education past GCSE’s and her Luton accent has been criticised and mocked as inappropriate for the serious matters she tackles. Not only is this conservative backlash unfair but is ignorant of her enormous success that shows that there is a public appetite for diversity in the media, for women, for education levels, even for accents. Yet, Dooley has faced unfair discrimination and had her name thrown around in derogatory terms for simply not being Andrew Graham-Dixon. I myself have a fourteen-year-old sister who isn’t particularly enthusiastic about engaging with current affairs. However, she will happily watch a documentary made by Stacey Dooley therefore engaging with the world around her, considering her privileges and maybe, one day, having an inclination to tackle injustice.
Just a week ago, I was lucky enough to attend a talk (followed by a Q and A) held by Dooley. The talk was mid-week in Manchester a three-hour train journey away. The fact that I made this trip knowingly needing to be back for nine o’clock the next morning (which meant leaving at five o’clock) points to the fact that I am now a bit of a fan. During this, a girl in her late teens asked Dooley how it feels to be a role model for young girls. Dooley showed that her contact with tough situations for women around the world had not hardened her nor had it allowed her to dismiss western feminist movements. Dooley, who has a huge following of 271,000 Instagram followers, said in her typical style ‘I take very seriously being a role model for young girls, and for that reason I’ll never do promos like selling tea that makes you skinny, because as we all know… that’s absolute bullshit’.