View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. Publishers
  2. National Newspapers
October 12, 2012updated 02 May 2013 1:04pm

British journalism’s greatest ever scoops

By Dominic Ponsford

Following the Daily Telegraph’s historic revelations over MPs’ expenses in 2009 Press Gazette asked its readers to name the best British journalism scoops of all time.

Here we publish it online for the first time. 

If we were to bring the list bang up to date, The Guardian's investigation into phone-hacking at the News of the World (begun in 2011) would have to also be on the list. Any other suggestions are welcome.

From The Times and Tutenkhamen in 1922 to the Daily Express tracking down Ronnie Biggs in Rio in 1974 and the Daily Mirror’s 1978 revelations about Joyce Mckinney and the Manacled Mormon – this list provides an entertaining and inspiring romp through UK journalism history.

The biggest scoop ever?  For the worldwide ramifications, John Rettie’s revelation of Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin for Reuters in 1956 is hard to beat, with the Sunday Times’s revelations about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal from 1986  perhaps a close second.

In terms of UK significance, in 2009 we decided that the top scoop went to the Telegraph and MPs’ expenses.  Getting the story may have involved a cash transaction, but running with it even though the information was apparently stolen took guts.  And the rigorous way the Telegraph explored all the ramifications of the tale was exemplary.

Update: It's been suggested that the News of the World's exposure of match-fixing involving the Pakistan cricket team from 2010 should be included in the stories which deserve a mention post-2009. It was certainly a story which had massive ramifications for the world of cricket and which dominated the news agenda at the time.

Content from our partners
Five ways to fail in media job interviews
How Germany's Ippen.Media mastered content planning across 86 newsrooms
Free journalism awards for journalists under 30: Deadline today

Here, again, is the list of top British journalism scoops as published by Press Gazette in 2009. Click for details about how to subscribe to Press Gazette magazine (from £19.90 a year).

British journalism's greatest ever scoops

1. An Egyptian Treasure (The Times, 1922)

2. The Tragedy of Guernica (The Times, 1937)

3. Khruschev denounces Stalin (Reuters, John Rettie, 1956)

4. Everest Conquered (The Times, James Morris 1956)

5. Grace Kelly’s wedding (The Daily Mail, 1956)

6. First Pictures of the Moon’s Surface (Daily Express, 1966)

7. The survival of Harry Eddom (The Daily Express, 1968)

8. Philby: I spied for Russia from 1933 (Sunday Times, 1967)

9. Thalidomide (The Sunday Times, 1972)

10. Biggs Arrested (The Daily Express, Colin Mackenzie, 1974)

11. The Real McKinney (Daily Mirror, 1978)]

12. The Jeremy Thorpe scandal (Daily Mirror, Lino ‘Dan’ Ferrari, Richard Stott and others, 1978)

13. Death of a Nation (Daily Mirror, John Pilger and Eric Piper, 1979)

14. Intruder at the Queen’s Bedside (Daily Express, Norman Luck, Percy Hoskins and John Warden, 1982

15. Tory Boss Archer pays off vice girl (News of the World, 1986)

16. Revealed: the secrets of Israel’s nuclear arsenal (The Sunday Times, 1986)

17. Frank Bough: I took drugs with vice girls (News of the World, Gerry Brown and Sandy Laming, 1988)

18. Serb detention camps (ITN, Penny Marshall and Ian Williams, 1992)

19. Major’s secret links with IRA leadership revealed (The Observer, Anthony Bevins, Eamonn Mallie and Mary Holland, 1993)

20. Minister bedded judge’s wife and daughters (News of the World, Stuart White, 1994)

21. Grobbelaar took bribes to fix games (The Sun, John Troup and Guy Patrick, 1994)

22. The Diana Interview (BBC Panorama, Martin Bashir, 1995)

23. Jonathan of Arabia (World in Action, David Leigh, 1995)

24. The Birth of Dolly the Sheep (The Observer, Robin McKie, 1997)

25. The Tamworth Two (Daily Mail, 1998)

26. Murderers (The Daily Mail, 1998)

27. Glenn Hoddle (The Times, Matt Dickinson, 1999)

28. New Labour insiders offer secrets for cash (The Observer, Anthony Barnett, Greg Palast, 1999)

29. Archer Lied (News of the World, Neville Thurlbeck, Rob Kellaway, 1999)

30. Revealed: Secret GM crop trials (Independent on Sunday, Geoffrey Lean, 2000)

31. Ronnie Biggs Returns (The Sun, Graham Dudman, 2001)

32. Internet Baby Traders (The Sun, Briony Warden, 2002)

33. The ‘dodgy dossier’ on war with Iraq (BBC Radio4 Today, Andrew Gilligan, 2003)

34. “Intruder at the Palace” (Daily Mirror, Ryan Parry, 2003)

35. Hutton Report Leaked (The Sun, Trevor Kavanagh, 2004)

36. Attorney General’s Legal Advice on the case for war (Channel 4 News, Gary Gibbon, Jon Snow, 2005)

37. Michael Grade defects to ITV (Daily Telegraph, Jeff Randall, 2005)

38. My Affair by Prezza (Daily Mirror, Stephen Moyes, 2006)

39. Northern Rock (BBC, Robert Peston, 2007)

40. Matty Hull: Friendly fire (The Sun, Tom Newton Dunn, 2007)

41. Canoe wife Anne Darwin (freelance David Leigh for Daily Mirror and Daily Mail, 2008)

42. MPs’ expenses (Daily Telegraph, 2009)


Contributors: Thanks to the many people who sent in their scoop nominations.  They included: Brian MacArthur, Brian Wigmore, Joe Mullins, Revel Barker, Paddy Clancy, Richard Beeston, Philip Harding, John Ritchie, Ian France, Sandy Smith, Jane Slade, Justin Dunn, Nick Ferrari, Greg Neale, Chris Johnson, Robin Lustig, Martin Shankleman, John Honeywell, Martina Purdy, Steve Connor, Tim Weber, Rose Wild, Hannah Walker, Stuart Higgins, and the readers of the website Gentleman Ranters – which kindly helped publicise the Press Gazette scoop search and whose readers were among those to send in their nominations.

Email to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network