The mystery man file: a collective investigation

Wednesday 28 July 2010, 10:50

Charles Miller Charles Miller edits the College of Journalism blog and produces documentaries for BBC History and Business. Twitter: @chblm

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The Daily Telegraph yesterday identified a man who has been spotted regularly behind television reporters on location - and even in the crowd at the Antiques Roadshow. The Telegraph cites blog reports that he's a London community worker called Paul Yarrow. 

The mystery man had already featured in the BBC's Russell Howard's Good News - uploaded by someone to YouTube here.

The story has been picked up by mainstream media, but much of the work of collecting Yarrow's appearances was done by a small website,, started by someone called Steve, who reveals just this about himself and his venture:
Steve has hit the big time with his Yarrow story: as he says in a blog post called Fame at Last:

"It's been just under four months since I started this blog - with quirky news, funny pictures and videos, whinges and other random thoughts.

In that time, I've seen visitor numbers growing from ten or 20 a day in the first couple of weeks, to thousands of visitors a day - that is beyond my wildest expectations for my little corner of the web."

Steve's file on Yarrow has been growing almost daily, as his readers send in their TV sightings. 

It's the kind of job no news organisation could afford to pay for. The result is a nice story based on 18 separate sightings in different programmes.

Fidgetwith also used its readers to pursue the identification of the man. On 16 July, a comment was left by Darren:

"His name is Paul Yallow (sic). I met him today at the democracy village. He says he does it to protest against the media, how they predigest (sic) against older people and overweight people, plus he wants to be famous."

Steve responded: 

"Is this legitimate? Sorry to doubt you, but do you have any proof I can use for the page?"

No further word from Darren, but five days later another comment was left with a link to Paul Yarrow's Facebook page, headed with a picture looking like the man on television.   

So far, Yarrow himself has yet to speak, so the identification could be wrong. And Steve still wants more on the story. He ends his latest update: 

"Do you know Paul Yarrow? Are YOU Paul Yarrow? Let us know!"

Give these two a big round of applause: Steve for building a site that produces results; and Paul Yarrow, because it's great to see there are still people who think appearing on TV is a big deal.  

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