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Mark Handscomb

01642 738697
Job title:
Senior Lecturer in Online Journalism
School of Computing, Media & the Arts
Computing, Media & the Arts research

About Mark Handscomb

Mark Handscomb

Mark Handscomb
Senior Lecturer in Online Journalism, School of Computing, Media & the Arts
T: 01642 738697
Research: Computing, Media & the Arts research

My career as a broadcaster and journalist began in 1987 on graduation from City University, London when I joined BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour as a researcher-reporter. Thereafter, I began to report for the BBC World Service magazine programme Outlook and the hour-long news programme, Newshour. I went on to work for news and current affairs programmes on BBC Radio 4, such as Today and The World Tonight.

This led eventually to me moving into television documentaries, starting as a researcher to becoming a producer/director. My television career involved travelling the world to produce films about fair trade coffee (Rwanda, BBC1) to sailing to the Arctic Circle in a fishing trawler (Trawlermen, BBC1). I’ve helped to film various high adrenaline series such as Seaside Rescue (BBC1) and Oil, Sweat and Rigs (Discovery). I’ve also produced investigative programmes such as World in Action (ITV) and Taking Liberties (BBC2), and worked on long form documentaries (St Paul’s, 3 x 60 minutes for BBC 2). For ID Theft and Road Rage (BBC1, Steadfast TV), I was the producer/director shooting two prime time documentaries that tell the horrific personal stories of road users competing for space on the public highway, and individuals whose identities were stolen by criminals. In December 2005, I directed a 40-minute New Year’s Day special for transmission on BBC1 about the singer Chris de Burgh and his faith and personal beliefs. This was produced in the BBC Religion and Ethics department and involved filming in Ireland and the UK. Forgiving Dr Mengele was an observational film following a child survivor of Dr Mengele’s medical experiments returning to Auschwitz with her son to forgive what was done to her as a ten year old twin. I filmed on location in America and Poland for BBC Religion and Ethics. The programme was nominated for a Sandford St Martin Award.

I have also helped to develop many prime time factual series, such as the popular genealogy series Who do you think you are? (BBC1). The series has sparked a new genre of family history television programmes. I have produced numerous half-hour radio documentaries, such as Face the Facts. Some were of an investigative nature, others were more feature based. Other documentaries I produced and presented featured New York’s health crisis and drug resistant tuberculosis (Assignment, entered for Sony Award), Airships (Omnibus), Drug Importation (Network UK), and Britain’s Crack Epidemic (Network UK). I produced several It’s My Story documentaries for BBC Radio 4, such as Archangel, The Man who Murdered my Daughter and Through the Past Darkly.

I have contributed in depth features to The Independent and specialized in health reporting e.g. the medicinal value of cannabis and the popularity of Chinese herbal medicine.

Research interests

The history of factual television and the legacy of programmes such as World in Action, First Tuesday and the BBC's Brass Tacks is a particular interest. Award winning network television programmes such as these had a distinctly northern identity, broadcasting from studios in Leeds and Manchester. I'm interested in the legacy left by such network programmes, especially since they are often overlooked or ignored by London based rivals.

My first degree is in History and throughout my film making career, I produced many films which drew on historic themes. This has continued in my academic career and I'll be helping lead a student trip to Auschwitz in January 2014 in the run up to Holocaust Memorial Day.

Enterprise interests

Student work placements and establishing successful partnerships with media related industries is an important part of my work outside of the normal teaching timetable. I set up a mentoring scheme for journalism students with BBC Tees, some of whom now broadcast regularly on the station whilst continuing their studies at the University.

In cooperation with True North, a television production company in Leeds, we have arranged for students interested in factual television to carry out work placements. These have led onto students securing contracts to work on broadcast productions.

I also organise an annual employability event called Mind the Gap which puts media employers in face to face contact with future talent, helping to promote student enterprise and the University's willingness to work in partnership with industry.

In the news

  • Series of events to mark Holocaust Memorial Day
    Northern Echo, 24/01/17; Darlington & Stockton Times, 23/01/17
    A Programme of talks, seminars, exhibitions and screenings are are being held by Teesside University to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day.