Jamie Bartlett, the award-winning journalist behind hit BBC podcasts such as Believe In Magic and The Missing Cryptoqueen, has revealed that he feels more confident writing podcasts then he does presenting them.
Bartlett’s first investigative podcast series for BBC Sounds - The Missing Cryptoqueen - launched nearly four years ago and dove into the disappearance of scammer Dr Ruja Ignatova and fraudulent cryptocurrency scheme OneCoin. Bartlett later released a book on the investigation, which is still ongoing today, in 2021.
Bartlett’s background is predominantly in writing, having written multiple books as well as worked as a print journalist for outlets such as the Daily Telegraph. Bartlett told PodPod on the latest episode that presenting felt like a “secondary thing” and actually preferred to stay behind the scenes.
His second BBC investigative podcast, A Very British Cult, launched at the end of March this year, and Bartlett decided to take a step back and stay off mic, focusing instead on writing the podcast. The eight-part series followed an 18-month investigation into mentoring and coaching company Lighthouse International, which turned out to be a cult. The show was hosted by fellow award-winning investigative journalist Catrin Nye, and was later turned into a television series.
“I sort of realised I don't need to be the presenter, I don't need to try to present everything; I could maybe do a much better job if I could just focus on writing the story,” said Bartlett. “I get quite nervous with interviews. I don't really like it, I get so worried about it, and I just don't particularly enjoy the confrontation of it or nervousness beforehand. What I do enjoy is working out how to get to the bottom of the story and writing the story.”
“Catrin Nye is a better presenter than me, she's more experienced than me,” said Bartlett. “When she did the door stepping of Paul [Waugh, founder of Lighthouse] at the end of A Very British Cult, I could not have done it that well; there’s no chance.”
During his experience as the host of The Missing Cryptoqueen, Bartlett told PodPod that his voice was even called “annoying” by The Guardian in a review of the show.
Bartlett did, however, return to his presenting roots for his newest BBC investigative series, Believe In Magic, on the then-16-year-old founder of the charity Megan Bhari, who was accused of faking a brain tumour. With both Believe In Magic and The Missing Cryptoqueen having very small teams to work with, Bartlett told PodPod that the roles between producers, writers, and presenters were very blurred and that “everyone [was] doing everything, in a sense”.
With Believe in Magic, Bartlett helped producer Ruth Mayer write the script in the same way that he helped producer Georgia Catt write the script for The Missing Cryptoqueen, to ensure that the podcast had “good quality writing” so that listeners stayed engaged.
“I think because with podcasts it’s so important to keep people listening, and you're asking a lot of people's time, the writing has to be very, very good to keep people engaged for three, four or five hours, maybe even in one go,” said Bartlett. “So I think podcasts deserve specialist writers to be able to do that.”
Unlike A Very British Cult and Believe in Magic, whose stories had already reached an endpoint, The Missing Cryptoqueen is still an ongoing investigation four years later, as Dr. Ignatova remains unfound today. Bartlett told PodPod that there will be new episodes of the podcast “soon” that will unravel new updates to the investigation.
“When you're doing the long form investigation type…I think people feel a lot closer to you, they feel invested in the story,” said Bartlett. “Sometimes there's even been a bit of frustration out there about why the Cryptoqueen story has not delivered more episodes yet, every time I tweet or do something, there's always someone saying ‘what on earth are you doing, get back on that’… I can't explain the full reasoning, you'll understand one day soon.”