Andrew Norfolk, the Times reporter responsible for exposing Rotherham's child sex scandal, recoils when the Guardian suggests coming to its London office for an interview. Not because he is based in Leeds, or works for a rival, but because "it would make me feel as though I was begging to be interviewed, which is certainly not the case".

In an age in which journalists are advised to see themselves as a brand, a voice or a personality, Norfolk is very much an accidental superstar. His investigation into child sexual exploitation won the Paul Foot and Orwell prizes for journalism last year and led to the recent inquiry which found 1,400 children were abused over a 16-year period. Yet he has never promoted any of his stories online, refuses to use Facebook and signed up to Twitter for two weeks only as part of a deal with his bosses to watch the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa. The last ever tweet from @threelionsSA reads, "End of the adventure, Jo'burg airport," and is dated July 2010.

He chain-smokes Marlboro Gold while working in a "hovel of a sort-of study in what was once the third bedroom", and describes himself as the "slowest writer in the world". When we eventually meet in a grand London hotel, we are barred from the main lobby because of an event advertised with huge posters shouting "Bertelsmann – innovation and creativity". "I'm not from the London media world," he says, before trying to explain his reluctance to share his opinions by stressing his role as "reporter, not columnist or opinion-former".

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