Kay Burley is currently the subject of a petition aimed at having her sacked from Sky News, as well as the subject of over a thousand complaints to OFCOM. She's also been called many names in social media posts, usually in terms reserved only for women. The trigger for this was an interview on Sky News with Nick Varney, chief executive of Merlin Entertainment, following the dreadful accident on a roller coaster at Alton Towers.
I've watched the interview several times. As a fellow journalist who specialises in training CEOs to cope with crisis interviews, I think Ms Burley did nothing wrong. The interview could have been shorter, but that's not Ms Burley's fault, since she was no doubt being directed from the gallery, and being told to keep going.
Mr Varney spoke well, and expressed his concern and sympathy for the victims. However, he also referred to introducing "another level of safety", which begged the question as to why that wasn't already in place. Any professional journalist would have probed him on that point.
However, I suspect this is more about another issue - Ms Burley's gender. If the interview had been conducted by a male journalist, Paxman-style, I don't think there would have been a similar outcry. The fact that many of the insults refer to her as a "bitch", "cow' or even worse, indicate that people feel that being a woman and being an assertive interviewer is unaceptable.
It's perhaps telling that when Jeremy Clarkson admitted to punching a member of his production team, a million people signed a petition to have him reinstated. In 1997, Jeremy Paxman was widely praised for asking former Home Secretary Michael Howard the same question fourteen times in a row. However, Ms Burley's repeated questioning of safety standards following a serious accident is seen as intrusive.
It seems to me that the wave of criticism has more than a whiff of sexism about it. Sky News should express their confidence in Ms Burley, and ask her to get on with her job of holding public figures to account.
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