Sky’s Kay Burley criticised on Twitter over April Jones report

Criticism of reporter Kay Burley erupted on Twitter this morning after the Sky News presenter told two volunteers searching for missing school girl April Jones, live on air, that “having spoken to the family” they “don’t expect to find her alive”.

A transcript of the conversation reads:

Kay Burley: I want to chat to Donna, who we were chatting to a little while ago, hiya.

Donna: Hiya.

Kay Burley: You’ve heard the news?

Donna: Yeah, he’s just said. [gestures off camera, tearing up] I’m sorry.

[A second person approaches]

Second person: What’s happened? What’s happened, we haven’t heard.

Kay Burley: OK, I didn’t know that you hadn’t heard.

Second person: No we haven’t heard.

Kay Burley: OK, OK, well. Let me just tell you what we’ve heard from the police, is that it’s now become a murder investigation…

Initially, a foreshortened Sky News clip circulated which made it appear as though Kay Burley had not been asked a direct question.

Immediately after the clip was aired Tom Watson MP tweeted:

tom_watson ‏‪@tom_watson‬
Kay Burley: Insensitive bordering on cruel. Is breaking news so important that you have to forget your humanity?

Kay Burley’s name was soon trending, with most tweeters broadly critical of the report.

Peter Smith ‏‪@Redpeter99‬
I hope there is someone at @SkyNews who knows about ethics. Kay Burley crass interview with the son of the arrested man plumbs new depths.

Neil Mann, social media editor at The Wall Street Journal pointed out that it is:

Neal Mann ‏‪@fieldproducer‬
Worth noting Burley is not first journalist by any means to have to tell someone bad news, many of us have done it, although just not live.

Helen Lewis, deputy editor of the New Statesman offers another perspective:

Helen Lewis ‏‪@helenlewis‬
‪@archiebland‬ ‪@clairecohen1‬ Hmm. I found the “grab a grieving person RIGHT after they’ve had terrible news for a vox pop” a bit grim.

Others felt Burley’s questions were entirely out of line.

Megan Naylor ‏‪@MeganCNaylor‬
Seriously crass RT @imthenicenurse: Kay Burley tells two unaware villagers that it is now a murder inquiry live on air #skytrash

Richard S ‏‪@RichardStn‬
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that on live tv. Kay Burley should be taken off this story immediately. @SkyNews #kayburley

Lauren Laverne ‏‪@laurenlaverne‬
Kay Burley. Wow. Just wow.

The report also spawned a debate about rolling news coverage generally, rather than about Kay Burley herself.

Neil Mann wrote:

Neal Mann ‏‪@fieldproducer‬
News organisations may need to think in future & plan ahead, if a murder inquiry may occur put plan in place – eg go back to studio

The Sunday Times columnist India Knight agrees.

India Knight ‏‪@indiaknight‬
As ‪@fieldproducer‬ has pointed out, there’s really an issue with rolling news in situations like this.

The debate surrounding the ethics of rolling news coverage ignited conversation as to the responsibility of Sky News in a scenario like this one. Jonathan Haynes of the Guardian tweeted:

Jonathan Haynes ‏‪@JonathanHaynes‬
‪@fieldproducer‬ I don’t think people will slate Sky News. People think of Burley as an individual.

This certainly seemed the case on Twitter as Burley received mounting criticism across the social network

Dave Miller ‏‪@DaveMMiller‬
As a mother herself how can Kay Burley justify breaking news like that to April’s family? No empathy & cruel. Do the decent thing & resign

Gina S ‏‪@Gina_Gina_Gina‬
Kay Burley is either incredibly thick or completely insensitive. Either way she should be sacked as a deterrent to other journalists.

Jamie McConkey ‏‪@jamiemcconkey‬
Disgraceful journalism from Kay Burley yet again ‪http://bit.ly/Um1hkN ‬. Cheap, populist hackery. Shameful.

To watch the full Kay Burley clip, click here

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