Kay Burley's Covid cock-up isn't surprising: British journalism has a 'do as I say, not as I do' problem

Kay Burley has broken Covid rules and Sky News' fierce moral voice... uh... Kay Burley will be furious.

Happy (almost) 60th birthday to ferocious Sky News mainstay Kay Burley who is a stalwart of British journalism…

*5 seconds later*

We regret to inform you that Kay Burley has broken Covid rules in a truly ridiculous manner (following a Covid-secure visit to a restaurant with a rule-breaking trip to another restaurant before having several friends back to her home).

Still, she can join Rita Ora in the Daily Mail’s rogues gallery now.


Burley apologised for the ‘error of judgement’ with the kind of tweet that Sky News’ Kay Burley would usually pull a lemon-face of disbelief at on her show. Unfortunately, Kay Burley isn’t presenting her Sky News show this morning for ‘some reason’ so will not be able to express her disappointment at Kay Burley, in an ill-tempered interview with… herself.

In the original claims by deeply unpleasant, muck shovelling site Guido Fawkes — so take them with a huge shovel of salt — it’s suggested that other on-camera Sky News staff — Beth Rigby (political editor), Inzamam Rashid (news correspondent), and Sam Washington (presenter) — joined Burley at the birthday bash. Guido Fawkes is trailing more revelations coming today:

Rigby’s presence makes it very easy for the right to turn Sky News into a pinata; contrasting her rightly harsh questioning of Dominic Cummings during the post-Barnard Castle jaunt press conference in the Downing Street rose garden, with her own alleged behaviour. It’s a classic ‘do as I say, not as I do’ story.

“Why are you so different? What people see here is that there’s one rule for you… and another rule for them. Do you think that you, at the very least, owe them an apology?”

Those were Beth Rigby’s precisely pitched words to Cummings on that day in May. They will be replayed to her frequently on social media this week if it’s true that she joined Kay Burley in breaking the rules.

The problem is that members of the British print and broadcast media so often take a high-handed position, ladling on the moral outrage, that when they fuck up it makes it very easy for critics of journalism to come sliding in studs up.

Of course, the shower of shite at TalkRadio — the News UK speech station that pretends it’s not owned by Rupert Murdoch and therefore as ‘mainstream’ as ‘mainstream media’ gets — is going big on the story:

Sky News has responded strongly to the alleged flouting of the regulation by its people. In a statement to The Guardian, a spokesperson said:

“We place the highest importance on complying with the government guidelines on Covid, and we expect all our people to comply.

We were disappointed to learn that a small number of Sky News staff may have engaged in activity that breached the guidelines. 

Although this took place at a social event in personal time, we expect all our people to follow the rules that are in place for everyone. An internal process is underway to review the conduct of the people involved.”  

Call me cynical (“Mic, you’re cynical!”) but I suspect that Burley — a founding Sky News presenter and a big star for the channel — and Rigby, who is key in its reporting on the slow-rolling Brexit disaster as well as other political developments, will get the lightest of slaps on the wrist. It will be a slap so slight that you’ll need a transmission electron microscope to discern a mark.

Sky News will be hoping that Burley’s swift but limited apology will clear this issue up and keeping her offscreen for a few days will provide enough time for other stories to kick this one off the agenda. It’s unlikely that anyone will remember that an internal investigation is being undertaken and there’s virtually no chance that Sky News will offer any public comment if anyone does beyond some bland undertaking that the Burley Buddies will not do it again.

As it goes, I don’t think what Burley and her colleagues did is some huge crime really. The government’s rules and regulations have been confused and chaotically applied; with the hypocrisy of Cummings’ car-based optometry key to an overall undermining of solidarity. But journalists and presenters who take an on-air stance that has little sympathy for the fuck ups of others leave themselves open to heavy ridicule when they break the rules. The evidence of their hypocrisy is all over YouTube.

If the British media was less addicted to bouts of high dudgeon when others are found to have failed to stick to the rules, journalists might be cut a little more slack when they let themselves down. But until that day — which will occur sometime after hell installs air conditioning — stories like Burley being caught out will be manna for all kinds of media critics and they won’t feel the need to be fair.

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