Scottish Independence Referendum: TV Journalists Become the News

Courtesy of HBO

A Sky News reporter swears on air, while an ITV editor speaks of "abuse and even intimidation"

Some British news reporters covering Thursday's independence referendum in Scotland have themselves become the news after describing the challenges they have faced.

The referendum has split celebrities in Britain. If voters support independence, Scotland would become independent after hundreds of years of being part of the U.K. News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch has also been among industry folks tweeting about the referendum.

Sky News' Kay Burley on Wednesday reported from Aberdeen‎, calling a pro-independence campaigner a "knob," a British word for "prick," on air when she thought she was off-camera. “We’ve got one or two "yes" campaigners here getting a little bit lairy," she added. Her comments came after the campaigner allegedly threatened her cameraman with a stick, she explained on Twitter.

The comments caused a social media firestorm. Burley later apologized on Twitter, saying: "Soz for poor language - never alone with a microphone! Challenging environment."

Meanwhile, ITV News political editor Tom Bradby in a blog post this week also wrote about the debate and climate surrounding the referendum as being challenging for journalists.

“I have a confession this morning, which is that I am not enjoying covering the Scottish referendum," he said. "All journalists live for the chance to report on great events and they don’t come more momentous than the potential break-up of the U.K. But pretty much all reporters I chatted to yesterday agreed that the level of abuse and even intimidation being meted out by some in the "yes" ampaign was making this referendum a rather unpleasant experience.”

The Guardian reported that the BBC has stepped up security for its news teams after some of its journalists have been subjected to hate mail and “quite personal attacks."

It said that some other media organizations have also asked staff to be vigilant and briefed them about additional security

The BBC even faced a demonstration outside its office in Glasgow over the weekend, during which some people called for BBC political editor Nick Robinson to be fired. Some viewers criticized him after an encounter with Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, who has led the pro-independence movement, earlier this month.

Some viewers criticized Robinson’s suggestion that Salmond had avoided answering a key question was a sign of bias. The BBC has said the “questions were valid, and the overall report balanced and impartial."

Twitter: @georgszalai