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Newsbeat and Susan Boyle

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Rod McKenzie Rod McKenzie | 08:11 UK time, Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Demi Moore loves her. She's the bookies' favourite to win ITV's Britain's Got Talent and she has hordes of fans.

Susan BoyleIt's Susan Boyle from Blackburn, West Lothian, of course. She's 47 and, she says, never been kissed.

So why - a few people have asked me - do we refer to her as "a virgin" on Radio 1? Do we now insist on checking the chastity or otherwise of all those who we report on? No, let me assure you, we don't.

This is not some salacious reporting of sex lives or lack of them. It's a crucial part of her back story and one she herself has highlighted on many media interviews. She's never had a boyfriend and these details are unusual and interesting. Worth reporting, I would argue.

We wouldn't be mentioning this if she hadn't brought it up - but she did. She herself hasn't complained. I don't think there's an invasion of privacy issue here because she is the source, not the subject, of an allegation. Anyway, virginity's nothing to be ashamed of, is it?


  • Comment number 1.

    What fatuous self-serving nonsense !!

    She never 'brought it up' - she made a polite reference to it, which you, because whatever you might think you are no better than the tabloid rags you imitate, used a completely non-polite and non-respectful approach.

    Will you be asking all your interviewees, married or otherwise, when they last had sex ??

    Will you be treating anyone who is not in a relationship or outside your demographic as 'uncool' or 'saddoes' for whom the fact that they actually have some talent as a major source of amazement ??

    It may surprise you to know that in Celtic civilisations for millennia before TV came on the seen things like the 'Noson Lawen' existed to give ALL members of the community a chance to entertain each other with song and dance. And maybe surprise the neighbours with a hidden talent.

    After the Second World War many women went through life single because they had been widowed. What next ? A 'documentary' about their sex lives or lack of it.

    Stop this self-justifying twaddle to defend yourselves against this prurient, nosey nonsense - you should be ashamed of yourselves.

    But shame is probably not a word in your vocabulary. Your behaviour reminds one of the infantile japes of the teenage twits on the 'in-betweeners' - which is probably your level of journalism.

  • Comment number 2.

    If she had 'mentioned' her toilet habits would you have written about them too?

    <<=== The Sun | ===>> Lord Reith

    Please take a step to the right!...

  • Comment number 3.

    I completely agree with the previous commenters, your justification is utter twaddle.

    Your coverage of Ms Boyle is childish, demeaning and discriminatory.

    Just because it's in the tabloid comics doesn't make it news!

  • Comment number 4.

    GUYS ,take it easy on the words and thoughts. in any case its just somebodies thinking .

  • Comment number 5.


    Oh so that makes it OK then?...

  • Comment number 6.

    The BBC's main job and it's charter is to report the facts in a balanced and fair way. And you can argue that is what you have been doing. However in this case i would have to agree with the others. Stop mentioning that she is a virgin, does it really add much value to the story? And Miss Boyle may be uncomfortable with this but she is probably too polite to say. You do not ask your other guests this same question. I think the reason the reason why she is as popular as she is because she is a normal person with a fantastic voice, not because she is a virgin. And on this case perhaps you should be a bit more respectful to her. P.S this is not a crucial point to her back story, what is crucial is that she looked after her dying mother and said on tv, 'it wasn't a chore, it was a honour'. Now that is crucial

  • Comment number 7.

    Absolute rubbish Rod. You're not fooling anyone, other than perhaps yourself. She's not had a boyfriend, so rather than referring to her as a singleton, you hone in on the 'lack of sex' angle? What's wrong with just saying "who's never been kissed", which is how others are more respectfully describing her, and how she described herself? Please don't tell me time constraints mean you have to be more succinct than that.

    Just be honest. This has everything to do with "virgin" being a more direct statement of her sexual history, and that being more "sensational" to a youthful, more sex-obsessed audience. Absolutely no different to kids brought up on Skins, insecure of themselves, and laughing at "the virgin" in the playground.

    It's partly because of your constant pandering to the salacious, vain and vacuous elements of our culture that the present generation you target will, as they get older, drag the BBC even further downhill. It's bad enough that current mainstream news is more infantile than John Craven's Newsround when I was growing up. The trend seems unstoppable. In 20 years time, when the 10 o'clock news has a dance-track behind the whole bulletin, and is reduced to simple soundbites and 'Day Today' indulgence, it will be because of what people like you were doing 20 years earlier.

    Here's a novel idea: stop pandering and start acting like the grown-up.

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm happy for everyone to know I'm a bit fat; I'm not so happy for everyone to refer to me as 'Fat djmikeyc' as if my weight is a defining characteristic.
    that's a lame analogy, but I think you get what I'm saying.

  • Comment number 9.

    The media should take some responsibility in dealing with vulnerable persons. Someone such as Ms Boyle or a Big Brother housemate has been catapulted into the limelight almost overnight, and will not have the same competence in dealing with the press as someone who has risen through the ranks over a period of time as a professional. Also, the television programmes that feed off such amateurs, in this case ITV's Britain's Got Talent, need to take some initiative in shielding such people. But there's no excuse for the BBC to be discussing her sex life just because the Sun is doing the same. There's a common attitude in the media that anyone in the news is fair game for being disrespected, and this idea needs to be challenged.

    Incidentally, journalists constantly expose their own naivety when dealing with sexual matters: somebody who uses the jokey phrase "never been kissed" and tells you they "never had a boyfriend" isn't necessarily a virgin.

  • Comment number 10.

    Indeed Mr Gammon, just like someone who is a 'confirmed bachelor' is not necessarily gay. But this is all just helping Rod 'Middle Aged' McKenzie pretending to 'hang wid the yoof, m'kay'..

  • Comment number 11.

    I can only agree with the other posters. What a peice of pathetic drivel.
    It takes nothing away from (nor adds to) Susan Boyle, but speaks volumes on your journalistic (or lack of) skills.

  • Comment number 12.

    Who gives a toss if shes a virgin or not?

    I have no interest in her life, nor those of any other contestant, all these bleeding heart stories do is detract from what is and should be just a talent contest.

  • Comment number 13.

    Quit all this nonsence over whether she is a maiden or what She has a voice many of you whould be proud of so get off her back,treat her as the nice person she seams to portray and the very best to her in the future In my humble opionion she will go a long way. G.N.

  • Comment number 14.

    Dear Rod

    I may be in the minority here...but I don't think so. Why do you, or indeed any other journo think everyone is interested in everybody else's sex life? Susan has a wonderful gift, allow us to enjoy that for what it is.

  • Comment number 15.

    It's not really surprising that the media is held in such contempt. Your attempt at justification is pathetic.

  • Comment number 16.


    "Who gives a...."

    An unfortunate choice of phrase! :~)

  • Comment number 17.

    Well the [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]anti-condom Popewould certainly approve of Ms Boyle.. I can't see what the fuss is about given that she hasn't made as big a deal out of it as much as the media-bangers have.

  • Comment number 18.

    I've told people that I'm gay, so i take it people should now refer to me as gay Steve? If she had mentioned that she has a dog; is she now the dog-lady? The permutations for this are infinite, however, it just comes down to the fact that she is in the perceived minority - aged virgin - so we must point and laugh. This is type of reporting is surely akin to bulling and belittling.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    I was about to post when I read some of the comments from other people, and that prefectly summed up my own viewpoint, especially post 1, which seemed to hit the nail on the head.

    I am 28 and used to listen to newsbeat all the time as a student. Unfortunatley now I can see why all of our 14-21 year olds are insecure sex obssessed children. Newsbeat may be their only source of news, and your story and pathetic justification of it will only enhance their insecurities further, there is simply no need. YOU are the one referring to Ms Boyle that way and now YOU are the one defending yourself. No wonder this country is going down the shoot and we have the unhappiest kids in Europe along with the most heavily impregnated!

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    To think I've gone on for this long, and only now just found out that sex appears to have such a tremendous impact on your ability to sing and entertain the masses.

    Well how about that. Think of all the years people have wasted on this sort of thing in private when they could have been singing to the rafters, picking up all sorts of different, interesting titles and labels to lash onto their name.

    Indeed, highlighting such an unrelated, albeit uncommon personal fact about a singer beggars logic in the eyes of everybody who chooses to read the news for news. I could not give a chuff if she's ever been intimate with anybody, what she ate for breakfast, how many times she cursed or what pets she's had; those things aren't of any interest, relevance and most importantly doesn't make a singer good.

    Much like flipping through the tabloids, plucking out the most commonly used and bolded words in any given article then sticking it your own doesn't make a journalist good.

  • Comment number 23.

    For me it is the total lack of respect for another being which I abhor; all too apparent in an inexperienced (or virgin for want of a better word) reporter.

  • Comment number 24.

    Ok, so she mentioned it. By this point, most of the country has at least some idea who she is, and her back story. I suppose this may not be unconnected to the carpet bomb coverage of the story by what seems like all the media, desperately searching for something happy to say in the middle of all those hand-wringing 'we're all doomed' recession laments.

    Besidss, a reference like this is a like the recent continual references to 'reality show contestant Jade Goody'. Really, I needed to know that, to avoid confusing her with the eminent particle pyhsicist Jade Goody, or the world renowned neuroscientist, didn't I? Was there ANYONE who didn't know Jade Goody had been on Big Brother?

    Ok, Susan Boyle's a virgin. We know already, so I don't really think you need to keep referring to it. If nothing else, it's just very lazy and hackneyed writing.

  • Comment number 25.

    Just ignoring the specifics of the story and who it is ... she is a stunning singer and deserves every one of the plaudits she has received for that, the show itself and everything else I am just not interested in ... I think this just highlights the ridiculous overemphasis in our society on sex.

    From teenage onward we promote the idea that having sex (and often) is a good thing to be encouraged, and take a sniffy attitude to anyone who says otherwise ... whilst at the same time tut-tutting at sex education in schools, sexual content on television and at the massive rate of teenage and unwanted pregnancy in our society.

    So, Susan Boyle has never had a boyfriend. So what? So (that implies) she has never had sex. So what? For me, that is something to be applauded in a society that likely includes many people who have had multiple sexual partners but no genuine boy/girlfriend.

    She is a talented singer and a good bet to win Britain's Got Talent.

    Everything else is just hogwash.

  • Comment number 26.


    Your reference to Susan Boyle’s virginity was simply not called for, and shows the same mindset as Jonathan Ross – whatever the real story, emphasise the sex. Ross is known for being creepy of course, but there's no need for you to follow his grubby example.

    We all make mistakes though, so perhaps you just got it wrong. Why not say so?

  • Comment number 27.

    Your question regarding whether virginity is something to be ashamed of has hit the nail on the head! After reading all of the comments above I am left with the impression that people think virginity IS a shameful thing to mention.

  • Comment number 28.

    Clearly Rod you do think it is something shameful, something bad. As the saying goes, no news is good news, so if you thought it was a good thing she was a virgin you wouldn't report it.

    A while back in his book on journalism Andrew Marr quite solidly indicted the BBC for being institutionally biased, self-selecting from a relatively narrow portion of the population and generally unable or unwilling to step outside of its prejudices. This would be another good example of your isolation from your paymasters. Us. The great unwashed.

  • Comment number 29.


    "I am left with the impression that people think virginity IS a shameful thing to mention"

    No shameful, just not required, ask yourself this - does the information add anything to the story? Many seem to be saying that it doesn't, I would actually go further, it could be detracting from the real story, how many teenagers are sniggering at the thought of a 47 year old virgin rather than applauding/admiring her for (obviously) giving-over so many years to caring for her ill mother rather than passing her off on to the state care system...

  • Comment number 30.

    Is this the real reason for this 'diversionary tactic' ?

    And maybe Rod McKenzie will do a 'vox pop' among his target audience and explain to them that he is a '40 year-old virgin' to see whether he thinks that is something that he can sell positively to them, and is not a pejorative remark.

  • Comment number 31.


    To echo your post I would also point up that people who watch talent shows do know a marvellous and tuneful voice when they hear it. It gives the lie that you have to be marketable to have talent.

    The BBC line hardly surprises me. Anything to create a story other than to cover the amazing gift of someone who has devoted so much time to someone else. Her selflessness has certainly been rewarded in kind. We should applaud her wholeheartedly and not treat her in the same way that the mediocre detritus of "modernity" is treated.

  • Comment number 32.

    What is all the fuss about? She can barely carry a tune and hitting notes seemed more by luck than judgement. If she'd looked less of a troll and was 25 years younger she'd already be an also ran.

  • Comment number 33.

    I believe that those with little or no self-discipline just want to sensationalise and ridicule those who have mastery of themselves. NEWSFLASH: For some people sex is regarded rather more highly than a simple recreational activity. Susan should be commended for caring for her mother. She chose to sacrifice her youth and the potential to marry and have a family. Why should she have to explain that decision to the entire world?

  • Comment number 34.

    Speaking as someone who shares this characteristic with Ms Boyle, I am disgusted that it is being used as a defining characteristic. Experience, or lack of it, should not play a role in the coverage of what is a sensational talent. I can say that I would be horrified if I was defined as "Virgin Tomorrowsgirl" rather than by the talent I was attempting to showcase in the first place. Virginity may be rare, her voice is exceptional. You should be ashamed of your lurid and tacky angle.

  • Comment number 35.

    Firstly, I don't once recall Susan Boyle saying she was a virgin. Just because somebody hasn't been kissed or had a boyfriend doesn't necessarily imply she hasn't had sex.

    Secondly, whilst you're right that virginity is nothing to be ashamed of I don't really see why this in particular is a key focus of her back story. Perhaps as part of the 'back story' to your article and us understanding your reasoning you would like to share with us at your own experiences around virginty, after all, it's nothing to be ashamed of is it?

  • Comment number 36.

    I could start "... with a name like Rod what do you expect..." but that is unkind isn't it? But that is where the media has gone to in its puerile journey to turn anything and everything into a news item. Firstly this women's personal life is none of your business unless you report her accurately. That means not being clever by using the word "virgin" in one of its many senses thus tempting people to jump to conclusions about what you actually said. You also stretch the word "highlighted" to unbelievably crass levels - "she has mentioned it" - is about as far as you can go. And wasn't that in response to a question? Ask her on a date Rod and see what answer you get? Wouldn't dare?

  • Comment number 37.

    I wholeheartedly second lordBeddGelert's comments, and all the others agreeing with him.

    Mr McKenzie, be a MAN for once in your life.

    Issue a public apology for your puerile behaviour.

    (and your refusal to allow this post to remain on the board will merely confirm that you know you are in the wrong)

  • Comment number 38.

    When Britney Spears first appeared in the pop-world, it was widely reported that she was "saving herself" (whether true or not).

    I don't remember her repeatedly being referred to as "Britney Spears the Virgin" though.

  • Comment number 39.

    What is the connection between Susan Boyle and hunger?

    This is an interesting article from the World Food Programme, that looks at Susan's success from a unique angle.

    Essentially, hunger is the Susan Boyle of the policy world.

  • Comment number 40.

    How about listening to what Susan Boyle says for herself instead of pressing f9 and getting your instant Boyle article..?

    This is how the media works:

  • Comment number 41.

    "It's a crucial part of her back story"

    Is it?

  • Comment number 42.


    1)Re: Her sexual history: I will not be commenting on this issue...

    2)Demi Moore loves her. She's the bookies' favourite to win ITV's Britain's Got Talent and she has hordes of fans. Susan Boyle, is most of everyone's favourite person regarding the hard start in her life and also...the favourite to win the Got Talent show on ITV in the United Kingdom...

    **I am not predicting the winner or promoting the winner or the show**

    -Dennis Junior-

  • Comment number 43.

    Stop bashing Susan Boyle. She is now our hero. Or is BBC now can only hire amateur journalists?

  • Comment number 44.

    Ok so the reporter is from Radio One, would it have made any difference if it had been a radio 4 reporter?
    All this shows is that the media have discovered a 9 day wonder over a normal human being who has a fantastic voice. There are a lot of normal people about you know and I guess the current shock and surprise is because the media, (gutter press and reality tv) have suddenly had a reality check and had to recognise this fact.
    The rest of us are not shocked she can sing, more amused at the press and media reaction. Whoo hoo.. at last, welcome back down to earth guys, NOW maybe you can stop reporting about so called celebs in Hollywood who got drunk last night with no undies on and get back to REAL reporting. Oh and PLEASE leave Ms Boyle alone, she is lovely just the way she is.

  • Comment number 45.

    Can we all please stop talking about this woman ,someone is making a lot of money out of this here,tv ,papers she is everywhere,drives me mad,when good people are trying to make a living in this Ecomonic downturn,and we have to put up with this madness,tell the woman to go and sing to the starving in Africa if she wants to make her shorteam mark on the world,but the hype in the USA, I cannot understand, were I think they got there own problems to think about ,perhaps we could sell her to the amercians ,to help the national debt,and if Mr Obarma mentions her name ,he as lost a fan out of me.Perhaps the woman could play Jade in the upcoming musical,then we could "kill two birds with one stone"

  • Comment number 46.

    The major difference between Jade and Boyle, is that Jade spent every waking moment desperately seeking adulation from the media and public. Susan Boyle just happened to sing a song on a talent show, she is not responsible for the worlwide reaction to her performance, in fact she herself probably thinks it may have gone a bit too far, so please don't automatically align the two completely contrasting pesonalities.

  • Comment number 47.

    For a sanity check on all this (and these stage-managed talent shows) I suggest that people listen to the latest of edition Radio 4s "A Point of view" by Clive James (7 days left from this comments posting date) - Clive hits the nail firmly on its head and drives it all the way home in one...

  • Comment number 48.

    These comments are making my blood boil.
    She's a singer with a good voice like so many others. But when I first heard her I closed my eyes and was captured my something magical. There is something in her voice that is quite distinct; I'm not sure what it is, but I enjoy listening to her.

  • Comment number 49.

    She's really a record breaker for me.
    She deserves a standing ovation from an audience.
    A picture of a woman who has a brave heart, and an oveflowing self-confidence.
    She's terrific, despite of the fact that she's old and not that celebrity material, but she has the voice quality.
    Salute to Ms. Susan Boyle...

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 50.

    Oh dear - the fact that this blog is even up there for comment is adding to what was a seemingly innocent comment by a woman who has put herself forward in a competition which she obviously deserves to take part in, being turned into a media circus.

    Of course, it is being known for something unusual that makes celebrity, it seems. No-one can be boring or plain or without controversy if they want to be noticed. That is human nature, but the BBC, along with any and all responsible reporters, should concentrate on Susans fabulous voice. I was as surprised as anyone, and probably dropped my chin almost as much as Simon Cowell, when I heard that voice.

    It is image that makes celebrity, but it is talent that deserves celebrity. Susan Boyle has the talent, good luck to her

  • Comment number 51.

    It's all so woeful and so transparent isn't it? She was successful on BGT not because of her voice, but for her 'unconventional' looks. If she were 28, size 14 and OK looking, then she wouldn't have even got to stand in front of the judges, voice or no voice. She was chosen deliberately by a team of people whose sole aim is to make a controversial bit of telly. Anyone who thinks that this is just a talent competition is naive. We were supposed to think along these lines:

    1). Gosh! She's ugly, I bet she'll sound awful. Get ready to boo her!
    2). Wow! She can sing! Now I'm sorry I judged her on her looks. Better cheer extra loud now!
    3). Great! She's through! Wonder if she'll change her looks now? Is she married? Has she ever... you know?
    4). Look! She's on the front of all the papers! And on the telly! I'm going to buy those papers and those magazines, because it's so interesting to read about the sex life of someone who is usually invisible to the media.
    5). Hmm! Should I be interested in all this? Why am I interested? Is it right for me to think about this?

    We are at stage 5 now. Stages 6 and 7 will be that we'll love her even more, and then there'll be a 'media backlash' (carefully orchestrated of course) and we'll all get sick of her. Whether she wins or not isn't relevant - it never is.

    These programs aren't really about talent, any more than 'Big Brother' is about the psychology of living with strangers, or the 'Apprentice' is about finding Sir Alan a worthy employee. They are part of a symbiotic process to get us buying the media, watching the program, and talking about it. The more we watch, and the more interested/disgusted we are, the more likely we are to part with our cash. A bit of controversy does this process no end of good. We can all talk about, then talk about why we're talking about it, etc. etc. ad nauseam.

    The various media all feed off the story, whip it up to a frenzied pantomime, and then once the storm's blown itself out, discard the actual subject (in this case Ms. Boyle) like an unwanted bit of litter. The privacy, sanity and even the lives of those in the media spotlight are of no concern to those who run the media. If Ms. Boyle becomes depressed, makes herself look ridiculous, turns to drink or drugs, has sex - or even does something terrible, then it's all grist to the mill. Look at Britney Spears. You could almost see the drool coming out of the journo's mouths at the thought she might go insane or do something awful to herself. Pile on the pressure and she might snap!

    A horrible indictment of a society that obsessed with celebrity. But no-one's going to tear down the edifice because there are simply too many vested interests. The day we all close the papers, throw away the magazines, switch off the TV, focus on our own lives and families, and live happily - is one that the media dread more than anything.

  • Comment number 52.


    Yes, you are right. Horribly right. Disgustingly right.

    But what I don't get is why the BBC are wrapped up in this. The rest of the media have products to sell, marketing trinkets, the book, the film, the film of making the film, the film of acting in the film, the director's lunchbox or lack of one etc etc. The BBC is provided for by a bunch of prisoners who have TV broadcast receivers (that receive more programs NOT by the BBC than there are by the BBC) and have to pay the BBC for the privilege of having such equipment. And to make matters worse the BBC then commit a part of our money to produce the kind of drivel that you refer to. It doesn't seem right in a democracy* does it?

    *where is the evidence that this garbage sells - only in the media....

  • Comment number 53.

    'Virgin Susan Boyle' is like saying 'non-murderer Susan Boyle' - it is totally irrelevant!
    'Never been kissed, never had a boyfriend' is just the same as 'Never knifed or strangled anyone to death'! We don't need to know!
    Most of us have never killed anyone - only does it become important when the connection with sex is involved. Disgraceful reporting!
    'Non-murdering and non-thieving Susan Boyle' isn't quite the same, is it?

  • Comment number 54.

    What I find most annoying is that all forms of media seem to think that the British public will only watch, buy/read or attend something that is involving sex, or is about someone with a reputation. Michael Parkinson was spot on about Jade Goody, she was made into an icon almost because of her lack of anything worth shouting about. However, the thing I find most sad is that the media might be right.........!!

  • Comment number 55.

    Seriously what does her being a virgin have to do with anything? She is just a normal woman who was blessed with a beautiful gift, yet people have to take cheap shots at her flaws? I dont believe any of us are truly flawless and some of these comments have proven this.


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