Entertainment & Arts

Archers editor Vanessa Whitburn 'was cyber-bullied'

Vanessa Whitburn
Image caption Vanessa Whitburn revealed some of the stresses that came with the job as editor of the Archers

The outgoing editor of The Archers has said she was "cyber-bullied" by listeners over the show's storylines.

Vanessa Whitburn is retiring as the BBC Radio 4 programme's longest-serving editor after 22 years.

Ms Whitburn admitted she had felt stress in the role at times but that "it does come with the territory".

She said there was unhappiness among some listeners at plots including the killing off of long-standing character Nigel Pargetter in 2011.

Nigel Pargetter had been played by Graham Seed for 27 years.

Death threats

Ms Whitburn told BBC Radio 4's Feedback programme: "I'm not as tough as people think but you have to be a bit tough, you can't take the job and then take the good bits and whinge about the bad bits.

"I do not mind proper criticism, and we have a very intelligent audience out there who love the programme, and I love debating with listeners. What I don't like is cyber-bullying."

Asked if that included death threats, she said: "I wouldn't call it a serious death threat, but you know people saying 'why don't we kill Whitburn rather than Nigel [Pargetter]', stuff like that.

"You have to ignore it. People are very sad - those people. Most of my listeners whom I meet and talk to are fantastic and galvanising and interesting and we can debate things forever."

Speaking about the Nigel Pargetter plotline, she added: "I thought it was a good story. I have a regret that several people didn't enjoy it."

'Good shape'

The world's longest running radio soap opera, which has been on air for 62 years, attracts up to five million listeners every week.

Set in the fictional Midlands village of Ambridge, it charts the lives of its characters, many of whom are from the farming community.

Announcing her retirement from the show, Ms Whitburn said: "I leave the programme in good shape with some strong storylines planned."

Gwyneth Williams, the controller of Radio 4, described her as "an excellent editor," adding, "we are very grateful to her".

Under Whitburn, the show won awards, including the Sony Gold Award, two Television and Radio Industries Club Awards and The Royal Variety Club Personality of the Year Silver Heart.

Whitburn was also executive producer of radio drama in the Midlands from 1995 and was responsible for Silver Street, the long-running serial on the BBC Asian Network, as well as being behind single plays and serials for BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4.

Last year, Whitburn launched Ambridge Extra, a companion series to the show on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

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