Sonja McLaughlan says social media abuse won’t stop her asking tough questions
The broadcaster Sonja McLaughlan says the abuse she faced on social media for asking tough questions after England’s Six Nations defeat against Wales in February was made more severe because she is a woman. But she has vowed not to soften her pitchside interviews when she returns to covering Eddie Jones’s side next month.
McLaughlan was left in tears by the vitriolic reaction she received after asking the England captain, Owen Farrell, about his side’s ill-discipline and whether they should have been more switched on before a Josh Adams try during the 40-24 loss.
She promised she would not be reduced to offering up dull platitudes to players as a consequence. “All of us in this business get social media abuse,” she said. “But it was just off the scale. Suddenly you are trending on social media and thinking: ‘What the hell just happened?’
“All I was doing was my job. And I just couldn’t get my head round what my alleged crime had been.
“I don’t know if people have got so used to bland post-match interviews that when somebody does suddenly do their job they’re a bit shocked. I don’t know. But I do believe that if a man had asked the same questions, the opprobrium probably wouldn’t have been quite as severe.
“Will I change? No. Because I’m old enough and ugly enough to handle it.”
McLaughlan, who will be part of Amazon Prime’s team that will livestream 17 autumn internationals, said she feared her style of interviewing was going out of fashion – with broadcasters increasingly content to play it safe. “I can’t change because I’m hardwired to be a trained broadcast journalist,” she said. “That’s who I am. That’s what I do. And I believe that that’s why Amazon have asked me to be involved, because I do take on my job in a certain way.
“I’m curious about the sport. If you’re going to do pre- or post-match interviews, well, let’s do them properly. Let’s not stream out with platitudes. Because, what’s the point? Alex Sanderson [the Sale director of rugby] recently called me the smiling assassin. But it’s who I am and I try to do it to the best of my ability because I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Meanwhile, Alex Green, the managing director of Amazon Prime Video, said he had been in discussions with Emma Raducanu on how best to spend the seven-figure sum the broadcaster had received from Channel 4 to show the US Open final last month.
Green said Raducanu had been particularly keen for the money to be invested in young tennis players and that Amazon would release more details by the end of the year. “She does know that she is a role model and she can have a future beneficial impact, particularly for young girls thinking of taking up sports seriously,” he said.
“We don’t want to see the money just going into some pot. We will be in control and making a very conscious decision about what makes the most difference.”