Kirsty Wark at the Innovate'08 Conference
Kirsteen Anne Wark
3 February 1955
|Education||University of Edinburgh|
Kirsteen Anne "Kirsty" Wark FRSE (born 3 February 1955) is a British journalist, newsreader and television presenter, best known for fronting BBC Two's news and current affairs programme Newsnight since 1993, and its weekly arts spin-off Newsnight Review (later The Review Show) from 2002 to 2014.
Wark was born in Dumfries, Scotland, to Jimmy Wark, a solicitor, and Roberta Wark, a schoolteacher. Wark was educated at Kilmarnock Grammar Primary and subsequently Ayr's independent Wellington School. She studied history at the University of Edinburgh.
Television and radio career
Wark switched to television in 1982, producing Reporting Scotland and the lunchtime political programme Agenda and current affairs series Current Account. She then moved into presenting, fronting Reporting Scotland, Seven Days, Left, Right and Centre and Scottish Questions coverage for BBC Scotland, before moving to network television as part of the Breakfast Time presenting team. In 1988, she was one of the first reporters to cover the Lockerbie disaster. In 1990, Wark demonstrated her distinctive line of questioning in an interview with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Wark was a presenter on BBC2 arts programme The Late Show (from 1990–3) and the heritage programme One Foot in the Past. In 1999, she presented The Kirsty Wark Show, her own interview programme. Wark has been a presenter on the BBC programme Newsnight since 1993.
During the 1990s, she presented many programmes produced by her production company Wark Clements & Co, including Words With Wark, Restless Nation, Building A Nation and Lives Less Ordinary.
In 2006, she presented a series of programmes on BBC television about countries on the continent entitled Tales from Old Europe. In June 2006 she interviewed Harold Pinter. Wark hosted the 10th annual Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Awards on 30 November 2007 for STV. She made a cameo appearance in the 2008 Doctor Who episode "The Poison Sky". She replaced David Baddiel as host of the BBC Four programme The Book Quiz in 2008 and hosted a BBC Two quiz show, A Question of Genius, which ran from 2009 to 2010. In 2011 she was chosen to host a BBC food quiz show entitled A Question of Taste, pitting two teams of food fanatics against one another.
Wark participated in the 2011 series of Celebrity MasterChef where she reached the final and narrowly lost out to Phil Vickery. On 1 January 2012, Wark appeared in a cameo role as herself in the revival of the BBC's Absolutely Fabulous. In January 2013 she appeared in a special series of The Great British Bake Off, where she was awarded Star Baker. Later that year, she made a cameo appearance in two episodes of The Politician's Husband which aired on BBC Two.
In 2018, Margarita Simonyan, the Russia Today journalist who interviewed the two Russian suspects of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal terminated an interview with Wark. It came after Wark challenged "the manner of the interview" and asked if the interview didn't just reinforce the notion that RT was a 'propaganda tool of the Russian state.' Simonyan said Wark's questions seemed "like typical Western propaganda." Since 2020, she has presented the BBC Radio 4 series "The Reunion". She has also, on occasion, presented "Start the Week" on BBC Radio 4.
Honours and awards
Wark was named journalist of the year by BAFTA Scotland in 1993 and Best Television Presenter in 1997. She was also nominated for the prestigious Richard Dimbleby Award for Best Television Presenter (Factual, Features and News) in the BAFTAS 2000.
Wark is regarded as being close to the Labour Party. Donald Dewar, Scottish Labour politician and former First Minister of Scotland, a close friend, appointed her to the Scottish Parliament Building Design Selection Panel, which chose Enric Miralles' design for the new parliament. Questioned by the Fraser Inquiry, set up to investigate the building's cost overruns, she said: "There was no way that we were making a decision on economically the most advantageous tender; you would have ended up with a shed . . . it was [about] getting a building which was the most exciting, innovative building . . ." In 2003, Wark-Clements produced a film on the building, with critics accusing Wark of a conflict of interest.
In January 2005, she invited Labour MSP Jack McConnell, then Scotland's First Minister, and his family to stay at her Majorcan holiday home over the New Year period. McConnell, a long-time friend of Wark and husband Clements before holding office, was cleared of any improprieties when the Scottish Parliament's Standards Committee deemed he received no financial benefits from the holidays. Wark's editor on Newsnight offered his support, stating "Many people in the media have friends who have gone on to hold office. The important issue is your ability to ask tough questions and that is not a problem with Kirsty Wark or anybody else on the programme."
Wark and Clements were the subject of media coverage regarding his use of Wark's former PA to monitor emails covertly at RDF Media after he left following an acrimonious dispute about a non-compete deal.
In June 2007, Wark clashed with Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond in an interview, over his response to a memorandum of understanding between the UK Government and Libya regarding prisoner exchanges. Salmond feared that this could include Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who was convicted by a Scottish court in the Netherlands for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie. The BBC received 120 formal complaints, and issued a public apology to Salmond regretting Wark's "rude and dismissive" tone; Salmond accepted the BBC's apology. According to the BBC, viewers questioned the premise of the interview and that Wark's line of questioning was too aggressive and therefore discourteous. According to Newsnight editor Peter Barron, time constraints forced Wark to end the questioning abruptly, leading him to perceive her behaviour as "rude and dismissive".
In October 2013, Wark interviewed Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald about his reporting of the NSA and GCHQ cyber-spying programs leaked by Edward Snowden. The interview was seen as openly hostile in which "Wark unabashedly made the case for the prosecution, interrogating Greenwald about his reporting and Edward Snowden." Greenwald later wrote that Wark and other journalists have focused "almost entirely on the process questions surrounding the reporting rather than the substance of the revelations" about NSA surveillance and privacy invasions "and in the process made some quite dubious claims that come straight from the mouths of government officials".
Wark attracted further controversy in relation to Alex Salmond in 2020. She presented a documentary on Salmond's trial where he stood accused of multiple sexual assault charges but was acquitted on all counts. The documentary aired several months after the end of the trial and featured both supporters and detractors of Alex Salmond reflecting on the case, including some of the women who accused Salmond speaking for the first time. The programme received over 900 complaints from those who believed it was biased against Salmond. However, the BBC noted that the outcome of the trial was 'fairly reflected in the programme', with the programme aiming to look at the wider political consequences of the case rather than rerunning Salmond's trial. The BBC also noted that Salmond had been asked to take part in the programme but had refused with the programme containing supporters of the former First Minister such as Jim Sillars and Kenny MacAskill. A later news story suggested that Salmond was considering taking legal action against the BBC, and in some reports, against Wark personally.
Wark married television producer Alan Clements (born 1961) in September 1989, after meeting on the BBC Scotland programme Left, Right, and Centre. They have a daughter (born 1990) and a son (born 1992). They founded independent TV production company Wark-Clements in 1990, which in May 2004 was merged with fellow Scots broadcaster Muriel Gray's Ideal World to form IWC Media. In December 2005, Wark and Gray severed their connections with IWC Media after RDF Media bought the company.
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- Biography at her agent's website
- Wark's BBC Profile
- Observer profile January 9 2005
- Telegraph profile January 9 2005