My first impression of Katty Kay was one of nerves. Not that she was intimidated by a round-table of fifteen students assembled to grill her on journalistic integrity: years as a Zimbabwe correspondent and behind the desk of BBC America have seasoned her. Kay reddened slightly, explaining, “I have to be on Jeopardy this Saturday. I just watched the College Finals and I have a feeling it’s going to be awful.”
Such was the only moment that Kay seemed out of her element. For the rest of the student session, she was unmistakably the authority. Questions ranged from public airwaves in Britain to her published Womenomics, but the conversation was dominated by the American presidential race.
Europeans are continually fascinated and appalled by the American political circus; election cycles in the United Kingdom only last five weeks and airwaves are held under public domain. Each party is allotted free airtime, negating the need for multi-billion dollar Super PAC spending orgies. As Kay aptly describes it, “Britain enjoys cheap democracy.”
Katty Kay, however, is no stranger to the American political process. Since moving to the United States in 1996, she has served as the Washington correspondent for BBC World News America and spearheaded coverage of the pitched election of 2008. Kay was recently named lead anchor of the program last year, which the Peabody Board has praised as, “A nightly newscast like none the United States has ever had…it places our actions and concerns in a global context.”
If there’s one thing that can be said resolutely about Kay: she certainly keeps a global perspective. Born the daughter of a British diplomat, she was raised in various Middle Eastern countries before studying modern languages at the prestigious Oxford University, eventually becoming fluent in both French and Italian. After working briefly for the Bank of England in London, Kay moved to Zimbabwe and was coerced into a career in journalism, becoming a correspondent of BBC World. Kay’s journalistic career led her to correspondent positions in London and Tokyo, before eventually relocating to the United States.
Despite living here for a shade under two decades, she would hardly consider herself a native; she doesn’t see herself living in the U.S. for another decade. She admits that her children have adopted the local dialect. “It’s almost as if they’re talking a foreign language,” she described in a Washington Post interview. Despite her long tenure, Kay is surprised by the current political climate in America, referring to the severe political polarization as “the worst in a lifetime.”
Given the charged atmosphere of her lecture at DeSales University, most residents seem to agree. The University’s Billera Hall gymnasium was near full-capacity with students and community members. Kay spoke on many high-tension topics dominating the political scene today, bringing her perspective on health care reform, stimulus packages, financial regulation, and the Supreme Court. Judging by the riotous applause following her address, her fire and insights were well-received among audience members. Still, concerned citizens will have to wait until May to see how she fared on Jeopardy.