The press are stoking and exploiting anger over Jacintha Saldanha’s death


9:26 am - December 10th 2012

by Tim Fenton    


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In the last days of Diana, Princess of Wales, the media was on her case more or less round the clock. In the days following her death, that same media turned to play the other side of the field, blaming and stoking anger against the same snappers that they had been paying handsomely just days before.

Such is the routine hypocrisy of the Fourth Estate, it has shown similar behaviour following the sad death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, who had answered the phone last week and put through a prank call by the two Australian DJs.

At first, the papers simply reported the hoax call. Then they pored over the contents. Then came the why-oh-why stories.

What effect this must have had on Ms Saldanha, away from her family in Bristol while discharging her duties in London, can only be imagined, although we do know that the hospital did not admonish or otherwise discipline her for the incident.

Then came the news of Ms Saldanha’s death. Just as with Diana all those years ago, the papers that had been happily feeding on the prank call immediately about-turned and went after the two hosts. And to be on the safe side, the Saturday edition of the Daily Mail put a photo of one of those hosts, Mel Greig, showing a big smile and plenty of cleavage, on its front page.

So now the tabloids talking of “anger” against Ms Greig and her co-host Michael Christian, 2Day FM, owners Southern Cross Austereo, and just about anyone.

On top of the usual level of intrusion, the press has trawled every Twitter feed and Facebook page they can find for the family of Ms Saldanha. Relatives in the Indian city of Mangalore have been sought out and paraded for the cameras. Australian PM Julia Gillard has had to make a statement.

A letter from the hospital upbraiding the Australian broadcasters was “damning”, because it came from a peer of the realm.

Yet very few stop and think what is going on here: it is the press who are stoking this wave of anger simply to feed off it and thus generate more cheap copy.

After all, with Kate having left the hospital and returned to a life well away from the snappers – and a staff alert to blagging and the rest of the ‘Dark Arts’ – there had to be something to fill the void. So they trample over the memory of Jacintha Saldanha instead. And, conveniently, it’s someone else’s fault, as with Diana.

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About the author
Tim is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He blogs more frequently at Zelo Street
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Reader comments


If we’re lucky the express will cotton on that it’s got a possible new Friday front cover story about royal assassins. I mean it ‘could’ have been a murder at the behest of the Duke of Edinburgh made to look like a suicide, I hear a white fiat Uno was spotted nearby too…

Has anyone considered why a nurse was left alone to run the switchboard of such a hospital when calls about the celebrity person should have been anticipated?

I agree with everything in this piece – nothing more can be said.

I agree with #3

5. Chaise Guevara

I should point out that (AFAIK), we don’t actually know that she’s dead because of the prank. But if she is, I think it’s fair to say that the media coverage would have turned it from an embarrassing incident to a humiliating nightmare for the poor woman.

It is a private tragedy which is unfortunately now a piece of public property. I can’t understand the ethics, scruples or logic (in relation to law and argument) of those calling that ‘something must be done’ or that the DJs ‘are to blame’.

Have to say Tim Black’s piece today on spiked is a nice complement to this blog post.

Yet very few stop and think what is going on here: it is the press who are stoking this wave of anger simply to feed off it and thus generate more cheap copy.

You could equally say that the reaction against the faux press outrange at the prank is equally explotative – and ditto for my own comment pointing out the hypocrisy of those crying hypocisy.

And lets not let the qaulification of the last part of the previous sentence off the hook: the only thing more hypocritical than pre-empting calls of hypocrisy by pointing out your own hypocrisy in pointing out the hypocrisy of those decrying the hypocrisy of others would be to indulge yourself in endless recursive acts of hypocrisy that would make the heads of Inception fans spin.

Which is to say calls of hypocrisy are a genetic fallacy best ignored.

The issues here are is that a vulnerable person is a stressful job found herself in a position where someone posing as a figure of authority tricked her into violating the confidentiality of a patient but – as usual – one side of the media is criticising another part of the media for criticising another part of the media because, hey, the pomo world’s just a sea of shifting signifiers and who cares if someone’s life is destroyed?

It’s just a tragedy, but to hacks there always has to be someone to blame. Frankly, they’re the ones who reported it. Who heard the original broadcast anyway?

This blog post is stoking and exploiting anger over Jacintha Saldanha’s death.

I don’t think that this opinion post works. The moral should be about Jacintha Saldanha who allegedly felt so guilty about being fooled that she took her life. The moral should be that Jacintha Saldanha killed herself and that we — society, friends, employers — don’t have the mental equipment to spot vulnerable people.

I largely disagree with Tim on this one. There’s a lot of grey areas this thing brings up and it would be wrong for the press not to examine them. The DJs are part of the media too, at best they’ve deceived the nurse while she was doing her work into thinking she was talking to the Head of State. Of course we don’t know for sure if that was a pivotal event that led to the nurse’s tragic death and the radio station have pointed out that could not have been reasonably foreseen. I’m still mystified as to how this prank could have been *funny*. Funny requires context, and the context isn’t shared equally when the prankster is in an Australian radio station and the pranked upon is at work in a London hospital.

Context for prank is funny because pretending to be the Queen despite having a thick suburban Sydney accent is obviously ridiculous. It’s no different from Victor Lewis-Smith adopting a ludicrous toff accent to claim he’s Marcus Garvey and is looking to meet Haile Selassie in Babylon and ting.

The people most grossly at fault here are the hospital’s management, for not having an appropriate procedure for protecting VIP (and general patient) privacy, for putting someone on reception whose English comprehension was poor enough that they didn’t spot the obvious fake, and for failing to subsequently provide their vulnerable employee with the support she needed.

The people slightly at fault here, but far less so, are 2Day’s management: while it’s completely understandable that the DJs would be both excited and utterly dumbfounded by the fact that their ridiculous stunt actually got through, there should have been someone sensible above them to say “sorry guys, absolutely no way you’re playing that”.

I wonder what was said to her after the prank by management or colleagues.


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