12/10/2012

The blame game rages on over Jacintha Saldanha's death

Hosts
Sydney-based 2DayFM radio presenters Michael Christian, left, and Mel Greig speak during an interview with Seven Network's current affairs program "Today Tonight" in Sydney on Monday. The 2DayFM announcers said the tragedy had left them "shattered, gutted, heartbroken". (Reuters)

A woman died ... guilt must be assigned to someone.

FamilyThat is the sad reality of the bizarre and tragic turn of events that has enveloped a hospital, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, a radio station, two DJs and Jacintha Saldanha's family (right: daughter Lisha, husband Ben Barboza and son Junal).

The cries for blood and blame have rung from Britain to Australia and all ports in between. The British press, no slouches at intrusive tactics to spark circulation, instinctively went on the attack. 

Jacintha_saldanha(1)“It feels as through the British media are on a witch hunt,” Sandy Kaye, a spokeswoman for the parent company of 2Day FM, Southern Cross Austereo, told the Daily Telegraph.

“It is quite easy to blame us … The Australian industry seems to sit quite fairly behind us. ... It was only supposed to be a harmless prank.”

The grief-striken human faces  -- Saldanha's family and, yes, even radio hosts Michael Christian and Mel Greig -- are the front cover to what seems to be a larger question about ethics.

To get an idea of the scope of this tragedy and its subsequent soul searching, we've gathered a sampling of the opinions and editorials from the British and Aussie press below. Then, we ask you the question: Who do you blame?

Mirror (UK):

"Oh, the crimes that are committed in this world by people who are just “having a bit of a laugh”.

The Aussie funsters who made their prank call to the hospital where Kate was recovering did not mean to hurt anyone.

They did not intend to drive the tricked nurse to suicide.

But they have blood on their hands and they will have to live with that for the rest of their lives.

Because every prank is laced with spite, and behind the mocking laughter of the clever ones there is real and virulent cruelty.

Sun (UK):

Nurse Jacintha Saldanha's grieving family and friends are entitle to be angry at the crass Australian radio hoaxers who apparently drove her to suicide.

And the station, with its history of offensive antics, cannot pretend it was blind to the stunt’s folly.

Police have launched an inquiry. Some critics want the hoaxers charged with manslaughter.

But the last thing we want is yet another witch hunt.

This sad story is a matter for a coroner's inquest, not mob justice.

Sam Leith in London Evening Standard:

What they did — with the approval and encouragement of their employers, and in the certain knowledge that it would amuse their audience — was tasteless and intrusive.

But let’s not be idiots about this. ... The faintest self-examination, the faintest whiff of actual moral clarity would force us to recognise that the original transgression isn’t changed a jot, morally, by what came afterwards. Anything else is a vicious mixture of sentimentality and bullying.

If we had considered it an outrage for which the DJs should have been tarred and feathered, threatened with death, slung out of their jobs and denounced from the front page of every newspaper in the Western world, we should have called it so at the time.

I don’t remember that happening. Do you? Truth told, I think we may have sniggered.

Daily Star (UK):

Whoever thought it was a good idea to prank call a hospital, trying to get a sick pregnant woman on the phone by trickery, should be sacked.

That’s even without the tragic consequences of the Australian radio station’s Duchess of Cambridge stunt which led to the tragic death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha.

Radio boss Rhys Holleran doesn’t agree. “We’ve followed procedures,” he said. “We haven’t done anything illegal.”

For a start, many experts think they have broken the law. If he has followed procedures, everyone who came up with those procedures needs to join the dole queue.

Scumbag Holleran’s first orderof business should be to sign a hefty cheque to Jacintha’s family to help bring up her two kids. His second should be to disappear into the Outback for good.

Daily Express (UK):

... Despite international public outrage and a family's keen grief, management at the Australian station is digging in.

Rhys Holleran, head of Austereo which owns 2Day FM, said no one could have "reasonably foreseen" the tragic outcome of this puerile prank.

Incredibly ... regulator the Australian Communications and Media Authority had not launched an investigation despite a deluge of complaints and a clear breach of its code. It's hard to see how the show did not treat all those involved in a "highly demeaning or highly exploitative manner."

Jenny McCartney takes a royals perspective in The Telegraph (UK):

FlowersWe live in an age that devours trivia like manna, and its most zealous peddlers will trample on lives in order to seize it. The value is meaningless, but the price to individuals caught up in the chase is high.

... Kate seems a more robust, resilient personality than Diana, and her marriage to William is happier and less complicated than Diana’s was to Charles. Whether one is a royalist or not, it is possible to admire the way she consistently displays grace under pressure, but that is no argument for intensifying the pressure. One could understand if – amid their happiness over the pregnancy – Kate and William were already feeling besieged. The worst invasions of their privacy -- the long-lens photographs of Kate sunbathing topless in France, and this hoax hospital call -- have come from media sources outside Britain. As we have repeatedly seen, the boundaries of normal, respectful behaviour are invisible but powerful: break through them and the human consequences can be unpredictable and disastrous.

This most recent incident, one must hope, might come as an international wake-up call to back off.

Bel Mooney writing on at Daily Mail (UK):

"His female co-host Mel Greig thought this (phone prank) would be 'awesome.' That, in turn, shows a very moder take on the word 'awe' -- which correctly implies respect as well as wonder. Never mind the ethics or legality of the broadcast, there was no respect for anybody's feeling in his sorry incident; no hint of decency or basic human compassion.

Now an innocent woman is dead, her family bereaved and bewildered, and the whole world knows the story -- the thoughtless joke doesn't seem funny at all, least of all to the shamed perpetrators.

To me, it never was. ... I saw the prank as another example of the casual, tacky, thoughtless cruelty that has infected popular culture like a plague -- on radio, on television and increasingly on Twitter and other social media outlets."

The Australian:

... The broader lesson here is about the consequences of a superficial news cycle and unthinking devotion to it. As if the prank wasn't foolish enough, the British press, driven by the public's insatiable appetite for royal gossip, piled on to the story.

Rather tha dismiss it and move on, every angle was amplified and the hospital was firmly in the media's sights. It was "an astonishing breach" of royal security; hospital management were "horrified" and palace staff were "furious." Prince Charles showed poise and common sense by simply passing it off with a joke. But in this age of digital outrage and trial by twitter too many tweet first and think later. The media cyclone is conjured up and does its damage very quickly before moving on. While fingers tap on smartphones to vote on whether the radio hosts should keep their jobs, the need for new laws or whether the duchess will have a boy or girl, a family and a hospital are left to grieve for one of their own. The coroner will inquire and the London tabloids will look for their next angle. Sadly, in this case, one woman's world has come to an end.

But if there is a salient warning for all of us it must be to keep perspective on what matters, reserve judgment, and not get stuck in frenzied and superficial moments.

Sydney Morning Herald:

The problem was, in trying to get the Duchess on air, which was their stated goal, the presenters blithely ignored the ramifications for those who would be their conduits -- the nurses whose job it was to protect and care for their patient. They lost sight of how humiliating and potentially damaging it might be for these people. Remember, the nurses were not the intended target; that is clear from a transcript of the call. The aim was to get an ill woman onto their radio station. For a laugh. But the humiliation fell on those who were conned. They were the victims of this prank, and at no stage were they given any opportunity to set things right.

... We all need to dig deep to find the basic ethical rules that define proper human conduct. Sometimes the failure to follow the unwritten, simple rules of decency and respect that guide us as individuals in a community can have profound and tragic consequences.

Herald Sun (Australia):

The real culprits are not so much the 2Day FM jocks who duped Jacintha Saldanha into believing she was speaking to the Queen and Prince Charles, but the people who run the station.

... Radio executives know their ratings rely on the outrageous and, while they would not want to see anyone driven to suicide, humiliation is a different matter.

This time, however, laws have been broken.

Of course, 2Day FM says it tried to ring back to tell the unfortunate nurse she had been recorded and would it be all right to broadcast her embarrassment to the world, but this time no one answered the phone.

The station should be fined for breaking the law, not because of a prank involving the Duchess of Cambridge that went dreadfully wrong.

A stronger message needs to be sent than blaming two radio hosts who (Monday) night spent a lot of time being sorry for themselves.

David Penberthy of The Telegraph (Australia):

Those who are jumping on the bandwagon and directing their fury at a couple of giggly radio hosts over the tragic but unforeseeable death of a troubled British nurse should ask themselves a couple of questions.

The first is whether their rage is in any way approximate to the actions of this pair, who if they had any idea of the consequences of their light-hearted joke would clearly never have gone down that path.

The second is whether the extent of this rage -- more than 21,000 emails, many of them hateful and violent, have now been sent to their radio station -- is so over the top that it could even help generate the same kind of psychological pressure which saw this poor nurse take her own life.

... This case is just completely tragic and also completely bizarre. However the orgy of abuse, posturing and cant it has unleashed is completely unsurprising given the modern enthusiasm for joining the lynch mob."


Comments

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Obviously the staff at the hospital where anything but supportive. She was probably reprimanded and harassed by her supervisors . It was their responsibility to see her through this..

There is a lot more to this story than meets the eye. It's doubtful that anyone would take there life over this, and only time will tell what was really behind this nurses want to commit this sad act.
The farcical phone call seems as though it was a convenient excuse to mask a much larger issue in this womans life.

The death of a woman is a very unfortunate event, and there certainly is reason to think that, in this case, what happened was not accidental. So it's not irrational to seek to determine responsibility.

Compromising the confidentiality of medical information - particularly that of the Royal Family - is no mere prank, but a criminal offence in itself. However, it was not reasonable to expect a suicide as the outcome of such an act, even if it's more serious than sometimes viewed. So the woman's own mental state, or the way in which hospital staff were impressed with the importance of confidentiality, may be factors that should also be investigated.

I don't think trying to get to the bottom of a serious tragedy like this is a witch hunt.

If you look at all facets of this tragedy... the radio station, the 2 dj's, the hospital and the victim. They are all to blame, yet no one is to blame. I understand the horrors of disappointing the Royal Family but is it something alone to need to commit suicide? Maybe, maybe not. For the above 4 facets: it shouldn't have been allowed; it shouldn't have been done; there should have been more training; and (I'm sorry but) this was not something to be solely the reason to take one's life. The lessons learned of this tragedy should be: get a grip on your employees and offer help to the victim's family; stop the pranks -eventually someone always gets hurt; provide extensive training to all employees in the hospital so this does not occur again (whether it be Royals or common folk) and; she, and her family, have already paid the ultimate price -seek grief counseling and keep her in your memories.
The Royals will always be in the spotlight and the news agencies will always be hounding them. Unfortunately, none of them will care that their practices have cost 2 lives, one Royal and one commoner, and they will continue to get "the best scoop" at any cost.

The real culprit here is the culture that places the royals on a pedestal. It is this culture that led poor Ms. Saldanha to take her own life, a culture in which the royals - or, at least, the young, good-looking ones - are considered to be so untouchable that anyone associated with any sleight against them is made to feel that they've committed some heinous offense.

It started as a prank. Most non-physical forms of bullying do. Bullying is wrong. Period. It's tragic that somebody has to die before we sit up and pay attention. In this case, the catalyst for the bullying was the pursuit of higher ratings and more advertising dollars. In Canada you would go to jail! Just saying.

As radio personalities in a Commonwealth country it is not possible that these 2 radio jocks would not know of the incredible and overwhelming position the Royals, especially William and Kate hold in the minds and hearts of the British, and hence it is not conceivable that they would not realize the horrific position they put the nurses in by contacting and fooling them. their humiliation and shame would have been inescapable in Britain once the story broke.
Although I agree they cannot be legally held responsible for this woman;'s death, there is no way I cannot hold them and their employer morally responsible.

The world media itself is responsible for this unfortunate woman's demise. Polls have shown conclusively that the majority of peoples outside of Britain are rather indifferent to the royal family, and the media's obsession with Will and Kate has whipped up a frenzy that would not exist otherwise. Everyone needs to step back, take a deep breath, and put things back into perspective. A nice young couple they are, Will and Kate, but in context of everything that's going on in the world today, they are but bit players.

The Aussies' prank had tragic results. I have been pranked in the workplace, and was humiliated. I have also begged others to put an end to a prank which targeted a colleague, to no avail. Sadly, TV shows and current films celebrate pranking and make it seem legitimate. We should realize that any prank is likely to hurt someone.

There is an unpleasant irony in that this unborn child's grandmother was also very much the victim of 'paparazzi' fervor.

While this is a very very sad scenario that someone should loose their life and their soul. The underlying basis of this is the lack of respect by the 2 DJ's, not sure if thats the environment they have grown up and lived in. But their prank was directed at someone and they laughed and would probably still be laughing had the matter not ended up in tragedy. I hope many would learn that respect is first thing that must be instilled and taught to children so that they grow up as good decent human beings, not bullies trying to get what they want in life by bullying and intimidating others. Disgusting those 2 DJ's.........

If you pull a prank on a random stranger, you have no way of knowing how that person will react...or if they have some physical or mental issue which could cause them to react very badly. Therefore, you assume FULL RESPONSIBILITY for anything that happens, up to & including death (no matter how unlikely that possibility may seem to you).


For example, you are on a train, and the man across the aisle from you is asleep, and you think it would be funny to pop a paper bag & startle him. Unbeknownst to you, the man has a heart condition. When you pop the bag, he is so startled that he goes into cardiac arrest and dies.


Although you had no possible way of knowing he had a heart condition, you are charged with Manslaughter and Criminal Negligence Causing Death---because the man would still be alive if YOU hadn't decided it would be funny to pop that paper bag.


The DJs could also be charged with Blagging: impersonating another person in order to obtain access to personal information. In the wake of the "News of the World" scandal, the UK authorities are taking an extremely dim view of Blagging---even when as ineptly done as it was by the DJs. It's the INTENT, not how well it was done, that matters in the eyes of the law.

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